K and I rolled out for a peaceful ride on the snowy trails. She did some recalls, showing her polite tongue flick just before arriving at my feet, forewarning me that, although she was barging directly at me, she meant no harm.
The blue skies and snowy mountains awed me.
After riding with K, I heard a rumor that a north-facing remote trail had been packed down by an ATV. Sure enough, this usually impassable trail was ready for my snow bike!
I rolled easily along in the ATV tracks, enjoying the mountain views out to my west and scanning for animal tracks. This route is a favorite of cats, deer, and bear.
Suddenly, in the middle of the two tire tracks, I saw what initially looked like human boot tracks.
As I tried to ride while looking at the tracks, I noted that it looked like a four-legged animal had made them.
Then, the identity of the tracks became undeniable when I noticed claws protruding from some of the tracks.
No doubt, a very sleepy black bear walked this trail in the last few days. Bears do not truly hibernate. In other words, they don't allow their core body temperature to fall as low as the air temperature. Although they sleep for most of the winter, they awaken often, to toss and turn in the den or to go out for an amble. I suspect that this bear has already hibernated for at least a month but decided to go for a walk recently. Some scientists think that these short ambles play a key role in preventing the bear from losing too much muscle and bone mass despite lying still for close to 6 months.
Today, I followed the bear tracks for about a mile. No food, except an occasional rose hip, was available along the trail, and the bear left no scat. I doubt that he ate a thing. Rather, he just walked, enjoying a pretty winter day.
I've always thought that the north-facing slope that I traversed would be perfect for bear hibernation. It's rough and tumble terrain so it gets little traffic. Moreover, it builds up snow all winter long. Only a few sections of the trail ever see the sun from November through February. Building up a snow layer helps insulate a sleeping bear. Seeing those tracks today strengthens my view that it's a favorite denning spot for our ursines.
After exploring a snowy slope today, I'm heading off to the high desert for a camping trip. I'll be far from any internet connection so this blog will be on vacation!