Last night, we had a large group at our house for dinner and a campfire. I expected to find that no animals had dared to visit our territory after such pandemonium. However, to my surprise, the wildlife camera showed that a coyote boldly emerged a brief time after the party broke up. I wonder how long he watched from the forest edge while the group huddled around the fire? In our forest, one sure thing is that some wild animal is probably watching us all the time. That thought used to spook me but doesn't anymore because I've learned that our forest inhabitants are peaceable creatures. Even the bears and lions would vastly prefer to lurk in the shadows than have a confrontation with a human.
The last couple of days have been tough as my body has struggled to recover from having my wisdom teeth yanked out of my jaws. I expected this procedure to be easy, primarily because I've been through such extensive back surgeries, but the jaw pain and earache have been intense.
However, each day since my loss of wisdom, I've ridden my mountain bike at an easy pace. I've learned over the past ten years that, if I become sedentary, my back pain will escalate until it exceeds any other imaginable pain.
Moreover, if I'd missed my sojourns in the woods, I'd have missed the last vestiges of autumn, like the aspen grove with red-tinged tops shown below! I keep imagining that the trees chortle with evil delight as they tease us with their blaze of glory just before their branches become stark skeletons.
Yesterday, my two canine best friends joined me, romping like crazy while I spun my mountain bike pedals up to Hug Hill. Since I felt sluggish, we relaxed on the peak while I photographed the duo.A clump of aspens has hung onto its leaves for longer than most wind-swept trees and brightened the view from our little peak.
K surveyed the cloud bedecked mountains to our south.
Then, the three of us rumbled down the hill and headed west on a ledge trail. The path mainly faces north so the sun's rays hadn't yet touched the ground. However, some rays set a cloistered grove of aspens ablaze in yellow glory. K led the way through the aspens and under a pine tree that's been precariously broken in half and delicately balanced like an arch over the trail for years.
As we negotiated this tough trail that's deep in the forest, I noticed several bobcat scats placed prominently in center of the path. In each case, the cat scratched a small pit, maybe 8" long and 4" wide, and then deposited his scat in the shallow depression. I saw three fresh bobcat scats within about 2 miles today. It was fun to imagine the pointy-eared feline strutting purposefully along this trail and negotiating all the same terrain as I did. I wonder what the world 'looks' like from a bobcat's perspective? If I get another wildlife camera, this trail would be a great place to install it, as it seems to be used by mountain lions as well as bobcats. We've captured one precious bobcat photo with the wildlife camera set up next to our house.
Later, after I dropped the dogs at home, a coyote sprinted across my trail, pausing at the forest edge to stare at me, before galloping into the pine trees so silently that I wondered if I'd imagined him. Then, a short time later, a bulky black form barreled across the trail about 40 yards ahead of me. By the time I reached his crossing spot, he'd vanished. I'm guessing that I glimpsed a bear but didn't find any verifying evidence near where I thought that he'd entered the dense forest. I do know that, in past years, the bears have still been awake at this time of year. We usually see their tracks after October snowstorms but, then, we see no tracks thereafter.
I've read that black bears head for rough untraveled territory, including steep and forested north-facing slopes, to hibernate. North-facing slopes build up more snow over the winter than other terrain, and the snow insulates the snoozing bears against the extreme cold that winter can bring. Some black bears in the Front Range are said to eschew den-digging altogether. Instead, these lazy ursines simply lie down under a pine tree and let the snow build up around them. Imagine cross-country skiing and finding a bear sound asleep in the snow! With our mountain lion population, that seems like a dangerous hibernation strategy.
Later in the ride, I glimpsed some spectacular sights, reminding me that winter has crept up and grasped the alpine landscape. I mountain biked on the flanks of the mountain shown below not too long ago.
Just to the north of the mountain, I spotted a yellow grove of aspens standing out like a forest fire among the pines.
Later in the ride, clouds invaded from all sides, filtering the sun's rays before they hit the Divide. In the ghostly light, the snow patches on the mountains and the yellow-green leaves almost glowed.
Both yesterday and today, I enjoyed my rides and their astonishing effects on my back muscle spasms but I started to run out of energy much sooner than usual. I need to figure out how to ingest more calories in liquid form or I won't have enough energy to ride at all!