Photos and text copyright Romping and Rolling in the Rockies 2009-2017.

All photographs and text within this blog are copyrighted.

You may not copy or repost any photos or text without specific permission from the author of this blog. When in doubt, please ask.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

At home in the forest

Yesterday, K and I rolled along our trails in the evening light which created a glowing and surreal ambiance transforming familiar trails into novel sights. We climbed away from civilization and, upon reaching a look-out point, we saw the sun setting behind the cloud front that stalled over the Divide all day.
The sun rays, traveling almost parallel to the ground, highlighted the rich chocolate of K's fur. Just behind her in the photo, the naked grassy hill marks the area where the two lost dogs started their wanderings that eventually led to our forest. It doesn't look far away but a narrow and steep canyon yawns between us and that peak, creating a veritable ocean to cross.
We silently rolled along a familiar trail that looked alien in the western light.And, as the north-facing slope fell into darkness, a trailblazing yellow aspen rebooted my brain, pulling me back to the beauty of the moment.Alas, it was a short but sweet ride as I 'bonked' almost right away, feeling light-headed and weird from a lack of blood glucose. This wisdom tooth debacle, which I expected to be a breeze, has eaten up my energy reserves despite the amazing milk shakes suggested by MountainWoman. I went home to imbibe more calories.

This morning, feeling zippier, I took my two canine friends mountain biking with me. R, ever the intrepid explorer who doesn't know the meaning of "caution", zoomed toward where I suspected that a mountain lion had hidden a carcass late last summer. Indeed, R proved my suspicion correct, dragging a deer hind leg skeleton out of the dense cover of downed trees. In the photo below, the two dogs did a 'down-stay' with the leg in front of K while I examined it. I look for odd-situations for real-life dog training all the time - this was a perfect set-up.
Below, the photo shows a closer view of the leg. The femur sits at the top, leading down to the knee - which is where the femur contacts the tibia. The deer's ankle is at bottom end of the tibia with the 'heelbone' or 'calcaneous' protruding behind it. The Achilles tendon, when it was present, traveled down the back of the tibia and attached to the calcaneous (just like in our calf). Finally, bottom segment is a metatarsal, an elongated version of the same of bone that leads to the base of each of our toes. In this case, the metatarsal was broken by the predator, and thus, the tarsal bones and hoof are missing. If you click on the photo, it's possible to look at the parts closer up.
To me, knowing that all the basic building blocks, the bones, are identical in a deer or dog hindlimb as in our leg is astonishing. Their hind limbs look different from our legs because some bones have elongated relative to others throughout evolution. For example, the deer metatarsal bone is as long as its femur. In us, the femur dwarfs the metatarsals.

To avoid having to call the dogs away from the deer leg every time we travel this trail, I hung it in a tree. Tree art, I think!
As we rolled along this wild trail, I felt myself relax into the natural world, with one eye always warily watching the dogs and scanning for wildlife signs. Our bobcat had patrolled again, leaving more territory-claiming markers along the way. Here's a shallow pit that the bobcat scratched out, scattering the thick layer of ponderosa pine needles to the sides. He then left his scat in the pit, with the top segment measuring about 4" long and 1/2" in diameter.
I closely looked at his scat to figure out what he'd been eating. However, I didn't want to disturb it because I've found that the cats stop using a scent marking post if I mess with it. A close look at the end of a scat showed rodent bones, almost completely uncrushed, jutting out among the plethora of fur. If you click on the photo, a closeup shows the bones in detail.
Based on the scat, I visualized that our bobcat sneaked along this trail last night, carefully listening and smelling for rodents. Once he located a snack like a mouse, shrew or vole, he craftily stalked it and ultimately pounced upon it. The rodent was so small that the bobcat ate it whole, without even chewing the bones. Just visualizing a fierce and elusive predator like a bobcat at home in our forest makes me smile.

Soon, we emerged from the forest into aspen groves, sadly almost naked now. For most of the summer, I could barely see the Divide over the green leaves of this grove. Today, without leaves to obscure them, the bright peaks screamed 'winter'! Yesterday's storm brought a base layer of powder to the mountains, not a thin autumn dusting. I suspect that the peaks will steadfastly retain this cushion of snow until May.
R galloped with furious vigor through the aspen grove, and we rolled toward home.I dropped the dogs at home and headed out for more riding with the thought that I should be nearly recovered from the wisdom tooth extraction by now. Alas, I was wrong. Although I'm eating more calories each day, I'm underweight and don't have the energy for long rides. So, I rolled along easily. Or, perhaps a more accurate descriptor is 'pathetically'. But, despite my sluggish pace and struggling on the hills, I was happy to be at home in the forest, patrolling my favorite trails.

I rode east and downhill, hoping to find some yellow leaves and snowy mountain views. I was not disappointed. This faraway 14,000' foot mountain will, without a doubt, remain snow-covered until at least June. And, as an added bonus, golden patches bedecked the nearby forested hillside.
Once I reached the nadir of my ride, with nothing but climbing left on the menu, I found bright yellow leaves shining in the bluebird sky. Wow.
And, as my trail crossed a gulch toward a rockface, yellow trees lined the trail that follows the base of the cliff.Riding that short section of trail awed me. What an amazing show nature puts on!Unfortunately, from that cliff, the rest of my ride pitched upward, almost continuously, and sometimes at a heinous grade. I usually revel in the hard and totally absorbing effort of climbing. Consequently, I've never before taken a photo of a stupendous view in the middle of this particular climb. Today, I grabbed any excuse to take a break from my powerless pedaling - so, voila, a photo! Enjoy.


  1. I AM enjoying your photos, KB! Your bone and scat pics are very interesting. I've never found bones on my most-used trails. The Mts will retain that snow - I'm in Denver but a neighbor phoned to say Breck temps were in low teens and snow accumulated again. Loveland Ski area opens tomorrow - can you believe it? I read the delicious-sounding shakes that were advised - Oh, if only I needed to gain some weight!

  2. You captured some beautiful views. I like the first photo of your dogs. I hope you are feeling stronger soon.

  3. Love that first picture of their eyes. So cool.

    As for your comment on our blog about the temperature difference, we agree that it is weird. We hate that we are this warm. We so want the colder temps here now. Getting there but very slow.

    When you look at the weather chart, remember that that is for the valley floor. We are about 1500' higher, so typically are about 5-7 degrees cooler and the weather is wetter (or snowier). but good directional signal for us.

  4. Your dogs are amazing. As handler oriented as Marge is, I don't think I'd ever see her again if she was free to romp in that expanse of beauty. What a great trainer you are!

  5. Take it easy KB, don't overdo it,
    the snow on the mountains looks wonderful, fresh and chilly...
    You have done a great job parenting your dogs...

    Happy days

  6. beautiful! and of course i'm loving the bones! and the tree art!
    K is looking very strong and healthy...

  7. KB, you need to be careful if your feeling weak! The "kids" look so happy and free in the wild! Funny, I didn't lose an ounce when my wisdoms were extracted! :)

  8. Love that final shot. Sorry you're feeling so "under" everything ... energy, calories, etc. Getting wisdom teeth out is a beast.

  9. Oh dear...I think you HAVE to use that first picture as the back drop for your top blog banner! That is such an amazing shot!!!

    So THAT's where all of the tree bone art is coming from ;)

    Hugs to the monsters and love that last least we benefited from your lack of power on that section of your ride ;)

  10. Thanks to everyone for your comments on the beauty of our mountains, my dogs (usually) good behavior, and my energy. The good news is that my energy seems better today so I think that things are on the upswing.

    I always appreciate the comments!


If you are a Blogger registered user, you can skip the step asking you to verify that you are not a spammer. For posts older than 5 days, I have comment moderation turned on.

Thanks for your comments!!!!!