Spring is on the way - I'm sure of it because the sun is rising noticeably earlier. Although I started at the same time as on recent pre-dawn rides, the sky was not pitch black but rather deep blue. Being out at dawn is magical. As the moon set over the Divide, the eastern sky showed glimmers of sunlight. The oranges and pinks of sunrise bathed the cloud veil hanging over the Continental Divide in pink as you can see in the background of the right photo.
As I rode across a high plateau, the eastern sky exploded into a kaleidescope of colors.
It snowed a couple of inches overnight, and I was the first human to venture onto the trails. I love the complete quiet of a snowy landscape. The only sound was the faint squeaking of my tires on the new snow. The new layer of snow covered the sheets of ice caused by our recent thaw and then freeze. I rode cautiously because I couldn't see the ice, and the snow overlaying the ice made it even more slippery.
Unfortunately, these treacherous conditions required my studded tires so I didn't try out my new Fatback snow bike. The Fatback is designed to excel in deeper snow so its tires have treads appropriate for that rather than ice. I feel certain that I'll have opportunities to use it for future snowy adventures - at least I hope so.
The tracks in snow told a story of an active night for the forest animals. Coyotes, foxes, bobcats, elk, deer, rabbits, and shrews had traveled the trails overnight. I'm amazed by the prevalence of bobcats. I saw two sets of bobcat tracks a couple of miles apart.
The elk herd had been on the move on one of their 'superhighways', and grazed in one of their favorite meadows.
Near the end of my ride, I saw something that concerned me. On Monday, a vehicle at a trailhead caught my attention because its windows were open - which seemed odd. Today, the vehicle remained in the same spot with the windows still open. The trailhead was a blank slate - no tire tracks or human tracks. I'd seen no one on the trails. I called the police in case bad luck had befallen a hiker from that vehicle. I hope not.
K waited impatiently for me to pick her up after full daylight had broken. I didn't take her on the dawn ride because the dangers from wild animals are too high at dawn. She sprinted out onto the trails with the pent-up enthusiasm of a puppy. I love watching her run - she's so strong and graceful. However, watching her and staying upright was a tough combination on some of the snow-covered icy trails. But, on other trails, it was easy. The wind had picked up - continuing our 'snow and then blow' cycle - and had scoured a trail that I'd ridden earlier in the morning, leaving only a ribbon of snow where my tires had tread.
Getting up extra early is tough but it's worth it for riding in the dawn light. In summer, I almost never ride at dawn because it's too early. Dawn rides that aren't at 5 AM are the only likable aspect of the shorter winter days. Enjoy those late sunrises!