Thanks to all of you wonderful bloggers who left me notes of encouragement about my first bike ride yesterday. It feels like a small accomplishment in the context of the larger world but it was a major triumph for me. It felt fantastic to know that others understood how I felt. Thank you so much for your support.
This morning, we had a wonderful hike, climbing up a south-facing slope where most of the snow had melted. K leaped over a fallen log on a recall, with the puppy-like energy that she still possesses.
We crested the ridge and discovered that a new snow storm oozed inexorably toward us and had erased the mountains from the horizon.
The trail along the crest sometimes veered slightly to the north, leaving the dogs standing in snow.
As we hiked, the storm enveloped our world, covering the low hills closest to us.
The dogs picked up a scent from the north-facing side of the slope that they wanted to investigate. On past my mountain bike rides, I've found mountain lion tracks numerous times on that slope - it's a slope that our most secretive animals love.
We leashed the pups and explored the snowy slope. We found a maze of elk tracks but no predator tracks. When we emerged from the forest, the clouds had darkened still further so we started to trek back toward the trailhead. The dogs frolicked wildly, making me laugh aloud.When we arrived back at the car, we pulled my bike out of the back so that I could ride home. Snow lazily drifted out of the sky but I felt a little more vulnerable than usual so my pack covered my back by delaying their drive home while I rode my bike home. By lingering behind me, they could pick me up if I needed to be rescued.
I was truly amazed by how great my legs felt. Moreover, I had NO pain shooting down my arms into my hands - something that I've lived with for many years until now. I found myself hammering up a hill, practically laughing aloud as I tried to rocket through the now pelting snow. I didn't care about the snow stinging my face - I was riding my bike, and I even felt fast! I had to curb my bursting enthusiasm to avoid stressing my neck but it was tough to curb!
As I rode home through the snow, I passed two firefighters trudging along the side of the dirt road. They'd been working to control a prescribed burn designed to reduce wildfire danger. Their faces were blackened with ash, they wore heavy fire-proof suits, and they carried heavy hoes and shovels. Yet, they waved and shouted to me: "You are tough as hell!". Funny, I'd been thinking the same about them.
By this evening, the fury of the storm pummeled us during the dogs' evening hike. The wind whipped the snow horizontally past our faces. An inch fell during our 20 minute hike.
Right now, the snow is falling at 3-5" per hour. Who knows what the grand total will be?
Shortly after our last big storm a few days ago, I sneaked out without the dogs to check the bear den. The ursines had fallen back into deep hibernation mode. They hadn't left the den in days, except to stick their snouts outside and eat some snow about every second day, according to the wildlife cameras.
What I saw that day warmed my heart. The snow almost completely covered the den, and the setting sun suffused the snowy world with gold.
From the front, I still could barely discern the den entrance.
I zoomed with my camera and caught a glimpse of the sow. She's concluded that I'm pretty boring. She opened an eye, yawned, and went back to sleep in her cozy den whose opening now barely revealed her face. She served as the den guard, blocking access to her cub who doubtless slept behind her.
I imagine that the sow and her cub are snuggled together in the den right now as the storm buffets our forest. It's a wonderful thought. But, I have to say that if anyone is "tough as hell", it's the wild animals who somehow survive in our forests despite brutal storms like tonight's.