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Monday, March 8, 2010

Exploring the forest with K

Nature's fickleness becomes undeniable in the mountain springtime. Yesterday morning, we sweated and panted our way up to a ridge and then hiked along its spine under the hot sun. By yesterday evening, the transition back to winter had begun.

The pups stuck their heads into the snow during our sunset hike.
They missed the beautiful clouds heralding the return of snow whilst they dug for mythical rodents.
This morning dawned gray, humid, and finally, snowing. K and I covertly infiltrated the woods, wanting to explore to see what secrets we could uncover. The storm hovering over our nook of the Earth blocked all views of the mountains or sky. Normally, mountains would have towered behind K in this photo. Instead, aspen trees with their nascent buds stood like sentinels against the steelshot sky. In two months time, those trees will have green leaves!
Why do I wander through the woods, eschewing trails, almost daily? One reason is that I'm supposed to cover many miles on foot, every single day, to stimulate bone growth in my neck. But, I could achieve that goal on roads, trails, or even a treadmill.

The forest fascinates me because it's one of the last remaining wild and mysterious places, where I find signs of a web of life that we humans are usually oblivious to. While most people might see a barren and dark forest, I try to notice the little hints of what's transpired in each quiet and seemingly vacant spot. Each of my hikes feels like an exploration, and I feel like I've learned some more secrets after each one. I wouldn't feel that way if I marched through my four miles a day on roads.

Today, K and I found a spot where a mule deer slept recently. We knew that a deer slept here based on the hoof prints in the bed and the nearby scat.
We also found this amazing tree art, created by a bear scratching the aspen a long time ago. The claw gouges are black and scarred, as the tree has healed them over the years. Moreover, as the tree has grown taller, the claw marks elongated. Who knows how long the grooves were back when the bear made them?
We keep looking in every rocky cavern for another bear den. Good luck! I don't think that we'll find another den but we'll keep looking! If you missed the bear videos, check out here and here. Also, the live feed from inside a bear den in Minnesota is fascinating. The cub whines, cries, and makes all sorts of crazy vocalizations almost all the time. Apparently, these sounds indicate when the cub is cold or can't find a teat. Can you imagine being a new mom and stuck in a tiny den for months with a crying infant? That sow is so patient.

I feel lucky to have an enthusiastic canine partner in my explorations. She's off-leash in the photo below but, as soon as we enter the remote parts of the forest, I leash her to prevent her from disturbing the most secretive animals.
When we arrived home after a relaxing and fascinating hike, R waited on the other side of a dog nose-smeared glass door. He'd been out for a forest run earlier in the morning.
On another note, I've been testing out a new infrared wildlife camera that is touted as being 'covert'. Its red light used for nighttime photos is almost invisible and captures gray-scale nighttime photos. Daytime photos are in beautiful color. I hope that this camera will disturb wild animals less than my other infrared cameras seem to.

I caught a photo of the two remaining coyotes in our locale (the third was shot last week). In the top frame of the photo, notice that it gives the moon phase (in pictorial form) and the temperature. It also tells us that it's the ninth of ten photos taken for one trigger. In other words, whenever the camera detects an animal in its field of view, it takes ten photos at a rate of one per second. Then, it pauses for a couple of seconds to check for activity before launching into another series of ten photos.
Right after the above photo was taken, I marched outside with a flashlight (and pepper spray) to test the camera, having no idea that coyotes were already testing it for me. These animals vanished when I opened the door and didn't return for two hours. They proved that they've retained their fear of humans.

I tried out the camera at Bobcat Boulder for the past two nights, and I captured many images of the rabbit who forages there. Despite all the predators who visit the boulder, the rabbit has survived!
That rabbit is a tough and courageous spirit who has evaded bobcats and coyotes for at least 6 months. I hope that his or her genes carry on to a new generation!


  1. Khyra is jealous and I'm hiding the keys to the Xterra NOW!

    Thanks again for sharing the great shots!

  2. Great post. While not so bold as you I also like to get off the beaten path. Amazing the things you would otherwise miss.

    Kudos to the rabbit. I'm pulling for him as well.

  3. I do have to root for that rabbit, but don't tell Bunny. She's determined to get one of them one of these days. The ones we have here seem to live to taunt her.

    I love the pictures of K and R hunting in the snow!

  4. I enjoyed looking at the bear clips from Ely, MN. When I thought of hibernate, it was my naive thought that the bears were just totally zonked out for the winter. No activity at all. All wrong! All kinds of activity!

    Cheers and hugs,

    Jo and Stella

  5. The rabbit at the end was a nice touch. I hope the brave little fellows gene pool survives.What is it with this winter - it just doesn't want to head off gracefully!

  6. i too love walking through the forest each day...through your blog! love the clawed aspen!!

  7. A lovely, tranquil post, KB! Thank you for providing an escape for us into your winter wonderland.I too love to look for the small, unnoticed things! That bear tree art is awesome!

  8. It's like seemingly overnight, your world was transformed from a spring scene to a winter wonderland. It must get confusing for you guys at this time of year. We're had warm temps for a few days now, but I'm secretly hoping that they cool back down for a while - the sun has lured a lot of people out of their homes, and walks are starting to get a bit busy again.

    The claw marks in the tree are really remarkable. I would have never guessed that they stretch out as the tree grows!

    PS - yeah, you're right, I'm trying to muster up the courage to talk to my vet about meds, again.. and I should look elsewhere if that does not go well. I really do think they will be good to have on hand this year.

  9. Great shots of K and R. Love R peering through the door at K!

    Have you seen Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man? I have mixed feelings about the movie, but love the soundtrack by Richard Thompson. For some reason, this post, along with the news of Nick Ear, made me want to listen to that soundtrack. Don Edwards sings the final track, called Coyotes. I listened to it after reading about Nick Ear...wanted to sit on "our" Peak and cry.

    Thanks for taking us through your woods.

  10. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.....
    what a great great post guys!!!!!
    And thanks for taking us along with you!!!!!
    We're feeling like we were there!!!!
    You live such in a wonderful place and we would love come with you sometimes!!!!
    We love love love the bear tree!!!
    and your infrared photos are wonderful!!!
    Here we're getting tons of snow again!!!! will be like were there!!!!
    have a wonderful week!!!!
    Sweet kisses and licks guys!!!

  11. Hi! Yes, we get the vast and unique differences from exploring rather than the tredmill or road walks. Thinking about this....being surrounded by so much urban-ness, as we finds herself even more fearful around here, than when out camping, or in places less traveled! Explore on and heal on, we will look forward to more of your hikes.
    Love the nose to nose in the glass. :)

    Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
    Sierra Rose

  12. Run, bunny, run! Good thing your coyotes decided to leave. They do scare easily. I find them cowardly but I'm still angry over the shooting

  13. Enjoyed your comment about why you walk in the woods. It is the place where I can relax the most, clear my head, come up with new ideas, observe and learn something new, and just be happiest. I love just taking my time wandering down a trail, whether I have been there before or not.

  14. The pups here would love some of that snow. We got rain instead.

    We loved the MN link. Like Stella's Mom, we thought bears hibernating meant they were zonked out cold.

  15. AC,

    I'm going to check out that soundtrack and movie. Thanks for the suggestion.


  16. Lucinda is keeping close tabs on this rabbit, KB.


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