Thursday, February 02, 2017

Thank you, Nature Conservancy

For the record:  I'm tired of Groundhog Day and the PR agents representing that rodent ALWAYS telling the rest of us that we're in for more winter.  When, in my nearly 70-year lifetime, has the groundhog NOT seen his shadow?

That said, Bill and I enjoyed a most lovely winter afternoon yesterday----enough, in fact, that we're not complaining about this year's groundhog prediction.  And, for the record, it's looking like groundhogs, horses, dogs, people and any other critter out walking today will see shadows.

The sun is gonna shine brightly again today.  I feel confident about that cuz Annie went snowboarding on a gorgilious day at Stevens Pass near Seattle yesterday.  It was an office outing at her work, and Annie likes to remind people that she plays where she works. 

So, we're in for lots of shadows, and we're supposed to get more snow in a day or two, and so winter continues, groundhog or not!

Our afternoon outing involved snowshoeing on the Ball Creek Ranch Nature Conservancy land.  For anyone not familiar with the Kootenai Valley north of Bonners Ferry, the area used to flood almost annually when the Kootenai River would rise over its banks.

Dikes across the valley and temporary laborers working with sandbags helped ease the flooding. 

The completion of Montana's Libby Dam in the 1970s meant an end to the flooding, but the dikes remain, and with public lands like the Kootenai Wildlife Refuge, Fish and Game plots and the Nature Conservancy land, the dikes now provide ideal walking or snow shoeing areas. 

Along with the opportunity to get out on those high walkways across the valley, one can enjoy a pleasant sense of escape from civilization.  Plus, the experience of hiking the dikes provides a constant array of striking images of the river, the vast valley which continues on into Canada and the wide range of wildlife living in or moving through the area.

Yesterday, Bill was interested in the thickets between the dike and the river, confident that our passing through could rouse out a few pheasants.  Sure enough, he saw some, and later, a Chinese rooster came flying right in front of me bound for a spot on the other side of the river. 

We snowshoed for about two miles, reaching an area of cottonwoods where the river takes a major turn.  I had no idea until Bill told me yesterday when it was time for us to turn around that the dike winds all around to the north entrance of Conservancy.  We have walked both ends but never the complete loop.

That's definitely on my bucket list. 

On the way back, Annie and I exchanged photos of our respective adventures, and later, I hit the ground a couple of times when my snowshoe tips caught some crusty snow.  In one case, the snowshoes ended up in strange positions, causing me to slowly maneuver for almost 10 minutes trying to get up. 

As I told Bill later, back in Betty Cross's PE class in the ninth grade at Sandpoint Junior High  when we were going through the gymnastics unit, and I could not do hand stands, someone said something suggesting that I had a low center of gravity. 

Over the years with attempts at downhill skiing and water skiing and cross country skiing and now, show shoeing, I fully understand what that means.  A certain portion of my body simply does not understand "elevate."  

Oh well, not much can be done about it, 'cept I don't do hand stands, downhill skiing or water skiing.  Snowshoeing, however, is a bit different cuz generally nobody's looking when you're going through all those strange contortions to get yourself upright again. 

I managed on the second fall to have my snowshoes land in proper form and had myself up and trudging ahead carefully within seconds.   All the while, Bill kept on walking without a clue of the entertainment he was missing behind him on the dike. 

I really wanted to keep going yesterday but when we saw that sun dipping closer to those western mountains along the valley, we knew we'd better head back.  

Anyway, I truly appreciate the public lands that have been set aside for our wildlife and for everyone who wants to enjoy seeing nature at work. 

These areas are truly a gift to all of our citizens and especially meaningful to those like the new friend I met from Houston last week who noted that where she lives, she is completely surrounded by concrete. 

I hate to be redundant, but we here ARE SO lucky. 

Finally, this is the day for the big test.  Can No. 1 Gonzaga hold on to its standing in the NCAA.  That big test comes this evening LATE at 8 p.m. on ESPN2 when the ZAGS take on the Cougars of BYU.  

Hoping for the best.  GO, ZAGS!!!  Happy Thursday. 

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