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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Mountain Lion Pair

My trail cameras have never captured photos of adult mountain lions together until now.

First, my trail camera photographed a large male mountain lion heading east.
He stopped briefly next to one of my trail cameras that was on his route.
A couple of miles later, he was still on the same path.


My next glimpse of him was amazing! He was with a smaller adult mountain lion - likely a female mountain lion. I am guessing that this is a mating pair. Mountain lions can breed at any time of year.
That was the only spot where I captured photos of the pair together although a mating pair usually stays together for several days.

By 8/12, I believe they had separated. I think that this is the female from the pair above leaving the area. She's wearing a GPS collar.
I love capturing these glimpses into the lives of our most secretive animals. It would be fun if this female chose to raise her young kittens in our neck of the woods. Only time will tell... Gestation is about 90 days.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Columbines

Near our Crested Butte campsite, there was a talus slope that was covered in Columbines. I have never seen so many in one place as there.
Columbines on High
In the next photo, all the spots in the background are Columbines!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Unexpected Guests

The resident black bears in our neck of the woods didn't have any cubs this year. But, we've had more than one sow bring cubs into our area during this period of fattening up by eating non-stop ("hyperphagia" - usually July and August, here). During this phase, mother bears, who have exceptionally high calorie needs, will go outside their normal territories in search of food.

This sow, who I haven't seen before, appeared by a bear tree a couple of weeks ago. One of her cubs was right next to her. It's amazing how different their coat colors are - I guess this cub looks like his/her father!
As mom kept walking, the first cub climbed the tree that has been marked by so many bears over the years.
As the black cub descended from the tree, a cinnamon-brown cub, whose coat resembled his mother's coat, moved into the picture. This cub had obviously been trailing behind his mom and sibling.
The black cub hustled to catch up with his mom but the cinnamon one explored a little. He sniffed a small aspen sapling.
Then, he sniffed a rock in front of the bear tree.
Finally, to my surprise, he tried to mark the bear tree like a big bear does!
Soon after marking the tree, he sprinted away to catch up with his family! I'm hoping that this family stays in the area for a little while, perhaps stopping to play in the spring where last year's cubs played so much! I can't wait to find out what happens!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sunset and Night Sky

Our campsite in the San Juans overlooked the "Lizard Head", which is the pointy mountain on the horizon. We saw several beautiful sunsets over it.
Glorious Sky over the Lizard Head
Those sunsets were often followed by clouds flowing across the sky at dusk, with the stars twinkling behind them.
Flowing Clouds
The beauty that we saw from that campsite was breath-taking.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Black Lab Sunday

R shook off the water, very artistically, after a swim on our recent trip.
Shake!
I'm afraid that we are heading into another busy period with little time for the internet. It will be a shorter period this time but I apologize in advance for some very brief posts! Enjoy your summertime days!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Wildflowers Galore

Yesterday, I talked about arriving at our Crested Butte campsite and being so happy to see the sunshine. Even better, the sun was lighting up one of the most incredible wildflower displays I've ever seen.

I went for a mountain bike ride on a classic route, while the Runner took both dogs for a high mountain run. Unfortunately, it wasn't a place where I could take Shyla mountain biking with me.

But, the flowers on my mountain bike route blew my mind. The Aspen Sunflowers were taller than me.
They lined the high part of the trail. I literally stopped at least a dozen times to take photos of them. I got a moderately early start on each day we spent there, and I had the trails all to myself. Lucky me!
In some places, purple Fireweed mixed in with the sunflowers. The trail was smooth and tacky - lined with flowers the whole way.
As I look through these photos, I am reminded, yet again, why we try so hard to seize each summer day in the high mountains. Mountain wildflowers have fleeting lives at high elevations. I'd bet that this display is almost finished by now. I feel so lucky to have seen it.
We spent three glorious days enjoying this heavenly wildflower capitol. We'd run/bike/swim in the morning, and recline in the sun in the afternoons.
After those blissful days, we awakened to a change in the weather one morning. Because we were camped so high, we were literally *in* the clouds. We headed down about 3000' in elevation for some exercise. I rode on this pretty trail at about 8000' in the rain.
And then we visited the town and its wifi to research the weather again. We discovered that a stretch of clear and beautiful weather was approaching out in the San Juan Mountains. We immediately hit the road to get there as fast as we could!

We had a super stroke of luck. Normally, we spend the first night in the San Juans camped near a main road, and then I ride a cross-country route to our favorite campsite, meeting the pack there (they drive a 4wd road). For some reason, I started thinking that we should drive directly to our campsite that night, even though it would be a bumpy and painful van ride for me.

As we drove up the 4wd road toward our campsite, we reached a "road closed" sign after about 10 miles. At first, we were morose. Then, we read the sign more carefully, and we saw that the road was closed for the following day - all day long. So, we went around the blockade and made it to our campsite that night.

That was a fabulous stroke of luck because, if we'd followed our usual plan, I would've arrived at our campsite, after 5 hours of hard mountain biking, to discover that the pack wasn't there due to the closed road. We did have satellite communication devices (DeLorme) so I'm sure we would have figured out a solution but it would have been a very rough day. Thank goodness that we decided to break with tradition and go straight to our campsite!

When we arrived at the campsite perched on an overlook, the moonlit view was incredible.
What a great trip we were having!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Skyday

We were beyond thrilled when we arrived at our new campsite outside Crested Butte to find clear skies! Based on our web research, Crested Butte looked like an island of drier weather in the midst of our rainy state - so we immediately made a beeline for it.

Our campsite had incredible wildflowers all around it with sunshine making them glow.
It also had a pond about 50 yards away! R perfected his takeoff technique over the coming days. Lift off...
... and flight!
Shyla was watching his technique, and we saw her take flight for the first time in her young life. After leaping and flying for her first time, Shyla decided that she loved it, and we saw her do this many times in the following days. The "butt up in the air" pose was Shyla's unique twist to the Lab diving technique.
On that first evening, the sunset was beautiful - even more than usual because we hadn't seen sunshine in days.
The few clouds in the sky dissipated after the sun went down. The stars twinkled overhead with the bright moon up just after sunset. It was so bright that it was tough to see shooting stars, although there is one short one toward the upper right of the photo. This photo was taken with the camera pointed to the east while the moon was still up.
Then, after the moon set, I programmed the camera to take photos while we slept. The camera took many 4 minute exposures (with 5 seconds breaks between them) over the course of two and a half hours. You can see how many more stars were visible without the moon in this photo than when the moon was out (above). The North Star is at the center of all those circles.
While my camera was making star photos, we drifted off to sleep, eagerly anticipating riding/running on the many gorgeous trails near us the next morning. It was amazing how sun and clear skies lifted our spirits!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Stormy Start to our Trip

Our trip started out in the midst of rain. It was raining at home when we departed, and the weather wasn't much different at a favorite campsite of ours. At least they were pretty clouds...
On that first night, for the only time while we were at the campsite, we could see the stars for about an hour. Because I knew the Perseid meteor showers were ramping up, I decided to pull out the camera for some star photos. I love seeing the Milky Way and shooting stars, all in one instant!
Then the clouds started to return, obscuring parts of the sky. Within a few minutes, we couldn't see more than 10' away from us. We were literally camping in the midst of the clouds.

The next morning, it wasn't raining but the Divide looked threatening, by any standard. This photo is on one of my favorite mountain biking trails. Over the days that we spent camping near it, this was the sunniest that it ever looked. I spent almost every instant on this trail pedaling like a maniac, trying to avoid being struck by lightning. I exhausted myself, but I saw the trail without any major mishaps.
We're thinking of visiting that area again soon to enjoy some sunshine rather than perpetual views of the trail like the next one. I found the clouds to be gorgeous but also very scary for someone riding a bike above treeline on the spine of the Continental Divide.
We did have some brief moments of sunshine near our campsite, making the wildflowers shine like candles in the night. We'd all run outside to have some fun in the fleeting sun.
Shyla leaped with joy during those respites from the monsoons.
And R sprinted with abandon (which makes me smile because his elbow seems so strong right now).
Then, as fast as the sun had broken through, a new storm front would appear on nearby mountains. We were perched so high in our campsite that we could see storm fronts coming our way in all directions.
Then the front would creep to the edge of our meadow before the skies above us opened up, again.
It was truly a lesson in life at high altitude. We tried to patiently wait out the storm cycle, knowing that eventually the weather would be sunny and nice. However, we finally gave up when every view of the horizon looked like this one. Again, it was beautiful, in a dramatic way, but it portended another day of thunder storms ahead of us.
We eventually decided to break camp to try to find better weather. We were treated to a pretty meadow vision on that last evening before we departed.
On the morning that we departed that camp, we did a quick run/bike ride before going to town to find a cafe with wifi where we could search for a sunny part of Colorado to visit.

Our decision seemed perfect when our final morning outing from that campsite involved deep fog and the heaviest rain we'd seen yet. Yes, the trail in that photo is on top of a mountain - although it's impossible to tell due to the clouds hugging it.
Our strategy of searching out good weather ended up being successful. The photos from yesterday's post were taken about 8 hours after our rain-soaked run/ride with zero visibility. Our search led us to find an island of sunshine and wildflowers. Sometimes it pays off to scrap your "plans" and follow the sunshine! We had great weather for the rest of our trip because we continued to follow the sun!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lots of Fun!

Life is starting to return to normal around here, after some fun in the Rockies. Many of you know how much we adore the high mountains of Colorado. We love camping up high where we are surrounded by high mountain peaks. We spent a couple of weeks with only rare visits to anyplace lower than 11,000'!
Of course, the Labraduo was with us, snuggling into our sleeping bags every night.

It's no surprise that they love swimming in high mountain lakes. R's enthusiasm is over the top. He literally quivers with anticipation when someone is about to throw a stick in the lake.
Then he launches himself like a flying Labrador.
On our recent trip, Shyla found an intensity level about retrieving that I didn't know she had inside her. She awaited the throw...
And she launched herself high above the water to retrieve the stick.
Seeing the Duo's enthusiasm for something as simple as fetching puts life in perspective. After their intense races to the stick, they often carry it back together.
It's been a wonderful few weeks, replete with long mountain bike rides on the Continental Divide, lazy afternoons soaking up the sunshine, and glorious wildflowers all around us. This is an Elephant flower. Do you see why that's its name?
Yes, there was some inevitable rain too but the bright sunshine is what I remember most. I hope to tell you all about it and to catch up with your summer news!