A dragonfly. A circle. A hand and other signs carved into rock millennia ago by the Mimbres people.  The Dragonfly Trail is one trail among many on the edge of the Gila National Forest, part of the Elk Preserve and edging Ft Bayard.  Three miles from the edge of town, five from my driveway.  Miles to walk, think, study, meditate, and encounter.

We just got a new dog.  ‘Bout time, I say, having watched our last die of stroke and lethal injectionPumpkin in May of 2017.  This is Pumpkin, a 3 year old female.  She was listed by Albuquerque Animal Shelter as a Chocolate Lab mix, and mix she is indeed, right down to her natural bob tail.  For the nonce, she’s a little scraped up from a scrap with her former home-mate, another female dog with whom she didn’t get along.  It was the fight that determined her surrender and our fortunate adoption.  We knew she had to be ours, because…well…our last three Labs have been named after food groups.  Blackberry. Black Pepper.  Nutmeg.  So when I saw her listed as Pumpkin, her fate and ours were pre-determined. At three, though, she has rather more energy than Nutmeg had at 15.  And I did say that I needed the motivation to hike more often.  So on day 2 of her residency here, we headed for Dragonfly Trail and her introduction to the wilder side of her life-to-come.

Over the course of about three hours, Pumpkin had near encounters with several other dogs, whose owners graciously put them on leash or took them off trail so that we could pass, unmolested and unmolesting.  She also discovered the remains of a deer: backbone and ribs with one leg attached.  Not sure if the deer met its demise from four-legged or two-legged hunters, but Pumpkin found the bones interesting.

I’m assuming that she lived a city life before coming to us.  Now, she has a world, not just of deer, but of coyote, fox, bobcat and the occasional mountain lion and bear to discover. Oh, and rattlesnakes.

What riches our public lands, like the Gila National Forest and Dragonfly Trail, provide: an immersion in natural systems, a meditation of colors and sounds, a chronicling of human presence.  And great places to take a new dog.


About the Author

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I grew up and lived in the DC Metro area for most of my life. For the last 20-some years of my career, I worked for the Federal Government. Much of that time, I worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Forest Service. Visiting refuges and National Forests around the country, working with the folks whose jobs were to protect, restore, and manage the wild lands, forests and creatures that depend on them is where my heart resonated. I didn't know it then, but that's where my public lands advocacy must have been born. I moved from DC to southwestern NM in 2008. I continued to work until 2013, when I left the government in December. Now I spend my time volunteering for various conservation non-profits. And advocating for the protection of these lands that belong to all of us. I enjoy hiking, tracking, writing, photography, reading, birding, and driving bad roads in my big-girl 2013 F150 4x4.



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