A glorious day sung in sunshine as I pedaled my mountain bike into a warm wash of air this morning. My pups and I followed a thread-like trail through fading aspens. In our area, a "trail" often spans less than a foot.
We arrived at our favorite lookout, and I couldn't resist another photo of my goofy friends, my bike in the background, and a grandiose view of the mountains.
A wind swept down from the Divide but it brushed my face with warmth rather than cold. We lingered, enjoying what our meteorologist called 'the last warm day', on the peak. As I photographed the mountains with hovering clouds above them, I noticed the Green Gentians that I wrote about when they bloomed back in June. They're the tan stalks, about 2-3' tall, just to the right of center of the foreground.
I've since learned more about these patient gnomes that are also known as Monument Plants. They grow a rosette of basal petals over an astonishingly long time period, up to 60 years, storing energy in preparation for one summer of blooming. Then, when ideal conditions prevail, they blossom and die, in a "big bang" style of reproduction. If they're pollinated, their blossoms metamorphose into seed packets which cover the stalks shown above and are shown in detail below.
After reading about the patience of these plants and their single chance at blossoming, I felt very sad when, late in the summer, I saw a Monument Plant that someone had beheaded. However, this tenacious plant didn't give up. It grew thin stalks from the cut stem that projected upward. Each stalk grew many flowers which became seed packets, as seen below. You can also see an actual blooming flower lower on the stalk, well below where the main stem was hacked off.
So, this morning, as I gazed at the remarkable view of the mountains with the Monument Plants in the foreground, I yet again thought about the stubbornness of nature and the will to live. These plants get one chance to sow their seeds and they don't give up easily. They provide a good lesson for everyone.
After the pups and I headed downhill, we wove through a pine forest where the rising sun highlighted the dense maze of conifers. The dogs love sprinting through this forest, probably because the thick layer of pine needles cushions each step.We visited a meadow, where the two faithful pups guarded my bike while I photographed the world and them.
I gazed at our amazing moon dipping toward the western horizon. In concert with the veil of clouds over the mountains, it awed me.
After I dropped my rambunctious companions off at home, I kept riding, enjoying the feeling that my leg muscles could propel me with zip again. I think that I'm finally recovering!
Snow is forecast for tomorrow so the last vestiges of summer and fall caught my eye. An eternally flashy combination, flowers with purple petals and yellow disks, brought me to a halt. I wondered if it was the last flower that I'd see this season.
Right next to it, a solitary ladybug rested in the warm sunshine on a dried thistle leaf. Ladybugs overwinter by hibernating in protected spots among swarms of their brethren. In fact, I saw a roiling ball of gathered ladybugs, huddling together under a dense pine bough for warmth, during a brief cold snap this summer. I hope that this lady finds some friends to snuggle with before tomorrow's snow!
After riding along the spine of a sunny ridge, my finishing flourish was a loop deep in a pine forest with a few yellow aspens intermingling with the conifers. The clouds over the snowy mountains had swelled, and they foretold a stormy Thursday. I could hardly bear to leave the comfort of the autumnal forest knowing that winter may take hold tomorrow.
To my dismay, upon arriving home, I discovered that tests show that K appears to have a kidney infection. That thought terrifies me, as I lost an elderly dog ears ago, Acadia, to an acute infection that shut down her kidneys within 24 hours. While I realize that K's situation is completely different because she's a young and vibrant dog and the infection appears to be mild, I can't shake the visceral reaction that stems from past experience.
I think that it's time for some smooth sailing around here - no more drama once we get through this chapter!