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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - May Desert Edition

A stormy sunset over a huge canyon...

Lovely light when the sun peeked between two layers of clouds...

Storms and sun made a rainbow as the sun went down...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Time Stops for No One

On this trip, we spent only a couple of days at K's Rock because we wanted to explore some other places too. But, we truly enjoyed the time we had there.

The Runner did some low level climbing on K's Rock. My photo makes him look far off the ground but he was actually only a few feet off the ground. That's why I call it "low level" climbing!
During that quiet afternoon, I went around our campsite closely looking at the blooming flowers. There weren't as many as most years but I'm betting that there will be a late bloom. It rained a lot while we were in Utah.

There were many Primrose blooms...
We also saw many of a pretty flower that's considered to be a weed - a Globe Mallow. We saw these lining the roads throughout the Utah desert.
Near our campsite, I visited a Cottonwood tree with beautiful green leaves...
I walked K past that Cottonwood tree on her last visit to the desert. I knew that she would die soon, and I viewed the entire world through that lens. She and I stopped to look at this tree, and, at that time, I thought to myself that the tree would outlive K. It made me realize all over again that the world would keep spinning on its axis even after K was gone. Since then, I visit the tree on every trip to K's Rock, and I'm so happy to see it flourishing.

It reminds me of my mother's death so long ago - the first major loss in my life. After she had passed, I went to the hospital with my Dad and brother to pick up her personal belongings. Among them was her watch. Without consciously thinking about it, I'd expected that her watch, a constant fixture on her wrist, would have stopped when she died. I anxiously pulled it out of the bag, and I saw its second hand inexorably ticking forward, just like when my mother had been alive. It was a tangible reminder that time stops for no one.

And now, we visit K's Rock with our "new" girl, Shyla. Just like when K was alive, the sunsets are glorious in that spot. Shyla and I enjoyed the sunset on our last evening there.
She was beautiful and the world was beautiful. Little did we know that those clouds hanging on the horizon signaled the end of the calm and sunny weather during our trip. It rarely rains in the desert but it threatened rain every day after that one.
The next day, after leaving K's Rock, we tried to visit a more popular destination, thinking that because it was the "off-season" and the weather forecast was iffy, we'd be able to find peace and quiet. We were completely wrong. Throngs of people seemed to fill the entire landscape.

We made a quick decision to flee the crowds by driving further west, and we barely made it to a much more remote slickrock campsite as night fell. After a long day in the van, I was on the verge of a migraine. I sat quietly in camp as the Runner took the two dogs for a short hike up the slickrock just after sunset.
Our slickrock campsite did turn out to be a very peaceful spot, as we experienced our first desert storms of the trip before driving even further west. More about that in a future post...

Monday, May 25, 2015

Our beautiful country

On this Memorial Day, I find myself thankful for the beauty of our country that so many have fought to preserve. During our time in the desert, the song "America, the beautiful" wafted through my mind many times.
You may notice that we often stop at K's Rock first when we go to the Utah desert. The reason is that we love it there, and it's the closest great campsite that we know of. It makes a peaceful and beautiful place for me to recover from the spine pain that traveling always evokes. This past trip was especially hard because the disc just below my lumbar spinal fusion is getting worse and worse. Sitting in a car seat was agonizing.

Movement is key to controlling the pain so Shyla and I mountain biked to a favorite overlook while we stayed at K's Rock.
One of the best parts is being able to share the mountain bike ride and the view with Shyla. I shared it many times with K, but not over the last couple of years of her life. It had become too hard for her to run up to this viewpoint by then. That fact makes me appreciate this phase of Shyla's life even more.
After we girls mountain biked and the boys ran, all of us hung around camp, reclining in our super comfortable La Fuma chairs. We watched a pair of bluebirds working hard raising a brood that seemed to be stashed in a crevice in K's rock. It was warm, sunny, and so quiet.

Each day, clouds rolled in at sunset so I never got true "sunset golden light" while we were there but Shyla and I had fun with mini-photoshoots anyway. In this photo, she was just about to wave at the camera!
After darkness fell, the clouds sometimes cleared out so that I could photograph the stars. The second night at K's Rock was very special because my time lapse photos showed both the stars spinning around Polaris and moonrise. At the start of the series of photo, K's rock was completely dark because the moon hadn't risen yet. By the end of the series of photos, K's Rock glowed red, bathed by moonlight.

Here's a very short time lapse video of the stars spinning and the moon rising that night. You can watch it at Youtube if you have trouble with the embedded version here.

And here was the final photo after an hour and twenty minutes of photos. The moonlight made it look almost like daytime.
The beauty of our natural world astounds me.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Return of the Big Bears

While we had fun in the desert...
The bears were waking up back home. Our big male bears were starting the mating ritual of marking certain special trees to tell receptive females that they were back in town.

For those who have followed this blog in past summers, you might remember "Tiny", one of the biggest males in our neck of the woods.
In fact, he's so big that he almost was too tall for my camera set-up. He was vigorously rubbing his back on a small pine tree. It's a tree that bears have marked every spring and summer for a long time.
These "chosen" trees never grow to full size because the bears break off the top of them every year.

A few days later, another key male bear showed up. I believe this is "Milton Jr.", based on the white blaze on his chest that you'll be able to see when he's on his hind legs. I call him "Jr." because he's a bit smaller than another very similar looking male who usually shows up a little later in the season.
See the white blaze?
He's always been a "creative" tree marker, using his paws a lot to rub branches across his fur, thereby getting his scent on even more of the tree.
I think he spotted the trail camera here. He looked straight at it as he marked.
I felt so happy when I knew that both Tiny and Milton Jr. had survived another year and returned to their stomping grounds.

Then, just yesterday, Tiny marked the same tree again.
He is an incredible specimen, so tall and strong.
He showed us the sole of his hind paw as he walked away from the tree.
Unfortunately, the video cameras that I'd set up before our trip, pointed at bear marking trees, all malfunctioned, primarily due to a vandal who messed with them. They're now back in position and ready to capture the next dances by these bears and the females who will soon join the parade.

Although the mountain weather has been dismal (rainy/snowy and cold for weeks), I still have an extra spring in my step knowing that the bears are starting their yearly ritual that is such fun to monitor with trail cameras!!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Winter to Spring in Hours

One day a couple of weeks ago, we awakened to snow, yet again.
We decided to go west to the desert and get away from the snow.
By that night, we gazed at sparkling stars in the desert sky.
We were so happy to be in the desert!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Flashback Friday - Shyla's Arrival

Because I shared a memory of K with you yesterday, I thought that I'd share a photo from Shyla's early days with us, back in 2012.
She'd been with us for long enough that she'd look me straight in the eyes, even when I had a camera. It was the beginning of an amazing trust that would grow between us.

I feel so lucky that Shyla came into my life and has taught me so much about building trust and confidence.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Angel K

I remember visiting this 13,000' ridge several times with K. Each time, it was so special. There were views of lakes and high mountains in all directions.

But, most of all, I was sharing it with K. Those shared adventures helped make the bond between us unbreakable.
She lives on in my heart. And she's with me when I share our special places, like this ridge, with my Shyla.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mountain Spring - elk on the move

It's getting to be time for the elk herd that winters in our neck of the woods to move up to the high mountains. As always, they've spent time near our house this spring.

Here, two of them leaped an old fence left in a meadow.
And then they gathered, for milling around and grazing.
You can tell that summer is coming based on their fur coats. Their normally very thick and luxurious neck fur is completely gone.
And, the herd is starting to break up into smaller groups. Here, one group fled when some people got out of vehicles near them.
Isn't it funny that the elk leave for greener pastures just when things are starting to get green here?
It's all part of the yearly rhythm of life in the mountains. I don't understand why the animals do certain things but they've been doign them for far longer than I've been on this Earth.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Black Dog Sunday

One day recently, I had R with me, on his own, for a mountain bike ride. I know that I've said this before, but it's wonderful to spend one-on-one time with him!
Often, when I have the Labraduo with me, the two them focus on playing with each other rather than with me. That's why it's great to spend solo time with R. His behavior is always impeccable during our solo rides, and I get such joy out of seeing him run!
While were out, I found a new flower blooming - mountain bluebells. They are tiny and very low to the ground but the flash of blue caught my eye!
I think that we may have springtime before we know it!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Seashells in the Mountains

I participate in a Flickr group called the "Daily Dog Challenge", and a recent prompt was "Animal, vegetable, or mineral?". It prompted me to pull out a treasure, a fossilized seashell that we found deep in the Rocky Mountains a long time ago.
The shell fossil in the middle and upper half of the rock by Shyla's snout. It made the geological history of the Earth seem much more real to me, finding a relic from when the Rocky Mountains were under the ocean!

You can tell that Shyla was out in the rain just before I took this photo. Our mountain weather has not been the greatest lately. At least we don't have a drought!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Flashback Friday: Shyla meets the desert

From Shyla's first trip to the desert...

When you're not sure of yourself, do exactly what your big brother is doing!
She learned that sunset is a beautiful time...
 And the scents float in the wind as the air cools down when the sun sets...
I am glad that Shyla has learned to love the desert like our whole pack does!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Throwback Thursday

Angel K and I atop Hug Hill...
 Angel K's beautiful eye surrounded by autumn colors...
 Angel K modeled a hat that is still a favorite of mine...
And, her unforgettable eye - the star in each eye was exquisite.
I am so grateful that I had K in my life and I still have her in my heart. She changed me forever.