As you may know, we haven't had much of a winter out here. The snow folk stand ready, but we stand in sneakers and lightweight coats because, as of today, Mt. Hood has only received 23% of its typical snowfall. However, yesterday's ski report from Meadows promised a blue sky and warm sun today, so last night I got all my gear ready for the morning to make my first turns of the season. I set my alarm early enough to take the dogs for a walk and feed them before hitting the slopes. The temperatures have been so warm that the early part of the day provides the best, although not quiet skiing (think: ice). Whatever snow there is turns soft by the afternoon, then freezes overnight, and is icy again by morning. However, this east coaster prefers ice over slush any day of the week, so early morning skiing it is. When you grow up on the slopes of northern Vermont, you quickly learn to ski ice. You must for your bones depend on it. These days, my bones have softened from years on the west coast and age, but tucked away, deep within their marrow and their matter, they still recall being 10 years old and flying down the ice, skidding into the lift line slightly out of control, hoping ski patrol didn't see, and if they didn't, ready to do it all over again. That's why they say you can feel it in your bones. Because that's where the things that count are felt. Are known. I'm not a diehard ski bum anymore, if I ever even was, but last night just before falling asleep, I dreamt of the slopes. But, what's that saying about the best laid plans? They often go awry?
At about 130 last night, I was awoken by the dogs going nuts. I mean, nuts. They were both barking and growling like crazy. I tried to get them to calm down, but they were too excited to listen. Eventually, I got out of bed and looked out the window to see if anything was going on here or at the neighbor's, but I didn't see anything. Again, I tried to get the dogs to be quiet, to let them know they had done their job. I was more than fully awake and alert, but still, they wouldn't listen. I looked out the window again, but didn't see anything. Then, just as I was about to turn to the dogs once more, to implore them to please shut up, I saw something in the road between my place and the neighbor's- a big, light-colored animal of some sort. At first I thought it was a dog and looked for a person, but didn't see anyone with it. As it stood in the road with its head cocked over its shoulder looking toward my house, I wondered if it belonged to the people who lived on the river. They have a big husky who sometimes gets out, but I didn't think they were up this weekend, and it was so late. The animal was a little out of reach for my eyes to get a good picture of it, but something about it hinted at the wild, seemed un-doglike, but the late hours can play those kinds of tricks. Then, before I could really make sense of it all, the animal darted into the woods. My dogs quieted down and I was left wondering what I saw. A coyote? A loose dog? A wolf? Do we even have wolves on Mt Hood, and if we do, would one be walking down my street? I couldn't sleep, so I did some looking around on google. We do have wolves on Mt Hood, but they're rare. In fact, they're very rare in Oregon overall, which surprised me. I chalked it up to most likely being a coyote, a big one at that, but I've seen plenty of coyotes and something about it nags at me. I wish I would've had more time to see the animal, even if only to find out it was a neighborhood dog who got out. Eventually, I fell back asleep, but you know how that kind of sleep is. A few hours later when my alarm went off, neither the dogs nor I budged. Actually, that's not true. I moved just enough to turn the alarm off before falling promptly back to sleep until 1015! At 1030, my neighbor called to ask if I heard the blood-curdling scream last night. She said she heard a scream at about 1230 that turned her blood cold. She wasn't sure if it was human or animal, but it made her get up, turn her outside lights on, and set her house alarm. I told her I didn't hear it, but shared with her my story. She said her dog was going crazy too. She wonders if it was a mountain lion. I think it's possible by the way she described the sound, and they have been spotted in the vicinity, but what I saw was definitely not a mountain lion. Also, whatever she heard happened an hour before whatever I saw, although it's hard to imagine the two events being unrelated. By the time we got off the phone and I had the dogs fed and walked, it was too late for skiing. However, there's a mystery brewing in these woods, and I can feel it in my bones.
Update: The woman with the husky just walked by, so I ran out to ask her if it got loose last night. It didn't.