The thermometer read 30 degrees, and the sun filtered through our pine forest. As I sat by the fire, it looked like an easy and warm day for a mountain bike ride.
K and I headed out on the trails while the almost fully recovered R went for a run with my husband. Despite the benign-looking scene outside our snug home, the wind howled out on the trails. When I was in the forest, the sound of the wind drowned out most other noises. Many of the pine trees end up leaning eastward due to eons of being hit by winds out of the west. In the photo, K looks worried that the ancient Ponderosa Pine might topple on her any second.
Most of the trails still harbored significant snow so I was able to see the animal trails that K investigated. I find it to be amazing that she explores almost totally by smell while I explore by vision. In the summer, I can't tell what she's investigating. Thanks to the snow, today I knew that K first checked out a coyote trail and then a bobcat trail. The snow makes me aware of how the woods bustle with animal activity while we humans sleep.
K and I fall into an easy partnership when we're on the trails together. We've spent so much time as companions in the woods that we move in unison. She's at a wonderful age - so healthy and well behaved - but we've had time to build an incredible bond.
Today, K decided to show me that she's not quite as mature as I thought. K initiated a hiding game that she uses to train me to do her favorite thing in the world: a recall. She hasn't played this trick recently so I thought that my strategy of ignoring her while she was hiding was working. But, today she had an exceptional hiding place. On the left, the landscape is normal size, and K's almost invisible. With zoom, she's busted!
After riding with K, I headed out on a road toward another trail network, and I met a woman who accusingly said to me, "You seem to ride your bike throughout the whole winter but then never in the summer". I realized right away why it seems that way to her. In the summertime, I can ride trails from my backdoor for several hours without ever colliding with civilization so car drivers never see me.
'Our' trail network connects to others via connector trails have so far been unrideable in the snow. They tend to be rocky and exposed because they're built into west-facing hillsides that harbor seemingly bottomless snow drifts. My current bike, a Specialized Stumpjumper with studded tires, bogs down in the snow, and I end up pushing it endlessly. I'm hoping that the super wide tires on my soon-to-arrive snowbike, the Fatback, will change this situation. For now, in the winter, I use roads to connect the different trail networks. Consequently, it appears to the casual observer who drives our roads that I *only* ride my bike when it's snowy and cold.
Today, I explored a wind-blasted exposed area. Looking to the east showed open water ringed by hills. Then, over my shoulder, I glimpsed the snowy Divide.
Stunted ponderosa pines, many only 10-15 ft tall but full and bushy, littered the landscape. At first, I thought that the wind had stunted them. Then, I found that the trees harbored beautiful little growths that I later identified as dwarf mistletoe. This parasite stunts tree growth and eventually kills most trees.
I underestimated the power of the wind today, and started to wonder if I had enough energy to pedal all the way home. I struggled up a long climb with the wind pushing me backward, thinking 'boom boom, out go the lights', as cycling commentator Paul Sherwin likes to say when a racer hits the wall. Although I enjoyed my adventures, I was relieved when I finally pedaled into my driveway.
At sunset, the trio of dogs and I rambled through the meadows. The encroaching weather front painted a glorious sunset.