Saturday, January 31, 2009

More Cat Tracks?

So, a few days after the fabled Rexburg cougar eluded the mighty hunters, I was home for lunch one day. As I casually munched on my sandwich, I happened to look out the back window to see a solitary line of tracks crossing the back yard. From a distance, they looked relatively fresh, and quite large.

Curiousity piqued, I put on my boots and went out to investigate; the pictures here show what I found.

I'm no expert tracker, but going back to my Cub Scout days, I remembered that cat tracks tend to be wider than dog tracks, and you don't see claw marks in cat tracks. Not having tracked many mountain lions, I would assume that their tracks would also be bigger than this, but I have to confess I don't really know.

There is a certain large dog in our neighborhood who, in the past, has never entered my yard without leaving a rather large pile of "sign" as his calling card, and there was none of that to be found here, and I haven't really seen him around this winter. (My empty CO2 cartridge is the only reason he wasn't sent home tie-dyed on several occasions last year, something that will be remedied come Spring!) Of course, there wasn't any cat-style scat either.

I stopped short of putting my nose to the ground to sniff for cat spray, as I had to go back to work in those same clothes, but after analysis, I think these are dog tracks. It was interesting, though, to see them next to the various housecat tracks like these that meander around the yard.

Whatever it was, it was definitely a much larger animal! Perhaps some of you cougar experts out there can give me an expert opinion?

We have, on occasion, had a moose in our backyard too (although not this year). I would like to see what kind of tracks he would leave.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Avree's Birthday Party

Avree's birthday is on January 12, so this post is a little late in coming. She wanted to have a bowling party, so we loaded up a bunch of her friends and went to the Rex for a fun-filled evening of youthful chaos. (And the kids had a good time too!)

Two of the best things ever invented are "bumper-bowling" and "bowling by the hour." There are no bad rolls in bumper bowling; everyone's a champion! We didn't have to worry about getting all those kids through their round; after the hour was up, the lights went out and it was time for cake. How perfect is that?

Ayla has an unusual bowling style. After she pushes the ball down the lane, she likes to watch it hit the pins while laying face-down on the smooth hardwood.

And, of course, she needs some knuckles at the end. Yeah, baby!

Lori used her airbrushes and highlighting pens to slave for hours over this beautiful cake! (She also had a little help from Mr. Albertson.)

At the bowling alley, they also make really good ice homemade cream, right there on the spot, using liquid nitrogen. (He wears the chemical diagram on his shirt for credentials, in case you thought he was using something else. Freon, perhaps?) You can get any flavor you want, and it actually tastes really, really good! And you thought liquid nitrogen was only good for freezing off those big, ugly warts!

It is hard to believe my Avree is six years old already! She is an amazing little girl, and we all love her like crazy!

Monday, January 26, 2009

How to Make it Snow

So, after our whiteout Christmas, we have had a January thaw with an associated 3-4 week "snow drought." This has concerned the kids, mainly because it's pretty unlikely the school will declare a "snow day" out of school without any snow.

They tried good old-fashioned prayer for a while, even disguising their appeals to a higher power as an altruistic plea "that we might have moisture for the farmers."

Well, that wasn't working, so of course they have had to get more creative in their approach. When you want something done right, do it yourself, right?

With this in mind, Avree, our six-year old, was having an in-depth discussion on the subject with her friend Lincoln the other day, who informed her that if you want to make it snow, all you have to do is sleep with your pajamas inside out. (I mean, geez, everybody knows that!) Here she is in her bed earlier tonight, trying for a repeat performance.

And, apparently, if you want to be extra sure, you also sleep with two (not one, not three, TWO) wooden spoons under your pillow, like this:

Avree gave it a try the other night, and sure enough, we awoke to a couple new inches in the morning. Not enough to cancel school, but it was a start. Well, tonight even Ashlynn has bought in. (Nathan, so far, isn't about to try it. He's playing the part of the cool, rational older brother who is way too cool for this sort of thing. I can tell he's watching it all with an interested eye, though. I mean, a day off school is a day off school, right?)

I'm planning to go skiing at Targhee tomorrow. I wonder if we have any more wooden spoons in the drawer!

UPDATE: (1/27/09) Sure enough, snow day today! We got a call from the school district this morning (at 6:00!) informing us school had been cancelled "due to extreme cold." It was -10 degrees at the airport this morning. It is also snowing, but only lightly.

I really should have turned my jammies inside out, since it was -20 at Targhee this morning, so I couldn't go skiing as planned, unless I wanted to come home a popsicle. Next week!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Skiing at Kelly Canyon

Lori's sister Jill came to visit over New Year's, and we all went skiing at Kelly Canyon, a nice little ski resort that's only a half hour from our house. We all had a great time even though it was windy and the snow wasn't great.

Avree and Jason spent a couple hours in ski school, and afterward Avree was ready to go on the lift and down the bunny hill! I was proud of her, because she is quite timid by nature, and I was surprised at how well she did on the hill. She was pretty tired at the end of the day, and ready for a nice cup of hot cocoa!

Here she is with her instructor. She was really nice!

Here's a picture of Nathan starting a run on his snowboard. He is getting really good! He loves to play in the snow, and when he isn't snowboarding or sledding, he's out making tunnels and forts with his friends. Rexburg's climate doesn't get him down!

Ash keeps getting better, too. Here she is lying exhausted at the bottom of the hill after several fantastic runs. The kids don't have the "get out of school ski school" until middle school, so she hasn't even done that yet but she is already doing really well! I'll bet she'll want to switch to snowboarding before too much longer. That seems to be what all the kids like to do any more.

Here's Kevan acting like an x-games pro! Kevan is really good at all these kinds of sports. He is good at skateboarding, rollerblading, and loves to play ice hockey too. All he needs now is long curly orange hair!

It was Jill's first time, so she was just finding her "sea legs." It was her first outing, and she did just fine. She'll probably start doing backscratchers next time. That's Kevan in the background. I'm pretty sure his cell phone is in his hand in case he needs to call 911.

Lori looks really cute in her ski bunny clothes, don't you think? She really loves to ski and she signed up to be a parent chaperone for Nathan's ski school on Wednesdays this month. What that really means is that in exchange for riding on the bus and helping put everyone's boots on, she gets to ski free for half a day. That girl has always known a good deal when she saw one! (I did it last year with Nathan when he went on Tuesdays, which is my day out of the office.)

I didn't get any pictures of me, but I was proud of myself just for not wiping out and reducing my new camera to a million parts laid out all along the ski hill. I also somehow managed not to take any of Jason. It was his first time, too, and if genetics plays any role, he'll be thrashing the slopes before we know it!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rexburg Cougar Hunt!

There have been recent news stories about a cougar seen in and around town over the past few days. The most recent update had said Fish & Game had followed its tracks down to a river, and thought it had left the area.

Last night, however, just as we were finishing up seeing patients, David Day, one of our PAs got a call from his wife, who said that their 10-year old daughter and a friend had been sledding in Smith Park (which is sort of the main park in the middle of town, and not more than two blocks from my medical office). While sledding, they had run across some large cat tracks. Jokingly, they said it must be the "Rexburg cougar" they had heard about in the news and at school. After following the tracks for a while, they decided to go across the street to the friend's house to get a camera, so they could take some pictures of the tracks.

This they did, but upon their return and just as they were about to enter a stand in the trees, one of the girls stopped, saying she just had a really bad feeling, and didn't want to go back over there. The other girl teased her a little and they stood there a few minutes before finally deciding to go back to the friend's house. Just as they turned to go, one of the girls spotted movement in one of the trees, which drew her eyes to focus on the Rexburg cougar, right there in the tree!

At this point both girls skedaddled back across the street and indoors, excitedly relating their experience to the other girl's mother who, skeptical but curious, scanned the trees across the street with binoculars. At length she spotted what appeared to be a "yellow tail hanging down, and possibly the backside of a cougar." After a minute, the big cat moved, and lept into another tree close by.

At this point, the woman called the police, who said they would drive by the park, but that really this was a Fish & Game issue, and that she should call them (presumably because the lion had not yet broken any laws). So, she followed their advice, and got a recording telling her Fish & Game was closed for the evening.

Well, upon hearing the story and realizing this news was less than a half hour old, Dave, Dr. Watson, Mary Zollinger and I decided to check things out for ourselves. After a quick trip home to don coat and boots, we met back at ground zero, armed with our high-powered xenon flashlights Dr. Zollinger gave us for Christmas.

Somewhat timidly at first, and then more boldly, we began to explore the park, utilizing the time-honored search grid known as "random wandering." We nearly made ourselves dizzy, alternately shining our searchlights into the foliage above, and down on the snow beneath, all the while criss-crossing around the park aimlessly, shining our searchlights into every nook and cranny.

After a fruitless half-hour, I was nearly frozen, and starting to wonder about the credibility of our sources. Grandpa Darce always says, "Tracks make thin soup!" We couldn't have even started the broth with what we found. Finally, we gave up. I didn't get my coveted photo of a cougar in the wild, which I'm sure they would have put in the paper (or, possibly, National Geographic), but I did capture these two schmucks who were wandering around in the bitter cold looking for a mountain lion in the middle of town, that turned out to be just a wild goose.

So, did this story simply come from the active imaginations of two ten year old girls? Was there just a large tabby loitering in the park, sharpening its claws in the pine trees? Did the play of light and shadow, and the heat of the moment have their mother seeing things too? We'll never know, but consider this: the next day, Dave drove his daughter over to the park so she could point out exactly where the "sighting" occurred. Not only could she point out the very tree, but the exact branch the big cat was perched on. When Dave told her to stay there while he took a closer look, his normally level-headed and non-dramatic daughter began to tremble and almost to cry, saying, "No! Dad! You're not going out there!" She was still absolutely terrified, a whole day later!