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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The bird, the bear, and the bonk

First thing this morning, the two labs galloped like maniacs and I pedaled laboriously uphill. We eventually wound our way up to the top of our little trail system. R looks like a carefree teenager while K looks worried.Perhaps K worried that the clouds already loomed over the mountains, suggesting that we would be dodging storms even early in the morning.As we followed a narrow sinuous trail, R and K uncovered a disturbingly fresh section of an elk spine. It still had dried blood on it, and intact discs between the vertebrae. I studied the discs while the Labs watched over me. My remaining spinal discs are degenerating, even disintegrating, at an alarming rate - leaving me wondering how long I'll be able to postpone getting my neck surgically fixed. I have no feeling in part of my hand. The unfeeling part is demarcated by a series of scars where, over the past couple of years, I've been cut, burned, and let puppies bite me without knowing that I was being injured. The sad irony is that only thing that I feel in that part of my hand is phantom-like referred pain caused by discs and bone spurs impinging on nerves. Given my history, the discs in the elk spine mesmerized me. I'll spare you the close-up view but here are the two labs guarding me with the spine in the lower right corner.On the last leg of my ride with my Labs, I spotted a male Northern Flicker observing us from a nest hole in a towering live aspen tree. This hole was used last year by a Williamson's Sapsucker family. But, as I stood watching the Flicker, I saw a Sapsucker male and female busily entering and exiting a hole in a nearby aspen tree. I was surprised that these two species would nest within 10 yards of each other. Here's the Flicker.
After I dropped off the pups, I headed east toward a loop that I haven't ridden in more than a month. After reaching the low point of the ride, I started climbing, climbing, and climbing some more. I started to realize that the energy was ebbing from my legs. Despite that realization, I did nothing smart to counteract the problem like eating a bunch of calories or drinking. A deficit was building that I'd be paying later.

As I climbed, at a progressively slower pace, a full-grown cinnamon bear galloped down a steep hill from my right, crossed the trail almost right in front of me, and sprinted down into the dense foliage lining a creek. It happened so fast that I wondered if I was hallucinating. But, I found his tracks and then the path of broken twigs that he'd left behind. No doubt, it was a big bear. I didn't get any photos due to his warp speed. But, I had an amusing conversation with some hikers a few minutes later. I told them that a bear had just crossed the trail about 100 yards ahead of them. They looked shocked, and said "Do they allow bears here?". I had no idea what to say in response. I just reassured them that bears usually want to get as far away from people as possible so they should make noise as they hiked. I guess that a delightful encounter for me scares many people terribly.

By the time I reached the top of the climb, I knew I'd have a battle to make it home. I was thoroughly exhausted and still had more work ahead. The problem is, when I get such low blood sugar (i.e., the 'bonk'), I stop thinking logically. So, I again chose to keep crawling toward home rather than stopping and taking in calories. Part of the reason was that the storms now looked very close to me, and I wanted to beat them home.I dropped down to 'Wildcat Alley', a trail that I tried about a month ago, and was impassable due to broken and uprooted trees. Thanks to a friend who spent hours cutting and moving trees, I rode the trail unimpeded today. It's a moist, cliffy, and densely forested trail that lots of animals use for travel. I didn't see any today but I was on high alert. I did, however, see some glimpses of the stormy mountains.I also saw a novel flower next to a moist section of trail lined by huge boulders. I think that it's a member of the genus Clematis but I'm not sure which one. It was a dainty beauty in the midst of a rough and dark trail.
I didn't take another photo after this one, I just tried to make my legs keep pedaling. In my stupor, I decided to try a creative 'short-cut' that might have saved me 100' of climbing when I was about a mile from home. Not surprisingly and somewhat embarrassingly, I managed to get lost despite being so close to home, making it a 'long-cut'. I think that I'll sleep well tonight. Some days your body has zip, some days it doesn't.


  1. My first visit, and what a tour! We have often considered moving to your arrea from Vermont - everything there is bigger, and you get to see the sun with regularity.

    Love your dogs - but that should be no surprise! :)

  2. Interesting post, but a little frightening as well. I was all caught up in the vertebrae and low blood sugar and then you had me laughing out loud with the "do they allow bears here?" quote.

    Great shot of the flicker.

    BTW...Perhaps a little bar of something needs to be in your pocket?

  3. Hi KB,
    Getting caught up with your posts after a week of Grandchildren and Gardening. I think when you're looking at those high peaks in your photos, you might be looking toward me! I went to a great PT in Denver for back issues - his name is Stefan van Duursen and his website is:

  4. Your clematis is Western Clematis, Clematis occidentalis, also known as Western Blue Virginsbower. There are 3 varieties; the one in the Intermountain West = "grosserata." It’s a climbing vine (which I think makes it a bit unusual in your parts) and the anatomy is interesting. The purple “petals” are actually sepals. The true petals are the little green inner leaflets surrounding the stamens. In Northern Utah it’s very common right now around 7,000 feet, often climbing up shrubs like Chokecherry and Bigtooth Maple.

  5. "Do they allow bears here?" Wow. Like one of the vacation renters one day near my house who had trash by his back door. I advised him that he needed to store it properly because a bear will get into it. He said, no, the bears are only in "the park" (Great Smoky Mountain NP). Rather than trying to point out that bears live outside of the park too, I turned and pointed to the ridge and said the park starts right there. But he stubbornly said, yeah, but they don't leave the park. I wanted to scream "It's not a zoo".

  6. K always looks so pensive..:) love the photo of the elk remains..(i would have liked to see a close up..)
    lovely post, as always...

  7. Do they allow bears? Ha! Thanks for the laugh. That's right up there with the guy we heard marvel about "how close the dinosaurs came to the highway" when he saw the foot prints in the stone in Morrison CO.

    Uh, yeah ... there wasn't a highway back then.

    We saw a BEAR last night too (my first). He ran right through our back pasture mere feet from our back doors. I ran for the camera, but the start-up on the camera and the shutter speed were too slow. Very bummed, but happy to have finally seen one up close (safely, of course).

  8. The pictures are so breath taking!
    I love coming here!

  9. Hi there, I just popped over from another blog to see yours. I live up near F.C. and Greeley so I was immediately drawn to your blog. Love dogs too so I can't wait to read more. Haven't gone mountain biking yet but love riding the Poudre River Trail. We moved from Ca. and I'm waiting for the sunshine we had last summer. Still love it here. I'll be back to read more.

  10. People who ask things like if they allow bears here, probably shouldn't be out hiking there. Hope you got some rest and food and drink in ya.


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