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Friday, November 20, 2009

Winter and wildlife

Twenty degrees and no clouds in the sky - a perfect day for a snow bike ride! K and I vanished into the forest early, and explored our territory. Our network of trails has gradually expanded as we've packed down the snow on more of them and as the sun has done its work. K found a dirt patch to stand in rising rays of the sun this morning.We rode directly to a lookout and gazed westward at our mountains, towering up into the endless blue sky. I could lose myself in this view every day.I rolled a little further out onto the lookout point and glanced at the ski area slopes. The resort opened today - but, for now, my decision is that I won't be dancing and gliding down the slopes on my telemark skis. I think that the dangers are too great for the fragile state of my spine.I remember the day before my fusion surgery years ago. I went telemark skiing all day long as a last hurrah. As I wistfully departed at the end of the day, I promised myself that I'd be back someday. That's one promise that I might end up breaking.

After that wave of morose thoughts, I looked back toward the east, and I saw K standing guard over me next to my snow bike. The sun rose behind her. No matter what - I have many things in my life to be thankful for. Indeed, I have a deluge of good things raining down on me. I decided to focus on them.
You might wonder why I think that riding a bike in snow is safer than downhill skiing. It's mostly about the number of hours that I've spent honing my biking skills and judgment. Those bike hours dwarf my downhill telemark skiing hours. It's also that skiing at a resort involves trusting that other people won't bombard recklessly into me. The bottom line is that I don't trust 'em! Finally, skiing routinely involves lots of spine twisting and biking doesn't. That last factor means that biking stresses my spine much less than telemark skiing.

After pedaling away from the lookout point, K and I churned over the frozen snow, moving silently through the forest except for the crunch of the snow crust under my wheels. We fell into that wonderful meditative zone, where physical effort lets the mind float free. It feels to me like I stop being a separate entity from the rest of the world when I settle into this mind state. I unconsciously monitor K's whereabouts, notice tracks, and scan for animals as I pedal. But, I do little else.

After seeing countless deer and coyote tracks, K and I stopped at another nice vista. I propped my bike, and she hopped on a boulder. It looked, just for a second, like she planned to ride away on my bike!
I dropped K at home, and I kept riding the snowbike. I was the first human to trample a favorite trail of mine. However, elk, deer, and a bobcat had walked purposefully along the trail. This trail never fails to harbor bobcat tracks, and I've become oddly attached to this bobcat! But, today, he had left a patch of bloody urine so I'm worried about him. It's a tough life for a wild animal. A urinary track infection could kill him while we and our pets can get antibiotics to cure it. I'll keep watching for his tracks with my fingers crossed.

Below, you can see that although no people have used this trail since the snow, plenty of forest dwellers have!
My Fatback snow bike makes me feel like I have super powers. To my amazement, I was able to churn along this trail almost the whole way. I stalled only briefly when the snow deepened and the pitch turned upward.
In addition to the solitude and quiet, my reward was a wonderful view.
After arriving home, I checked our motion-sensitive wildlife camera outside the house, and a coyote had made a lengthy visit last night. I'm truly starting to wonder if our infrared camera, now posted out in the forest but previously posted next to our other wildlife camera, somehow scared the coyotes away. The true test will be if I return the infrared camera to our yard and the coyotes flee again... but after spending a long time setting up the IR camera in the forest, I hesitate to do that. Perhaps I'll do that test if no animals show up near the IR camera in the forest.

I liked this particular photo (out of 60 taken) because the coyote appears to have used a 'calming signal'. Among dogs, lifting a paw is a way to tell other dogs to chill out. I wonder if the coyote was telling others in his pack to relax.
The infrared camera is in theory the camera that causes wildlife less stress, and it is now pointed at a rocky spot where bobcat scat appears regularly. It's at the base of a pile of boulders on an east-facing slope above a meadow.
I sincerely hope that the camera doesn't somehow scare away the animals who have used this site for years, based on my observations. I'll keep you posted. My goal now is *not* to check the IR camera for at least a week so that my scent doesn't deter animals from visiting. So, the updates won't be too frequent. This hobby takes patience, and patience is not my strong suit!

I could learn a thing or two about patience from my Labs who are now waiting like silent saints for me to take them for a hike!


  1. Not sure which creature is more alluring: the coyote or the last pic of K!

    Have a great Friday!

  2. What a great ride! Love seeing K's sweet face!
    The cayote with paw up is amazing! Hope the infared camera catches some interesting visitors.
    Keep on ridin'! Great for the soul, and easier on the spine.

    Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
    Sierra Rose

  3. That last pic is beautiful - gorgeous eyes. We meant to comment yesterday about the rich chocolate color you have been able to catch in your recent photos of her.

    Another wonderful ride for us here.

    woos and happy weekend, the OP Pack

  4. That last image would make a great photo greeting card.

  5. The coyote picture is good, but K's photo is awesome...and yes, we humans could learn alot about Life from our dogs!

  6. Dogs know how to live. Just like the lil' dude with the wheel chair, take what you have been dealt, adjust and then continue the journey. I've learned that a lot along the way as my back has continued to get more rotten as times goes by. I can still do what I want to do only a little differently.

    Your labs have volumes to teach you and you have volumes to teach me and to give to me. There is not one time that I haven't come here and been totally moved by the beauty of nature that you share in your blog.

  7. As a sewist, the first picture of K looks like she is created out of the finest velour, just beautiful.

    Another wonderful episode in the life of the Mountain Girls!

    Stella's Mom

  8. i've missed a couple posts, so had to go back and read....i wouldn't miss them for anything!
    the dilemma about taking one dog and leaving the other..something i stress with everyday...i hate leaving someone at home, so most of the time i leave them all at home....the downside of multiple dogs of multiple ages and abilities....
    i love the fact that you keep your dogs safe, the electric collars are tools that work well in the right hands...
    no picture of the hematuria? :)
    beautiful post as always....
    have a great rest of the weekend!

  9. Hey KB ! Playing some catch up!
    LOVE the photo of K & R kissing! :)
    The Elk were awesome and that Coyote was a pretty handsome guy!

  10. As much as you enjoy sharing your world with wildlife, I thought you would enjoy my favorite musher's blog post from today:

    A fascinating lady that I have met a couple of times, Karen runs a classy and caring kennel for her Siberian Huskies.

  11. Love your blog and photos. What a wonderful place to live! Thanks for sharing.

  12. snowbiking? that sounds way too fun!
    What kind if IR camera do you have? The coyote shot is great, must be fun checking the images!


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