As we approached the trails today, I saw a sheep out of the corner of my eye. I looked over and sure enough, a sheep. Then I started looking around some more and realized there were hundreds of sheep crawling the hills! The sheep have been brought in to eat the cheatgrass that has grown in abundance since the fire of 2004. If left unchecked, the cheatgrass is a potential fire hazard. The hillside you see in the picture was one covered in sagebrush. Sagebrush inhibits growth of other plants around it, a tactic it uses to compete for the scarce rainfall on this side of the Sierras. Without the sagebrush, the grass is pretty happy. The sheep are eating machines though and work for free. A good natural solution to a problem. I'm curious to see if they caused any trail damage. From what I've read though, they are pretty light on their feet.
In other news, we picked up a new rider today! Marcus found this blog while doing a google search on the area. He left a comment on one of the posts that he'd like to ride with us. We exchanged a few emails and coordinated his first ride today.
I'm glad Marcus showed up. I was beginning to get a bit worried, since there have been fewer lunch time riders as of late. Thoughts on what to do about this serious problem have turned over in my mind. A stop-loss program with extended tours of duty? Or would I need to severely punish deserters to make examples of them? I never did come to a conclusion. I decided to let fate run its course.
The latest rider to leave us is Barbara. Barbara has been one of the main winter riders the last couple years. Many times when I secretly hoped nobody would want to ride in the foul weather, Barbara would ask who was riding with her. I'd reluctantly agree, but then almost always have a great time. I'll also miss our left wing conversations (as Todd called them). Barbara left for a better job in Reno, so now we'll only get to see her for weekend rides. Other riders though...who knows. Some riders just seem to disappear without an excuse. They take a day off here and there, and then finally vanish completely. So once again, welcome Marcus! We need new riders!
For those of you reading this at work: Please don't count the sheep in the picture. I don't want to be responsible for you falling asleep on the job.