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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mellow spring ride

The morning rapidly evolved from dark to bright today. Within 15 minutes of the start of our ride, a flock of birds completely occupied a stark aspen tree with blue sky behind it.

After a couple of days of less voltage than usual, K romped with high energy today. She forged ahead of me at every opportunity and picked up deer scent about a quarter mile before we spotted the deer. The doe traveled solo - so perhaps she's the one I noticed was missing from the small herd shortly after the lion traipsed through here. Resisting a deer chase used to be a huge challenge for K but today she achieved a first. She turned away from the deer when I simply said 'leave it' - no need for me to stop and do an 'official recall'. It was nice - because I could keep rolling while giving K a few treats on the move. My dog-training rule is that I stop and have a huge celebration after every successful recall - that keeps K's recall strong and thereby keeps her safe. But sometimes it gets tiresome to stop frequently for dog training - some days I just feel like rolling along with my pup so I was happy with her 'leave it' today.

It was a special day, a birthday, so I stopped and used the camera timer to take a photo of me and K with the snowy mountains in the background. We sat in that beautiful spot and I thought about how lucky I am to live my life with my pack in these mountains.

After I dropped off K, I got lost! I've decided to try to get lost at least once a week this spring/summer. Since none of our smaller trails are on maps, the only way to learn them is to explore. Today, I saw a trail that I'd never tried - and I zoomed down it. My fear of truly getting lost has stopped me from these adventures in the past but I'm finding that I'm getting better at figuring out the land features to use as guides. This is critical because I have *no* internal sense of direction. Today, I panicked briefly when I didn't recognize anything around me - but then I figured out that a particular gulch must run north-south and where it likely emerged from the forest. I was right! A small miracle.

As I emerged onto a ridge, I saw the Divide and our local ski area. My last time telemark skiing was almost exactly 3 years ago, prior to my most recent back surgery. I remember that on the ski hill - feeling certain that I'd be back someday. So far, that hasn't been true due to my docs' warnings and the discovery of just how badly degenerated my neck is. But, as I looked at the ski area today, I realized that I don't miss it anymore. When there's snow, I like ski touring in the woods with my pups or riding my snowbike. I truly loved the act of telemark skiing but always disliked the crowds - and that ambivalence is probably why I'm OK with not telemarking. I don't backcountry telemark ski because the snow conditions are so unpredictable that a face plant and neck injury are much more likely than in a ski area.
Although I passed through an area of high lion activity, I saw no signs today. Based on my reading, I'm pretty sure that this area of 'high lion activity' is a heavily used route from one hunting area to another. It's heavily wooded but has drainages running through it - and radio collar studies show that these drainages provide long distance paths for lions. Moreover, elk and deer don't graze in these densely treed areas because the choice food is found in meadows and on ridges. So, a lion might run across a herd of traveling ungulates but won't find them hanging out here.

Surprisingly, lions have cubs throughout the year - not just in the spring like most wild animals. Observations suggest that cubs born in the winter do as well as those born in warmer months. It may not matter much when they're born because their mom provides them with food for a year and continues teaching them about hunting for another 6 months beyond that. So, regardless of exactly when cubs are born, their mother has to provide food throughout a complete cycle of seasons - including the tough times and the easy times.

Another tough part of raising cubs for a mother lion is avoiding male lions who will kill and eat the cubs - even their own. Female lions bury their scat and urine to conceal their presence when they have cubs - people think that behavior helps prevent a male lion from following her trail back to the cubs.

The last time that I saw tracks, I believed that the lion was dragging his paws - but after closer perusal, I realized that there was only one dragging mark per stride. Moreover, after reading about lion tracks, I'm almost certain he was dragging his tail. The tail of a lion is massive - it's almost as long as his body and looks heavy. Every photo shows the tail either on the ground or skimming it.

I didn't feel worried about lions today - although it intrigued me to think about the landscape from a lion's viewpoint based on the reading I've been doing.

Mostly, I had a mellow ride out in our spring-like world.


  1. Are you saying it's you birthday? If so, happy birthday! Mine is next week.

    I'm Impressed with the timed shot. I need to figure out how to use that feature on my camera.


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