Conditions: Mostly sunny with a light breeze
It was a gorgeous weekend, so the three of us said goodbye to the cats and struck out for an adventure. Our intended destination was the well –named (but poorly-spelled) Catherine Mountain in Downeastern Maine. Once we started hiking, though, we zigged when we should have zagged and ended up at the base of Caribou Mountain instead.
This change of plans seemed to appeal to the caninaturalist, though she looked more than a little disappointed when she discovered that the last living caribou (Rangifer tarandus) was seen in Maine during the early 1930s. Clearly, we had pulled some kind of sinister bait and switch. Ari scowled. I offered to rename the mountain “No Caribou Mountain.” This didn’t strike her as clever.
We told her that this is black bear (Ursus americanus) country: right now sleeping females are waking up just long enough to give birth to a cub. Immediately afterwards, she will fall back asleep for the remainder of the late winter while the cub quietly nurses and tries not to disturb mom. Greg and I love this fact, particularly since it seems to fly in the face of evolutionary biology—or at least successful reproduction. Ari didn't share our interest, probably because—once again—there would be no actual animals for her to observe.
Still, she was mostly a good sport about the trip.
Ari adores being in the woods: I think it taps into a primordial desire to throw off the mantle of domestication and try out life as a wolfy, wild thing. She bites at the air and assumes very serious expressions and pretends not to notice that she is still attached to a leash. This is her best wild dog face. What do you think?
Being a wild dog also means you have to pretend not to notice the terrible racket humans make on their snowshoes, which are noisy enough to ensure any self-respecting animal in a 2-mile radius would make itself scarce. Dogs on leashes don't get to make these choices. This can make them quietly vindictive: I’m pretty certain I heard wolfy laughter as I tripped over a submerged root and went sailing. Domestication is tough, especially when you really, really want to be a wild dog.
Or a fit human.
Caribou Mountain is no slouch, at least by East Coast standards. The vertical rise is close to 1000 feet, and the pitch is remarkably steep in spots. Greg and I were well-winded by the time we reached the top; Ari, on the other hand, looked bored: Hey, guys, when does the real hike start?
I told her I thought she was showing off. She pretended not to hear.
Her wolfy resolve crumbled, though, as soon as we stopped for lunch. Wild things don’t eat peanut butter sandwiches. She took half of one anyway. And, once we reached the truck, she made no bones about fashioning an elaborate nest out of our winter coats and snoozing the whole way home. Wild canid? Maybe not today.