Photos and text copyright Romping and Rolling in the Rockies 2009-2014.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Alpine Autumn

It is truly becoming autumn here. Our time in the alpine zone last weekend might be the last camping up there for this year.

During one of my mountain bike rides over the weekend, I was high above our campsite, and I spotted the white LabMobile far below me. Do you see it?
I love the LabMobile. It's made it possible for me to camp all over the west despite the fact that my fragile spine can't handle sleeping in a tent. We thought about bringing our mobile camp up even higher - we might do that next time!

I enjoyed glorious bike rides with Shyla. We were above treeline so we weren't inside the golden aspen groves but, rather, we looked down on them.
Shyla seemed to energized by the boulders and the wide open spaces. She ran like the wind.
Some hunting seasons are underway - mostly birds and large game archery - so we weren't bedecked in all of our orange garb yet (we save that stuff for the large game rifle seasons). However, I have to admit that I am not comfortable with our dogs being anywhere near people toting what look like big guns to me. I've written in the past about our first dog who was murdered by a crazy man with a gun. The man was prosecuted and paid a price (but no price could match taking a life, in my opinion).

However, the legal system's punishment didn't heal my psyche, which still fears for the lives of my precious furry friends around guns - even when the people carrying them seem very responsible. I can't help it even though our horrific loss occurred a long time ago.

So, I kept Shyla quite close to me, curtailing her high speed running a little bit. Even on a bike, I'm slower than Shyla at full speed so she has to rein in her enthusiasm to stay next to me.
Although autumn was taking over the aspen groves, a few summer flowers hung on. "Old Man of the Mountain" flowers still bloomed.
And, in the shelter of the remnants of a mining cabin, fireweed glowed gloriously. It even had buds that hadn't opened yet!

However, there is no doubt that this alpine area will get its first big snowfall before too long. I was grateful to be there to enjoy it once more, before it becomes a high mountain winter wonderland.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Winter or Autumn?

It seemed surreal even though I always say that it snows in every month except July and August. Last Friday morning, the temperature was 24° and fresh snow coated the world.

Shyla stared at the world with a look of surprise.
She looked even more surprised as she ran through the freezing world.
To top it off, I was coming down with a cold so I wasn't particularly happy on our morning mountain bike ride. Shyla seemed to inform me that we needed to do something about this - like go to the Bahamas.
Instead, we opted to drive over the Continental Divide to the western slope, where weather reports said that it was sunny and gorgeous - typical Colorado fall weather. They were right.
We went up very high, well above 11,000', driving through golden aspen groves as we climbed in our LabMobile. From our campsite, we looked down upon the gorgeous world, replete with deep blue lakes, pine trees, and golden aspens.
After spending the morning in the winter world near our home, we were all happy to be in the autumn world of the western slope!
The sun was intensely warm at high altitude although the temperature plummeted at night. We curled up in our sleeping bags with the "Labraduo" heating system keeping us cozy.
We had a great weekend - more about that in coming days.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Black Lab Sunday

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Prime of Life

Shyla has reached that magical age when she is so agile and fast that it awes me. When we were high in the mountains this summer, she'd often choose the toughest routes to get from one place to another. Who else but a 2-year-old dog would choose to go over (instead of around) these boulders?
And she makes it look easy as she hops from one to the next.
Around the house, when Shyla is in a hurry to get someplace, she goes over the furniture in a similar way. It makes us all laugh!

She's also been making huge strides with her confidence. Just recently, she had a great day in town with me, doing some shopping in dog-friendly stores that would have been too nerve-wracking for her just a short time ago. (In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that one observant gentleman quietly said "she's a tiny bit nervous for a Lab, isn't she?" He was right.) However, in almost every way, her burgeoning confidence is wonderful.
The only downside to her confidence is that she sometimes chooses to ignore my verbal commands when we're in her comfort zones - at home and out in nature. My trainer warned me that we might reach a phase like this, if Shyla became more comfortable with the world.

I think that Shyla used to obey me partly because she was afraid of the rest of the world. Now, that she feels invincible, I need to work on other sources of motivation.
I've never gone through this type of "teenage" behavior with a dog who is Shyla's age (the "teenage rebellion" is usually just before their first birthday). Usually, my dogs are pretty grown up and stable by her age. Have any of you experienced this with a mature underconfident dog?

I am forcing myself to go back to basics. We are practicing recalls and off-leash heeling intensively. I remind myself that Shyla's world view has changed dramatically - so I need to "re-teach" the basics so that she's motivated to do them within her new, more confident, world view.
In the meantime, I always remember that we are in Shyla's prime of life. I've been through the full lifetimes of enough dogs to know that I want to savor these days.
I'm also trying to be grateful that we've even reached this point - where Shyla is almost "too confident" in her comfort zones!

Friday, September 12, 2014

See Beautiful: The Sky

Since I started loving photography, I notice the beauty of the sky much more than before. This summer, when we camped high in the mountains, the Milky Way was omnipresent, rotating around our campsites throughout the night. It is a gift to get to see it, so far away from city lights.

On one particularly dark night, after the moon had set, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning. I quietly sneaked outside to look at the stars. It was inky dark and completely quiet. Above me, the Milky Way seemed to glow above a bank of clouds that clung to nearby mountains.

When we're camping, I have my camera on a tripod almost all night when the weather is good. So, it was easy for me to take a photo of the ethereal sight. 
In daylight, it's hard to believe that it's the same sky, since we can't see the stars. However, the clouds and sun are as dazzling as the nighttime stars.
The photo above is from a recent evening hike. As dusk fell, sweet Shyla stood guard, watching over our meadow.

I make a point of getting outside and "Seeing Beautiful" every single day. Some days, like the two that I just told you about, the sky is what catches my fancy. It is, indeed, beautiful!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Golden Moments

This morning's ride was a microcosm of life.

It started out so cold and wet that my toes froze almost immediately. I tried to cheer up the ambiance with a bright bandana around Shyla's neck. In my opinion, it didn't work. But it is rewarding to see Shyla standing so confidently while propped on K's favorite stump.
For those who remember the early days of this blog, that bandana belonged to S, our beloved yellow Lab. So, in some ways, two of our departed Labs are in this photo with Shyla.

After visiting Hug Hill this morning, we had a long and shady ride to some sprawling aspen groves. At first, I was so cold that I was ready to give up and go home. Then, I noticed some fleeting glimmers of sunshine filtering through the forest. And, I noticed that Shyla was being exceptionally well-behaved. Life started to seem happier.

As we reached those faraway aspen groves, I saw a small area of glowing golden leaves in the grove. Then, the sun somehow burned through the thick layer of clouds for a brief visit.
I called Shyla to me so I could take some photos of her golden eyes in the golden grove. She had a puppy-like crazed look as she accelerated toward me.
The sun didn't stick around for long but we basked in every moment of its somewhat veiled visit.
After the clouds had enveloped our world again, we rode back toward home. As we passed through a meadow filled with drying golden grass, I noticed this beauty tucked down in the "understory" of the grass. I hope that it survives the snow that we may get tonight.
As we approached home, the world became darker and wetter again. Rain droplets on leaves have an unparalleled beauty that almost makes up for how cold it is to ride a mountain bike in 40°F with soaking rain.
I've been trying to remember those brief golden moments in the warm sun with Shyla to keep my spirits high for the rest of this day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Rain

Before last September's devastating floods, I believed that there was no such thing as "too much rain" in our neck of the woods. I was wrong. On these days near the anniversary, it's been raining almost daily, again.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Serendipity - A Mountain Lion and the Stars

With my new computer, I've started using some new software for organizing my photos. I can ask it to "filter" the photos in lots of different ways. It's fun to see what my trail cameras were capturing while I was taking other photos with my regular camera. One night last month, a big male mountain lion came through our neck of the woods while we were far away on a camping trip.

He walked toward one of my motion-activated cams.
At first, he seemed as if he'd just walk briskly past it. Then, he turned on a dime and started sniffing the bone that a dog deposited there six months ago.
This bone has obsessed the local bobcats but this was the first mountain lion who was mesmerized by it.
I couldn't see what he was doing as his nose was toward the bone. Then, he stood up and shook.
He seemed to contemplate his next move before he started walking again. Look at that full belly!
Just a few minutes later, he arrived at another spot that mountain lions love to mark. Over the years, I've gotten footage of many lions scraping the ground and urinating here.
He didn't stay long but he left his own big "scrape" just outside the view of the camera. He's a strong specimen!
Meanwhile, we were camped high in the Rocky Mountains. At the same time as that mountain lion was making his rounds, I had my regular camera on a tripod, and it was taking many exposures of the stars. I layered them together so that we could see the stars' paths.

The stars spun around the North Star. You can see the bright lights of a town below us.
The mountain lion didn't see the town lights but he saw the same stars as we did!

Monday, September 8, 2014

A New Favorite Place

Frequently, I tell you about our trips to our favorite places in the West. As we explore in our LabMobile, we search for new "favorite places", but very often, we end up in less-than-optimal new campsites during our explorations. We visit those sites once (and you never see photos of them here), and then we start searching all over again for new beautiful spots.

This summer, we camped in a new spot that I think is going to become a favorite for us. It was at almost 12,000', high above treeline. It was chilly and a little bit stormy but the surroundings were gorgeous.
There was almost no one else around so the dogs could play in the mountain tundra as I mountain biked and the Runner ran. We started out each morning as a pack, and it was fun watching the Duo run together.
After R and the Runner went off to tackle a high peak (too steep for a mountain bike), Shyla and I explored the trails and small 4wd roads.
She loved clambering on the boulders that speckled the tundra. Don't worry - there's no cliff behind her. Rather, there's a gentle slope down into a deep valley.
An upside to the tumultuous weather during our visit was that we saw more rainbows in a few days than we usually see in an entire year. The pot of gold looked very close based on this late-afternoon rainbow on our first day there!
Then, as I sipped coffee the next morning, a double rainbow appeared. Have you ever noticed how the order of the colors is opposite in the second rainbow? I wonder why.
Rain sprinkled from the sky intermittently that morning. Between rain squalls, it was bright and sunny. Sometimes it was both raining and sunny at the same time, like during my bike ride with Shyla.
Shyla seemed to dance among the rainbows.
After one last smattering of rain during our ride that morning, the rainbow show abruptly ended.
And Shyla and I proceeded with our mountain bike ride in bright warm sunshine. The banks of clouds stayed on the other side of the valley.
What fun days those were! I have the feeling we'll be back to that spot again. I love being so high among the Rocky Mountains.
I have no doubt that Shyla approves of that idea!
Alas, summertime is fading here. The first "chance of snow" has appeared in our forecast for later this week. So it's a good time to look back at our summertime adventures and to plan for our autumn adventures.