Friday, January 27, 2017

Turd Window

One thing you can’t help but notice when winter off-road cycling is all the frozen turds. I guess it’s a matter of context. I’m sure there are just as many turds on the paths and trails at other times of the year; turds are just less conspicuous without the white background of snow. In spring, summer, or fall your typical turd blends in with the surroundings, neatly camouflaged amid the leaves, dirt, branches, and grass.

But when there’s snow on the ground, a turd’s got nowhere to hide. Snow is white; turds are brown. That’s the stark truth of the matter. In winter, you can spot a trail turd at 10 paces, although I have been known to mistake a branch or piece of bark for a turd. (In fact, I will sometimes play a little game I call “Twig or Turd” while I ride, wherein I attempt, from a distance, to identify bits of brown on the trail ahead, on the basis of shape and splash pattern. I’m getting pretty good at it.) A winter trail turd looks lonely or sad somehow—it’s such an unadorned statement of the most basic biology—and strangely curated, as if carefully placed just so on the ground.

Turd or twig? You tell me.

It’s been a couple of weeks since the last real snowfall here, which means the turds are slowly piling up on the trails. This period between snows I call the turd window. The longer the window, the dirtier the trails start to look. (I’m only talking about the turds. Throw in the pee stains, and then things start to get really ugly. Somehow the pee stains seem worse to me. I know that doesn’t make much sense. How can number one be more flagrant than number two? Something about that particular yellow not blending in; nothing else in nature is that color.)

I’m not a dog man, so I don’t spend a lot of intimate time with non-toilet turds, picking them up, discreetly slipping them into thin plastic baggies, or getting close enough to smell them the way dog owners do. But in the name of investigative journalism, I did get down on my hands and knees, close enough to take some photos. 

The little piles were frozen and therefore didn’t smell. Some of them had a kind of feral appearance, featuring bits of fur and seeds. It’s hard to say how many of these turds come from domesticated dogs and how many come from wild animals, such as coyotes, plentiful in the river valley of our city.

The forecast is calling for snow, so our current turd window may soon close. One of these days, we’ll have a fresh covering of powder, and the trails will look pristine, at least for a day or two. 

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