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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sunrise and Mountain Lions

Shyla and I plunged out into the frosty cold air this morning, with me on my snowbike and Shyla running. While we were close to home she stood tall and confident in the glow of the sunrise.
We didn't get much sun, just a brief burst, before it was obscured by the almost completely overcast sky. Shyla watched as the sun disappeared into the clouds.
After the sun faded behind the clouds, I pedaled up higher, to the general area where I've seen so many mountain lion tracks recently. Shyla seemed very worried. We didn't check any trail cameras but I suspect that the mountain lions were still around.

You may remember, in mid-October, that my trail cameras captured a mother-kitten mountain lion pair at multiple locations. Well, I was lucky enough to have the same thing happen again near the end of October. At that time, the mother-kitten pair were still together.

I made a video of their travels. They stopped at a couple of sites to play and to mark the territory. I find it amazing to see these tough predators let down their guard to interact with each other. You can watch the video here or at Youtube.

Note that on 12/1/14, a mountain lion who looked a lot like the mother in the pair was traveling alone. Because the kitten looked almost full grown at the end of October, I wouldn't be surprised if s/he has become independent.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Good Luck, A Predator, and the Winner!

The day started on a great note. Months ago, I "lost" Shyla's favorite toy, a purple squeaky ring. I ordered a replacement but she never loved it as much. This morning, we found her favorite toy!!!!
Together with the glorious sunrise light, it made us both want to play!
After we finished playing, we took full advantage of the relatively easy snowbiking conditions in our forest now and did a big loop. There's a lot of snow in the forecast so big loops on rarely used trails may not be possible after the winter storms.

Along the way, I saw cloven tracks that indicated that the elk herd has vacated the area. I was relieved to see that they'd moved on because all sorts of predators were eying and stalking them.
I'll never tire of watching our elk herd. I think the next one is an almost one-year old calf.
I must say that there is an elk predator who I admire immensely. Indeed, multiple mountain lions were circling the herd over the past few days. The snow was pocked with mountain lion tracks on all sides of the herd. It must be scary to be an elk or deer around here.
As far as I can tell, the mountain lions didn't kill any of the elk. Shyla usually gives me a strong signal when there's a freshly killed elk in the area, and she didn't give the usual signal. I know that the lions must eat so I'm sure they're not giving up. Such is nature that one animal must lose its life for another to thrive.

Today is the day that I used a random number generator to choose a calendar winner. I numbered the comments, and I had the program randomly choose one number. Amy Boyer of Terra Toby won!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Forest Happenings

Shyla and I were out for sunrise today, although it was slightly veiled through thin clouds hovering on the eastern horizon. Shyla tends to be a dog who has her thoughts written all over her face - like in this photo.
And that wasn't the only time she looked very alert and on guard.
Indeed, when we rode through the forest just after sunrise, I saw the tracks of a huge variety of wildlife in the snow. An entire herd of about 100 elk had come through.
I love having the elk around, which is a pretty frequent occurrence in the winter.

But, it's not common to have moose within a half mile of our house. I wasn't expecting a moose here so the trail camera was set up at bobcat/mountain lion level.
You might remember that I captured some moose photos last fall in our neck of the woods. The one last fall was a young bull moose while yesterday's was a young cow. Maybe they'll meet and make a family! In any case, I think we need to get mentally prepared for a moose meeting someday in the forest near our house.
Those of you who have been following this blog for a while probably know what other animal was walking our forest paths yesterday. I'm going to save her photos for tomorrow but s/he generally shows up where the elk are.

So, Shyla's wide-eyed look was for a good reason! Fortunately, she also relaxed and had fun during our sunrise outing today!
It's a flying Wubba!!! What could be more fun for a Labrador Retriever? Shyla forgot the wildlife scents for a while and played a joyous game of fetch!

P.S. Don't forget to comment on Tuesday's post if you'd like to have the chance to win a calendar! I'll be doing a random drawing tomorrow afternoon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Few Words Wednesday - Nature's Light

First sun rays of the morning:

Time lapse video of the stars in Utah one evening - (can be seen here or at Youtube):

The final photo after an hour of exposures. The moon was up, lighting the rocks in the foreground.

PS Remember to comment on yesterday's post if you would like to be part of the drawing for a calendar!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Shyla's Past Year

Yesterday, I told you a little about R's year in review. I did a similar thing for Shyla, going through the photos that I've taken of her this year so I could make our calendar. Of course, that led me to think about how Shyla has changed this year.

For Shyla, it was a year of incredible growth. Shyla seems to finally understand that she's always safe with us. We'll protect her and love her no matter what - and I think she knows it.

But, with that confidence came an independence that was sometimes wonderful and sometimes scary. On the good side, she could sit in a "stay" apart from me in a strange place without getting scared. She'll also allow people she knows to take her leash and walk away from me. That's a huge step for a dog who was so fearful not so long ago.
On the Continental Divide in early July
However, on the scary side, Shyla also started testing the limits of her independence during our mountain bike rides. I went through a period of stress when I wasn't sure how to handle her new-found independent behavior that I feared would get her into trouble. 

I should have called our trainer right away but I felt "certain" it was a teenage phase that would pass. I was wrong. But, after finally asking for help from our trainer, we were back on track. Shyla's behavior is now even better than it was before her rebellion.
Autumn - the time when we found our groove again
I'm beginning to feel like she and I are becoming a well-seasoned pair who know each other so well that we can navigate our world together easily.

Somehow, after K's death, I forgot that it takes a while to build that kind of mutual trust. I think that Shyla and I are growing a bond that is very strong.

The next photo is an example - but I have to tell you a story for you to understand. Shyla has learned all sorts of silly cues for my photography. When I want her to stand in a certain spot, I point at the spot and say "paws", which means stand with your front paws in that spot. When there's a pretty sky, I point to a boulder and say "up". She climbs up and stands patiently while I take photos.

Recently, the most amazing thing has happened. She started anticipating what I was going to ask her to do - so she just does it, without a word from me. For example, I wanted to photograph her on a boulder the other evening. All I had to do was unclip her leash, and she hopped on the boulder without a word from me.
The most spectacular sunset of the year
I always bring along treats and toys so I can repay her wonderful behavior with something that she loves, like a game of fetch or a yummy treat.

I feel overwhelmed with gratefulness that Shyla found her way into our lives. She's brought us such joy.

I'd like to give away one "Romping and Rolling in the Rockies" calendar, to show my appreciation for your support. On Friday (12/19/14), I'll randomly draw the name of one commenter from this post. If you'd prefer not to be included in the drawing, please say so in your comment. Thank you!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Our Black Dog's Past Year

'Tis the season when I make photo calendars as gifts for family. In some ways, I love doing it. Looking through my photo archives reminds of the highs and lows of the past year.

As I started the process this year, I was initially flummoxed by the fact that I couldn't find any photos of R cavorting in the snow last winter. I finally remembered that he'd had surgery for elbow dysplasia last winter so he did very little playing in the snow.

He did play on the day before his surgery!
And, then, he rested for most of the winter because running on snow and ice is very tough on a bad elbow.
As I went through my archives, I knew that I'd hit the time of year when R had been given permission to run around again when I found this photo! That is classic goofy R!
He really lived it up during the summer, when we felt fairly confident in his elbow. Look at the crazed happiness in his eyes in the next photo.
And he told the world that he was overjoyed about it!
Playing is obviously good for the soul, based on his puppy-like face in a photo from this fall.
I am so happy that he is living life to the fullest. We know it's just a matter of time before he'll need major reconstructive surgery on that bad elbow. He's had 2 arthroscopic "clean-outs" so far in his life and has almost no cartilage remaining in that elbow.

But, like all the dogs I've known, he isn't worrying about it. He's having fun every day!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Seeing the World - Color vs. Black and White

Today, I am joining the black and white blog hop. You may notice that I don't make many black and white photos. I've found that it's the colors, vivid and eye-catching, that motivate me to take pictures, like this one of Shyla's eye that I took yesterday.
But, every now and then, a photo catches my eye as one that would convey its message even better in black and white than in color. I took this silhouette as storm clouds swirled threateningly over our heads early this past week.

Ironically, black and white may be somewhat like how Shyla sees the world since dogs don't see colors in the same way that we do.
Today, we have snow! Winter arrived overnight, and I rushed outside to plant Columbine seeds before the snow fell this morning. I know, from past years, that this snow will be on the ground until April or May. Underneath the snow, the seeds of springtime will be getting ready to sprout - a thought that warms my heart during the cold days of winter.

Thanks to Nola and Sugar for hosting this Blog Hop.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Mountain Biking with the Labraduo

I had two days of the Labraduo joining me for my sunrise bike ride. I had never seen how R's fur turns color when the sun barely peeks over the eastern horizon. He has a reddish glow!
The same is true for Shyla's chocolate coat. It looks almost fake because it glows so brightly. This bright glow lasts for only about 10 minutes after sunrise.
After the sun was a little higher in the sky, we played some games. As I looked through my photos of them, I noticed a very funny thing. When I called the Duo to run to me, they almost always simultaneously licked their noses with their tongues. I've read that "tongue flicks" are a sign of stress but I truly don't believe the Duo was under "stress". Perhaps it was a sign of excitement in this case.
Atop Hug Hill, they did the same thing. Their synchronization was remarkable!
The Duo played together, and they totally relaxed together in the warm sunshine. Shyla actually snoozed, which she'd never do without her trusty big brother by her side.
It's definitely a bit more stressful for me to keep two dogs under control than when I have only one with me. When mountain biking, the dogs have to be truly under "voice control" because I also have to pay attention to riding my bike and not crashing. But, it was good fun, and the Duo was generally very well behaved.
This morning, Shyla and I were on our own again. We look forward to the next time that the black tornado can join us!

Friday, December 12, 2014

See Beautiful - The Desert Edition

Today is the See Beautiful Blog Hop (hosted by Sugar) so I picked out a few of my favorite photos from our desert trip. I love the red rock sculptures designed by eons of wind and water shaping them.
The desert also has incredible sunsets like this next one that silhouettes a canyon wall.
As we stopped to watch it while we hiked on the other wall of the canyon, Shyla stood atop a rock, giving me a fun photographic opportunity.
When we camped almost inside a canyon, we didn't get to see the brilliant glow of the setting sun because the canyon walls blocked it.

But we did go to another site where the light was breath-taking and the desert terrain was dramatic, with huge towers rising from the ground.
From our perch at the base of a tower, we could survey a long distance to the west.
We patiently watched the sunset, giving thanks for Nature's beauty.
R also gave thanks.
As many of you know, another part of the desert that I find beautiful is the zillions of stars that are visible in the dark sky.

At our last campsite of the trip, I made a time lapse series of the stars. If you want to, you can see how the stars moved over the course of 2 hours in this short time lapse video. You can watch it at Youtube if you have trouble viewing it here.

Here was the final photo, after I stacked all the exposures together. I find the desert sky to be mesmerizing because there are more stars than I can fathom.
I love our mountains but I've come to love the desert too. I feel lucky that I live in a place where I can spend time in both. And, I feel lucky that I have an amazing "pack" to share it with!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Labraduo at Sunrise

I had the Labraduo with me at sunrise today. That's a rarity, and I loved it. R looked distinguished in the warm golden light of the rising sun.
Then, I pedaled up to Hug Hill with the Duo, and we had fun playing all sorts of games! They launched themselves over the top of Hug Hill on a recall. What a sight!
And, they landed in sync!
They lifted my spirits, as I am fighting my way through a phase of health problems. There's nothing like the love of a dog (or two) to make me smile no matter what!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Glorious sunset

Note the progression of color through these photos. It was almost dark when we finally hiked home.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Seize the Day

At sunrise, Shyla and I played with her red ring out in the forest.
She loves to run and leap in the early morning hours.
Then, after Shyla and I did a great ride, including trails that are usually "closed" due to deep snow at this time of year, I went on a long meandering mountain bike exploration, finding new links between some of my favorite trails. I couldn't bear to go inside. It was 50°F here and sunny - almost unheard of at this time of year.

Seemingly very soon after I finished my bike ride, it was time to take the Labraduo for their end of the day hike.
We found a quiet spot in the forest, and we played some "stay" and "recall" games. I tend to give R a head start these days. His younger sister is so intense about these games that she wins every time if they start together.
I love seeing them run!

To mix things up, sometimes they start side-by-side. And it's amazing to see how intense they look as they sprint out of a "sit" toward me.
I've learned over the years that I have to keep practicing basic skills like a recall so my dogs "remember" to listen when there is a huge distraction like a fleeing elk.

After our games, we were treated to one of the most incredible sunsets I've seen during this pseudo-winter. I'll just show you the last photo, as the light was fading, in today's post, and I'll save the rest of them for tomorrow.
Based on how tired I am, I think that we lived life to the fullest today! As a great tee-shirt highlighted by my friend Jean says, "Consider this Diem Carped". I think that applies to our day!