Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sunrise in Pictures

Fall didn't linger long. The past week has been miserably hot. We set a new record on Monday for the hottest temperature ever recorded downtown. Ever recorded, not just the record high for that day. I had candles outside that have melted.

While training has slowed down, Kona and I have still gotten out for some pre-dawn hikes. Some funky movement in the atmosphere has brought us rare poofy clouds, lighting and beautiful sunrises. I'll leave you with the sky show we watched the last two mornings.



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Welcoming Fall

Our Fall season is typically hot and dry. Temperatures remain in the 80s and scorched hillsides have to wait weeks and weeks before rain brings relief.

To my delight, Autumn swooshed in with mist and fog.

The low clouds danced around us. I breathed in the moist air. Kona took in the fresh scents.
Moisture seems to lift Kona's spirits, I suspect because the water brings out different smells. She held her tail up, moving confidently down the trail.
I told her I had to get a non-blurry picture so everyone could see how happy she was. She obliged, unhappily.
I often wish we had a more pronounced change in seasons, both for quicker relief from summer's heat and to be able to enjoy Autumn's changing colors. As I rounded a bend on the trail, a wall of season change greeted me, boasting our region's most brilliant Fall color. I enjoyed from a distance.
As we neared the end of our run, the fog held strong, muting daylight. I soaked in the refreshing scene. Kona stood in stoic meditation.
Happy Fall my friends.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Kind of Day

It started early. So early, I strapped on my headlamp as Kona and I headed to the ridge.
I didn't have time to wait for dawn but the fresh morning air didn't need light.

After dropping Kona off at home, I made the hour and a half drive North to Santa Barbara. Fog drifted on and off shore, flirting with hillsides before running away.

I'd rather not sit in a car but ocean and mountain views somehow drown out the traffic hum.
I was on my way to visit friends. One of my friends just bought a road bike and we were on a mission to break it in.

Three of the group were off for wine tasting in the nearby valley and I seized the chance to "plan" a ride through the vineyards with my cycling friend and her new bike. The area boasts not only acres of grapes but miles of rolling hills, little traffic and no traffic signals. It's a cyclist's dream and the reason why professional teams frequent the area for training.

We were off, surrounded by a crisp, summer landscape.
Rows and rows of grapes cheered us on.
Our bikes rested as we explored.
We flew down a road with a genlte downgrade, stopping when a field caught our eyes.

We continued on, cutting up a canyon that would lead us towards our starting point. The canyon climb was sustained and, more than two hours into our ride, became a grunt-fest.

While I'd ridden in the area before, I only had a vague idea of how long our route would be, or what would be the conditions of the backroads I chose.

After some gravel stretches, more climbs, a "two mile" section of freeway that turned into eight, and four and a half hours later, we made it back to our car.

I gave my friend a high five, trying to read her face. This was her third bike ride. Ever. I worried that she might not only hate me but never want to get on a bike again. I breathed again when I saw her smile ear to ear.

I felt the same way.

We joined the wine tasting crew for dinner in town. We ate at a restaurant with Old West decor. My stew was served out of a cast-iron pot. The dim light and a roaring fire made me feel like I was sitting around camp after a day working in the woods. It was like a step back in time. Of course, being bone tired, sun crisped and salty from the day's ride only added to the spirit.

It was the perfect way to end the day.

Friday, September 17, 2010

City Solitude

Happy weekend everyone.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Traffic, Snakes and Training

I found myself wishing for a house in the middle of nowhere this morning. The freeway above our neighborhood was closed, diverting traffic through residential streets. (Why on earth CalTrans closes part of the freeway during rush hour is beyond me). This of course happened the morning I tried to walk Kona through the neighborhood. A stream of cars shot her stress through the roof.

We hurried home and set out for the ridge. Unfortunately, we got stuck in the detoured traffic. It took us nearly 20 minutes to drive four blocks. Once on the ridge, the air traffic, there to take footage of the freeway closure, buzzed my nerves to the edge. Please. Turn. Off. The. Noise.

I know things will quiet down. We had a peaceful run yesterday and I'll try to focus on that.

We were out early again yesterday. The sunrise painted the eastern mountains orange.
Kona seemed to watch the sky with me.

At the bottom of our long downhill, Kona and I stopped to investigate some interesting scat. I almost think it was an owl pellet as I've never seen bones like that in coyote scat. Any ideas?
Before turning around to climb back uphill, something caught Kona's attention. The seeds on the plants behind her are turning from cotton white to red. I suppose we get some fall color around here.
We climbed the steepest section of trail, catching the sun before it touched down into the canyons.
Before we reached our vista, we stumbled across a snake track.
Towards the end of our run, we ran into a second track. It seems like the snakes are more active this time of year.

Some of you asked if I've ever run into a rattlesnake. I have seen only two rattlesnakes in all my time running and hiking in their habitat. Both of those encounters happened in the last three years. One was on this trail. While considered an aggressive snake, rattlers earn this title only because they don't back down from a confrontation, not because they chase or wait in hiding to bite. All the same, I've kept a keen eye on the trail recently.
Back on a snake-free vista, I practice some obedience with Kona. These mini-sessions often perk Kona up. Her body relaxed and she held her tail up.
Before heading back to the car, we practiced one off leash recall. Kona stayed put as I ran away, then ran with gusto when I called her to me.
Instead of putting her back on leash, I kept her loose while I walked back to the green bench to pick up my treat bag and camera case. Kona was obviously feeling spunky to be off lead. When she started trotting away with too much spunk, I called her name. She spun her head around to look at me! She didn't come back in my direction (which was fine. I didn't recalled her.) but met me over at the bench, where I gave her a huge handful of treats.

That's my Kona Girl!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Special Guests

My niece and nephew came for an overnight visit yesterday. I worried about how Kona would handle our visitors and how I should handle Kona. Luckily, yesterday evening was filled with activities outside the house, so Kona's routine went undisturbed.

This morning, we got out for a run before joining the morning festivities with the kids. We headed to the ridge with the goal of putting in some extra time. I need to step up my marathon training and I hoped to get Kona's energy under control to make things at the house easier.

We found our rhythm and before I knew it, the sun crested the mountains. Kona did some extra exploring, her nose always at work. At one point she froze, sniffing the air.
Can you see what she smelled?
Our run ended too quickly. The day was beautiful and I didn't want to take Kona home where she would be stressed. We were homeward bound nonetheless.
Back at home, things went well. Like many fearful dogs, Kona has a hard time with kids. She's fine with the spastic noises, but not with the spastic movement. Luckily, she didn't feel threatened by my niece and nephew. I knew this because (besides her welcome growl when they arrived) she didn't bark or growl at anyone.

I kept her in the living room with a baby gate when anyone was up and moving. While obviously a bit anxious, she had no trouble eating breakfast and working on a stuffed kong. She also laid down in her bed. When the kids were busy with a stationary activity, I let Kona out. She had no problems approaching the kids for sniffs (though sometimes with giraffe neck) but did several Scooby-Doo runs whenever someone moved unexpectedly.

The best thing for me to see was how quickly Kona bounced back from the scarier moments. Also, now that the house is ours again, she's relaxing as though it's the end of any other day. She's not extra jumpy, sensitive or showing other signs of lingering stress hormones. That seems to say that although Kona wasn't comfortable, her stress never reached a point of no return. I'll take that as a good day.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cool Morning and Dog Pack

The promised cool down arrived with low clouds and mist. After days of heat and low humidity, I was giddy in our new surroundings.
I slowed our pace, not wanting to miss any of the rare summer scene. Kona was busy following all sorts of smells. I feel like moisture brings out more scents, as Kona's noses is always more active in misty weather.

With tracks to follow, Kona wasn't thrilled about stopping to take pictures, but I managed to get one.
As the trail winded eastward, we got a view of the cloud-cloaked foothills.
We started our run later than usual, so we ran into more people on the trail. While not overwhelmed, Kona was visibly more nervous. I tried to interrupt her hypervigilance by encouraging her to explore up a foxtail-free slope. She hopped up the hill with enthusiasm, but by the looks of this picture, I'm not sure if she was any less worried.
Our run continued on a similar theme. I took pictures and Kona shifted from looking nervous to following animal tracks with gusto.

We ran into a small dog pack that I try hard to avoid. While the dogs aren't aggressive, their greeting skills don't go off well with Kona. One of the dogs immediately puts his head over Kona's shoulders and the other will run at us barking. The third approaches Koan with her head low, glaring straight at Kona. While Kona has decent dog skills, she does not try to diffuse tense situations and stands her ground when challenged. You could imagine how Kona's personality would not match well with this nervous, status seeking pack. Kona rarely gets snarky with other dogs, but she will with these three (and rightfully so, I believe).

I was gratefully that I was able to navigate around the pack without any of the dogs approaching. While we made it through the situation fine, I felt tense as we continued up the hill. Kona on the other hand was immediately over the encounter. She shakes off tense dog situations immediately. I tried to take her cue to chill.

I love it when Kona Dog reminds *me* to relax. Besides, the morning was too welcoming to hold extra worry.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Before the Weather Break

Yesterday was the promised end to another week of hot weather. The air felt think--a strange sensation against the dark sky. As we crested our first hill, the sunrise seemed to radiate heat.
The topography of our trail climbs, drops, twists and turns to create pockets that hide both warm and cold air. As Kona and I dropped to the bottom of the next hill we were greeted by a blast of cold air. I welcomed the goosebumps.

I let Kona run on the side of the trail. She prefers running on ledges, fallen trees and other precarious paths to the wide fireroad. I enjoyed watching her perk up as she balanced along the raised sand ledge. I kept a close eye on Kona, making sure she didn't contemplate a pounce.
By the time we reached the base of our longest descent, ridges and valleys emerged from the shadows of the mountains. Our forest is still a giant sand dune from the fire that burned a year ago. It's a sight I haven't gotten use to.
We met more hikers than the last time we were here. Kona took it in stride until three mountain bikers inched their way in our direction, up a steep hill. I've always been amazed at how unfazed Kona is around cyclists but the zig-zagging (slow) pace of this trio proved to be too much.

We finished our last hill in solitude. I tried to ignore the bottles and cigarette butts that littered our lookout point. The accessibility of this trail makes it a hangout spot for local kids. I was suddenly grateful that all local schools would be back in session soon.

Kona sat perched on the green bench--our favorite picture spot during our winter runs. She sat relaxed, ate treats and seemed to soak up the morning. I followed suit.