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.