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Friday, May 29, 2009

Bear magnet and looming clouds

I'm having a tough day today, contemplating the most difficult decision of them all. But, as always, I went out for a spin on my bike. It soothes my soul to spend time in the peacefulness of the wilderness.

I started my mountain bike ride with my pup, K, and we gave S a frozen kong before we departed. Even now, he dives in and devours these treats!
K is a sensitive dog who seems to intuit my feelings. She stayed close today, acting like my guardian angel. We rode a technical trail, and I hammered as fast as is possible on such a rough trail, feeling the spark in my legs that was burned out yesterday. As we followed the sinuous and rocky path along a hillside, we traversed pine forests, aspen groves, and finally reached a big meadow. This meadow overslept this spring. Whereas most of the local meadows awakened weeks ago, this hillside meadow only now looks like a living and growing organism.
After dropping off K, I took a fairly non-technical route that also goes through prime wildlife habitat. The first wildlife that I saw was a large group of campers surrounded by several police cars and other official vehicles. I skirted the conflagration as it didn't look pleasant. However, I am glad that the officials are finally taking the abuses by campers seriously, as it's an area that's been degraded heinously by uncaring beer-fueled campers for years.

About a half mile later, I spun my pedals rapidly to climb a wall-like rise, and just as I reached the summit, I spotted a black bear, huge and close, on the trail. I stopped to let her flee because the steep hill had blocked her view of me until I was within her 'safe' space. But, she acted like a good wild black bear, and lumbered into the forest, stopping about 20 yards into the stand of pines. I snapped a few photos as she stood statuesque.
I never saw a cub so I'm not absolutely sure that this is the same bear who I saw a week ago. However, this spot is within a mile, as the crow flies, of where I saw the sow and cub.

During the few moments that she stood still, I noted her shiny long fur, big claws, and powerful build. She looked healthy. She then galloped deeper into the pine forest, out of my sight. I scanned everywhere, including the treetops, for the cubs before riding on. I always worry about angering a sow by getting too close to her young but I never felt afraid today.

I think that I must be a 'bear magnet' this year - I don't usually spot bears in the wilderness so frequently. I love seeing them so I'm not complaining!

I'm in a worrying mood - so I have to admit that I contemplated whether the absence of cubs was related to the nearby police activity. I sure hope not.

I headed down to the creek-side gulch where I spotted the bear last week. I rode hard, until my breathing and heart seemed so loud that I wouldn't have heard if a rockslide had started above me. It felt cleansing to burn off some of my anxious emotion and to feel the power flowing from my legs.

On a whim, I took a sharp turn and rode a trail that steeply climbs the north face of the gulch to a beautiful meadow. Officials closed this area to motorized traffic a few years ago, and nature is healing the wounds left by ATVs and jeeps. The double-track below was a deeply rutted road and now is like a pair of parallel foot paths. The elk clearly love the closure. Their tracks pocked the meadow everywhere I scanned.
Back down at the gulch, I spotted a favorite flower. It looks so papery delicate that it's hard to believe that it can survive our storms. The photo shows a side-view that emphasizes how the stamens and pistil jut out so prominently from this Stemless Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa). I believe that the 'T' shaped structures are the male stamens, topped with pollen-producing anthers. The unique filament topped with four yellowish and sticky-looking branches is the pistil (far right of photo). Primarily moths pollinate these blossoms, moving the pollen from the anthers to the pistil. I must add, however, that I'm finding that almost no flowers fit the 'typical' anatomical drawings so I could be mistaken in my explanation. If anyone can help, please do!
What appeared to be the same plant had both white and pink flowers. The petals of the pink beauties weren't opened wide. According to guidebooks, the pink flowers are probably the elder ones on the plant.
After checking out the flowers while keeping a careful eye on my back after my 'bold bobcat' experience the other day, I spun home. The mountains had metamorphosed from the placid snowy oases (shown below) that K and I rode past early this morning.
When I passed them on my way home, storm clouds loomed over the Divide. This dramatic metamorphosis occurs almost daily in the summer. As a 'cloudophile', I think it's beautiful. But, today in particular, the tumultuous and scary skies seemed to symbolize the anguish that we're feeling over what's looming so close.


  1. I'm so sorry you are going through this. If we make an animal part of our family, we all end up going through these times and yet, we'd do it again, and again, and again in a heartbeat. It's good you are cherishing the time with all your dogs and using your bike to pedal through some of your emotions. My thoughts are with you.

  2. Gorgeous photographs of the mountains, the meadow, the flowers, and best of all...S still enjoying his treat.

    My thoughts remain with you and your husband as you face the approach of this most difficult decision.

  3. I read a posting from NC mountainwoman on her blog about your blog. I have found it to be very beautiful and moving as well. The instant I read that your blog discussed Labs I had to read it for myself.

    As a Lab owner and passionate dog lover I enjoy reading anything about them.

    I am so sorry to hear about what you are facing with your beloved dog. I am crying right now knowing that some day I will face the inevitable loss of my yellow lab.

    The love and feelings one has for a pet are all consuming when faced with losing them. I wish there were some profund words I could offer to comfort you, but having been there before I know there isn't any.

    Please know that although we may not know each other personally I will hold you in my thoughts and try to lift you up through the anguish you are experiencing. Best Wishes RAE

  4. NCMountainWoman had a reference to your blog, so I followed it over. Good picture of the bear. I live right at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, so black bears are constant (and behaved) neighbors - as long as the tourists and campers remember to properly store their food and trash. Beautiful animals.

    S is beautiful and I am so sorry you are going through the challenges. Our furry friends give so much every day (like K covering your back) and ask for so little.

  5. Hi,... I found your blog by following a link at Mountain Musings by NCMountainwoman. What lovely photos and the ability to bring them to full screen makes them twice as stunning. My heart goes out to you with the coming loss of your beloved S. I know first hand what wrenching feelings that brings. Best wishes to you all.

  6. Mountain Musings brought me here. I am sad and I am also sad that Autumn Eve is not here. But life goes on. I wish you the best of times.

    You probably remember when people lived and died at home and endured wakes. I wrote about it here.

  7. I read about your blog from NC Mt woman's posting. So sorry about S. We have a yellow lab who looks much like him.
    Your mountain adventures look wonderful. We see lots of bear sign in our Utah mountains, but we haven't actually sighted a bear.

  8. NCmountainwoman sent me. I feel for you. I'm glad the gorgeous outdoors helps with the pain. Beautiful pictures - I used to live in Calgary, Alberta and miss the Rockies. Sending love and a hug to you.

  9. Came via Mountain Musings! I'll be keeping up with you. Wonderful photography.

  10. Guess I'm not the only one who came over from Mountain Musings.

    You have a lovely crew of dogs and you live in a beautiful place -- must have a lot of fun out there hiking. I am very sorry to read about S's struggles. Sending you all the best during this hard time.

  11. I popped over via ncmountainwoman....

    A wonderful blog, your photography is stunning and the wildlife way beyong my dreams.....

    With regard to your beautiful friend......I made the same journey with my little spaniel last year. She had heart trouble and towards the end just became too ill. I stayed with her at the end, held her in my arms and for her it was so broke my heart, and as I type tears are falling.....BUT I did what was best for her and I am sure you will know when the time is right. It will be hard, I know, but your friend will feel safe with you.

    My thoughts are with you all.......

  12. Thank you so much, to all of you, for visiting. Yesterday was the toughest of days but finding all of the warm messages of support on my blog this morning made a big difference. Mountain Musings has some wonderful followers!

  13. Their lives become so interwoven with our own. The greatest happiness is in knowing that he lived until the very end happy in your care and surrounded by those he loved.

  14. Gorgeous pictures of some amazing scenery! Wow!


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