This day started cold and didn't get much warmer. We arrived at the campsite the night before and were greeted by sleet and temperatures in the low 40's F.
I got up to take the boys for a walk (Cooper being insistent about his requirement to be taken out at 6:30am every morning). Rufus, Cooper and I walked out the back gate of the RV park into the surrounding forest.
The boys were wandering about, checking the bushes for rabbits, when I noticed a coyote trotting along above a rock shelf on the right side of a small valley we were in. Knowing that the dogs would take off after him as soon as they saw him, I distracted them until he passed behind a stand of fir trees on his way down onto the fire road that ran along up the center of the valley. He trotted a few yards up the road, looked over his shoulder at me, and then headed into the brush on the left side of the road. "Ok", I thought, "time to head back to the RV". Most wild animals, seeing a man and two large dogs, will quickly put as much ground as possible between them and it. I turned and the boys and I headed back towards the campground.
As we approached the low ridge that separated us from where the RV was parked, the coyote popped up not fifteen yards away, right in front of us. He had circled around us and intentionally placed himself between us and the campground. He looked me right in the eye, and then waited until Rufus saw him and bolted before he turned and streaked up the ridge, Rufus in hot pursuit. Immediately I thought of the story I'd heard from Kelly about how packs of coyotes would send a lone member to lure domestic dogs out to where the pack could surround and bring them down. I sprinted up the hill after Rufus shouting his name, thankful that Cooper had stayed close. I ran and shouted until I was breathless and hoarse. Suddenly, to my immense relief, I saw Rufus charging back down the hill, his head up, obviously looking for me. Bent over clutching the stitch that had suddenly appeared in my side, and I scratched his ears gratefully.
Thinking we were out of the woods, I then starting walking briskly back towards camp, both dogs trotting at my heels. However, Cooper, who is going through his teenage, "you're not the boss of me" phase, happened to cross the scent trail of the coyote as we neared the gate. I called him to me, but he cocked his head in that rebellious "I don't think so" manner that we have come to dread, and took off back up the hill, his nose to the ground. Rufus and I ran after him, but he was gone in seconds. Again, I ran and called. However, he was not so quick to return as Rufus had been. After fifteen minutes or so, I was to the point where I was ready to go back to the RV to get Kelly in hopes that her voice might get his attention and lure him back, when I saw his huge black and white head pop up over the crest of the ridge. If anything, I was even more relieved, as I suspect Rufus with his quickness, strength, and athleticism, could have at least held his own against several coyotes. Cooper, even though he is now pushing 140 pounds, is still a puppy, and I doubted he would fare as well. Kelly was also relieved to see us back, as we normally are not gone nearly so long on our morning walks. We fed the boys their breakfast, and collapsed back into bed for another hour or two of vacation slumber.
Later, after we had risen, had breakfast, and packed up, we headed out to see the Grand Canyon. After finding a place to park Harvey the RV, we walked past the numerous National Park buildings on our way to the canyon rim. One of these turned out to be the barn for the mules which carry intrepid tourists down to canyon floor. Cooper, who is used to being the largest critter around, found them more than a little intimidating.
However, after some encouragement from Kelly, he overcame his trepidation and made friends.
Rufus found the prohibition against petting the mules to be silly. His point is that he too is big and red, and people pet him all the time with no ill effect.
Now we came to the edge of the canyon, were all blown away by the vistas it presented.
Cooper wryly observed that if he were to dig a hole that big, he'd be in no end of trouble...
Even though the weather was dreary, and we were getting periodically pelted with light hail, there still a lot of other people taking in the scenery. Rufus and Cooper soon found themselves making a LOT of new friends.
We were all suffering from scenery overload by this point, and Kelly and I were in need of lunch, so we loaded the boys into the RV and headed out of the park. Both dogs immediately took a snooze, although Cooper showed his eccentricity in his choice of a pillow.
After Kelly and I returned from our meal, we found the boys had commandeered our seats.
Possession being nine tenths of the law, Rufus thought this entitled him to the captain's chair. We had a discussion about this...
Once I regained my position behind the wheel, we started the long drive south to meet my cousin and her family at an RV park near Camp Verde, AZ. Kelly and the boys amused themselves along the way by goofing with the camera.
As usual, Rufus also lent his assistance with the navigational duties.
The desert also obliged us by presenting some stunning vistas.
Finally, we arrived late in the afternoon. After getting Harvey the RV situated, we took the boys for a walk so that we could all stretch our legs.
We then went back, fed the boys their dinner, and joined my cousin and her family for ours. While we were waiting for my cousin to put the final touches on the meal, Kelly kept her two oldest daughters entertained.
After the girls had gone to bed, we had a great time discussing the idiosyncraties of my extended family and playing card game called Preference, which is unique to Osage County, MO, where my father's family is from.
All the pictures from today are available here.