I had a full and happy day. It started with a sunrise bike ride in 15 deg air with a wicked cold wind whipping out of the west. Despite the winter weather, I saw two pairs of mountain bluebirds who remained in our frigid meadow. Those are tough but beautiful birds!
The moon still shined while the sun illuminated only the top of a rocky hillside.
I rode along feeling the bitter bite of the cold and, as I became chilled, I realized that I'd lost my adaptation for riding my bike in extreme conditions. However, as the headwind hurled sand into my face, I remembered a windy day just after my surgery when I'd pined to ride my bike. In fact, I'd specifically wished that I could be out pedaling while feeling the harshness of our winter world. With that in mind today, I started smiling and then laughing as I pedaled my heart out. I realized that I'm a very lucky person to be riding my bike again, so soon after my surgery.
After my ride, K and I enjoyed a short hike, made easy by the freezing air that had solidified the snow so that both of us could walk on top of the ocean of snow without breaking through.
We visited our favorite lookout but the mountains were in a swirl of clouds.
We found some very old tracks (a week old?) that looked like mountain lion tracks and followed a path where I've found definite lion tracks in the past. The step length and pattern fit a lion's but the tracks were melted out making a positive identification impossible. I felt that strange thrill of possibly walking in the paw prints of a mighty lion.
Shortly after arriving home, a handsome coyote visited our clearing, trotting past naked aspen trees and probably enjoying the hard snow after a week of slogging through deep snow.
Finally, I ended my day with an exploratory hike with a new friend, searching a steep slope for bear and lion signs. I've never hiked with another person who is as fascinated with unraveling nature's mysteries as I am... what an exhilarating experience! At one point, we contoured along a steep hillside just below a rocky ridge with a deep blue sky shining on us.
By the end of our hike, the sun had sunk toward the horizon, radiating mystical power through the mountain clouds. It felt like a fitting sight for the end of an idyllic day.
During our hike, we talked a lot about bears - signs that they leave in the forest and their life habits. I have many more photos of the mother and her twins at the den that I'll be working on to post in the coming days.
I'll leave you with this one photo. The protective mother bear is on her way to give my camera an extensive and up-close examination while one of her yearling cubs stood upright to scratch a tree. After looking at that yearling closely, I still can't figure out if it's a male or female. Does anyone else have a strong opinion based on the photo? You can magnify the photo by clicking on it.
I'm rooting for a female cub because sows tend to stay in the home range of their mother. That would mean that I'd have one more bear living near my home, and that would make me very happy!