In honor of R's second birthday, I pulled out an old video of him, as a pudgy little puppy, playing with his big sister K. I love seeing his obvious rambunctious spirit shining through so young and seeing K's enjoyment of her new little brother.
It's interesting that their play style, with K lying down stationary and R dancing around, has changed only a little over the almost two years that R has lived with us. Perhaps play styles are set by a dog's personality very early in life or a pair develops a style that becomes set in stone.
Yesterday afternoon, as promised, the crystal clear blue sky, sun, and easy-going warmth vanished. I could see only about 50 yards, through the thick freezing fog, during our afternoon hike. I could smell the elk herd, a sharp pungent scent, nearby but I couldn't see them.
Overnight, the wet air became colder, and snow draped our world. It's beautiful, in a stark and cold way.
I pulled out my snowbike, not because it was truly necessary in 2" of snow, but because I wanted to test it out before deep snow makes it indispensible. Here, both K and my Fatback sat on Hug Hill with no Divide behind them. The mountains went on vacation!
K and I toured the easier trails in our forest, as I resurrected my snow riding skills. One aspect to traveling only on the easier trails is that we almost inevitably run into the local dog pack who storm through sometime in the morning on a run. Here, K stood stock still at an intersection where we sometimes see them. I was trying to read her body language to figure out whether it was time to disappear onto a side trail. Alas, it turned out that she was obsessed with an Abert's Squirrel, not the dog pack, who hadn't yet arrived.
K romped in the snow with abandon. Our Labs find a fresh spark of energy whenever new snow falls! In contrast, a friend told me that her dog refuses to go out when it's cold or snowy. Can you imagine that? I can't.
But, finally, we were driven inside when the soft snow flurries turned into ice pellets which streaked across K's face in this photo. They pelted my face and eyes, infiltrated the vents on my helmet, and froze me.
Despite the thin snow layer, the Fatback performed flawlessly. Just like last year, I was surprised by how light this hefty-looking bike is. It seems nimble as I negotiate snow-covered rocks, especially considering that its tires are 4" wide!
Much to my surprise, I noticed a chipmunk (left) and Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel (right) still above ground when we returned from our ride. The chipmunk usually goes underground sometime around now so he wasn't as surprising as the squirrel. Most of the Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels entered hibernation a month ago but this iconoclast has resisted. Studies show that hibernation is risky business. A large proportion of Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels (40-70%) die during hibernation. One year, 'our' entire population of chipmunks perished while underground for the winter. Perhaps our artificially supplied sunflower seeds, dropped onto the snow by the birds, have prompted this squirrel and chipmunk to try a different strategy.
In any case, a bout of winter has taken hold, perhaps for good, but probably not. It's amazing to watch our native animals adapt to the cold, trying to survive. The elk have moved down from the high alpine meadows. The lions now have an entire herd of elk to help with the search for prey. The coyotes and foxes have grown thick and luxurious coats. And, I spend an extra few minutes donning many layers of warm clothes before stepping outside. What a transformation!