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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stormy energy and no bears!

Yesterday evening, my Lab duo and I hiked up to our sunset lookout point. Storm clouds painted a psychedelic picture, and R hopped out to a rocky promontory to pick up the scents wafting from below.Our sunset lookout will always be a special place for remembering our evening hikes with S. Last night, I lost myself in a memory from this spring. About a month ago, I stooped down to examine a newly blooming flower (Astragalus shortianus, 'Milk vetch' or 'Early purple vetch'). S, like any self-respecting Labrador, assumed that anything so captivating must be edible. I had to stop him from snarfing the purple blossoms. The memory makes me smile but I'm sad that the plant will stop blooming soon. The little purple flowers make me feel closer to S.During our sunset hikes, our teenage Labrador, R, often loses himself in frenzied digging - usually focused on a rodent tunnel. Recently, his digging style has evolved. Now, it's 'Rotodigging'. He always rotates counterclockwise while tossing dirt and sticking his snout deeper into the hole. He'd keep digging and rotating for hours if we didn't pull him away. It makes us humans laugh. Does anyone else's dog use this digging style? Do you think that he'd turn clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere?

This morning, as I rolled my bike out the door, the two Labs acted as if a dangerous creature had visited recently. They stormed around the perimeter of the house, barking and growling. Then, as we rolled off our property, R came remarkably close to snagging a tree squirrel. Our wildlife camera captured this photo - it's a motion-activated camera.
Yet again, the day dawned stormy, with dark clouds drifting over, among, and within the mountain peaks. This instant was one of the few times today that I could identify individual peaks and see blue above them.I rolled along easily, hoping to let my legs recover from yesterday's marathon, but R had another agenda. High amperage energy possessed his body, leading him to sprint one way and then another, constantly worrying me that he was on the trail of a wild animal. K, usually the sensible one, followed his lead. Thank goodness that I ride on trails where I rarely see another soul. I felt like I teetered on the edge of losing control of the duo. We did about a million recalls, and, to my relief, even the wild adolescent, R, U-turned and sprinted to me when I called. Days like today make me happy that I've spent countless hours practicing recalls with the pups. But, their sizzling energy stressed me out, and I finally took them home early.

Contrary to R taking the lead in the forest today, K has been reasserting herself at home. She's a quiet and firm leader for R so I'm glad that she's rebounding from S's death to play her role again. Moreover, having a fickle teenager like R as the pack leader might create constant chaos!

After leaving the Labs snoozing at home, I finally rode truly mellowly.My mellowness was briefly interrupted by finding a fresh mountain lion scat fairly close to home but I didn't let the huge predator's sign obsess me. I always try to be alert for lions, and I've spent a good bit of time studying their habits to help me be safer. So, there was no point in letting it take over my ride today.

Gorgeous nascent flowers lined the narrow trails. A Colorado Columbine (Aquilegia coerulea), almost open, brought me to a halt. Colorado Columbines are, by far, my favorite flowers - so delicate and balanced on a long slender stem - that it's unbelievable that they survive harsh mountain storms.
The purple petal-like structures are actually sepals and not true petals. The spurs, trailing behind the flower, are part of the white petals currently nestled inside the flower. The petals cradle the yellow anthers and pistil.
Then, as I rolled through a meadow with several inches of standing water from our pluvial weather, a bright purple flower flashed among the sea of green grass. It's a Shooting Star (Dodecatheon pulchellum), a tiny nodding blossom, that only flowers when plentiful rain turns the meadow into a bog. It's an oddly shaped flower, with five fused pollen-producing anthers hanging below the upward pointing petals. In most flowers, the anthers sit cradled in the middle of the petals.
Near the end of the ride, storms closed in from all sides, and I arrived home just as the rain started. Unlike the past couple of days, I didn't see a single bear today although I watched for them all the time.
The rain, coupled with the huge snowstorm in late April, is giving us the gift of fields of wildflowers. But, I have to admit, I'm ready for sunny summer days when I can sit comfortably on my deck and can ride my bike in shorts with no jacket. Maybe summer will arrive soon? Please?

Finally, many thanks to The Watcher for helping with the identification of the odd flower that I saw yesterday. It is Western Clematis (Clematis occidentalis), also known as the Western Blue Virginsbower. The Watcher is a botany expert, unlike me, so it's worth checking out his blog if you love flowers. Also, thanks to Roxanne and Dog_Geek, for identifying the lilac bush two days ago. I'm learning so much from all of you (but it's a little embarrassing that I didn't know a Lilac Bush when I saw one)!


  1. I'll have to watch which way our 2 circle when they dig. The rotodigging made me laugh.

    We did once with with a yellow lab mix (Cody), who we said "pooped to the 4 winds" because he always rotated as he went.

    And, at least you try to ID the flowers. I just post the photos and say, Look ... pretty.

  2. We've never had a digging dog, but I loved watching yours.

    The columbine is indeed gorgeous. We don't have them here.

    Hoping for a warm-up for you.

  3. KB- Happy to help and thanks for the kind words, but I’m hardly an “expert”- just a geek who likes plants. :^)

    Speaking of Columbines, here’s something fun (if not very scientific) about them. They smell (as you probably know) fabulous. But each one is only good for 2 or 3 sniffs/”hits” before the scent weakens dramatically. I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but sometimes when I encounter a big patch, I’ll “fresh-sniff” ½ a dozen or so of them, getting that initial super-blast of scent over and over again. (This is probably a bit selfish of me, but I guess we all have our vices…)

  4. "pluvial"...... nice word.

  5. Yes...he did come close!!
    Thanks for the wonderful mountain hike!

  6. I have fairly voracious diggers, but none that spin in that manner. Very cute!


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