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Friday, April 16, 2010

Our Thundering Herd

This morning, as I stepped out the door, a sound like a thundering herd met me. The pounding came from our dirt road. I quickly scanned and spotted the entire 100+ herd of huge elk galloping down the middle of the road to a favorite meadow. I'm glad that I wasn't in their way - that herd possesses power beyond my imagination. By the time I grabbed my camera, only a few elk rumps were still visible.
As I rode past their meadow, a fog that already enshrouded the high mountains floated among the smaller eastern peaks.
Soon, the entire world became murky, moist, and cold. I didn't really mind because the fog had a ethereal beauty all its own. The Mountain Bluebirds didn't mind either - they continued their sparring for choice territories.
As I rode, I spotted a deer lying in the grass who seemed to think that she was invisible. Then, a quartet of elk fled across my trail from a grassy meadow into a snowy forest. I dropped my bike to investigate. First, what were they fleeing from? It wasn't me... but I couldn't spot whatever had spooked them. I had hoped for a glimpse of a lion - from a good distance, that is.

Next, I followed the elk tracks for a short way but, by then, they were a mile away from me at the rate they'd been moving. As I climbed back up to the ridge to continue my mountain bike ride, I realized that the sight shown in the photo below is common for me. A bike abandoned next to the trail with the rider nowhere in sight. If you live near me and come across this sight, don't worry - I'm just chasing a lion :)
The Labraduo and I hiked later in the morning, exploring our home turf in great detail. We're learning where the snow melts first, leaving bands of moist dirt good for hiking. We still found little evidence of wildlife, except for blue grouse. Grouse had walked all over the territory that we explored. One had scratched out a small pit before leaving distinctive droppings.
The Labraduo was on high alert. After all, they're bred for hunting birds.

We hit an aspen meadow that had a diverse flock of robins, chickadees, three types of nuthatches, and juncos. They all simultaneously sang different songs, their beautiful breeding season songs rather than alarm calls. I sat against a log to listen, feeling as if I could fall asleep with such gorgeous music rising from the treetops. However, the duo found grouse scat nearby... so we were moving again much sooner than I'd hoped!

We hit a high point, where normally the mountains would greet us. Today, gray fog covered them but I still photographed the handsome Labs. The ever alert R...
And, the always wary K, checking over her shoulder for danger...
As we traipsed home, through patches of newly exposed dirt, we kept seeing snow mold, a gray spider-web-like fungus that grows on the ground when it's covered by snow for a very long time. These spots likely hadn't seen the sky since October. A wintergreen plant (I think), who will sport pink umbrella-like blossoms in the summer, survived the snow and is now enduring the fungus. What a hardy soul!
After I photographed the wintergreen plant, I caught K giving me one of her probing gazes. I love her eyes when she looks at me like this.
Although it was a murky and foggy day in our little universe, it was beautiful as well. I'm grateful for every day that I get in our forest with my pups.
I still haven't seen definite signs of active bears in our forest but I have lots of footage still to show you from March. Here, mom surveys her forest while one of her cubs climbed a tree, again. I have to say that I think that this sow has a heart of gold and an endless well of patience to have shepherded such hellions through the dangers of their first year of life. Here's to you, mama bear!


  1. I'm sure the OTHER TH will be flattered you gave them a shout out here!

    I love the last mountain view pic - those colours are incredible -

    And Da Bears made me grin!

    Thanks for sharing AGAIN!

  2. The bluebird is a wonderful spot of color in your landscape, KB! I'd be thrilled to hear an elk herd nearby! Mostly I see deer near my house - there are few elk herds, though I have seen some big ones not too far away near the Continental Divide. It was an overcast day in Denver, and we kept expecting rain that never arrived. I love the photo of K watching you so intently. I wonder what she's thinking... Have a great weekend!

  3. We humans could learn a lot from the patience and dedication of the wonderful mothering of the black bears.

    K looks so thoughtful, as if she is determined to protect you from whatever may surround you. What a great companion.

  4. Your Thundering Herd was probably better behaved than that other one!

    I love that shot of the mountains with the sky there! Wow! I wouldn't be surprised to see one of your shots on the Bing page one day!

    Maybe hibernation is nature's way of making sure mama bears let those cubs survive to adulthood!

  5. Hi KB
    Signs of abundance! Signs of newfound energy! Signs of awe and exhuberance! Signs of a soul that is well! We are glad too!
    Sending lots of love to you all!

  6. Elks, mountain bluebirds, bears and the labraduo . Heaven.

  7. i felt the same way last evening listening to natures music! it was wonderful....
    such wonderful glad to know about the abandoned bike! such elusive lions.....
    are the bears still in the den?
    the bluebird is just gorgeous!
    have a great weekend!

  8. Enjoyed everything...from the powerful thundering herd to the delicate beauty of the Bluebird...looking forward to more, from the energetic Labraduo and the fiesty cubs!

  9. When we saw the title, we thought we were about to be parodied - but then love the majesty of the Elk (we have a small herd of Elk living on the other side of our ridge).

    By the way, our name is actually a joke in itself. A pack of sled dogs running rhythm is actually fairly quiet. So sled dogs that sound like a thundering herd, well, not so rhythmic.

    My favorite line of your blog post -

    I realized that the sight shown in the photo below is common for me. A bike abandoned next to the trail with the rider nowhere in sight. If you live near me and come across this sight, don't worry - I'm just chasing a lion :)

    That just made us smile.

  10. Do you think the babies can catch the momma bear's mange? (Isn't that what you said it was on her face?)

  11. That photo of the bluebird almost looks like a painting - such contrast of the blue against the woods - just beautiful!!! Beautiful photos all over this post but we sure do love the closeups of the dogs.

    Woos - Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

  12. Roxanne: I do think that the cubs could catch the mama bear's mange. I wonder whether the rings around their eyes are indeed mange. K once had mange, and my vet explained that a young and strong animal with a good immune system usually bounces back from mange. The research studies about hibernating bears say that the bears who get mange usually recover.

    I do want to explore the den this summer but I'm a little worried about catching mange. But, the notion of lying in their den is very enticing!

    Thundering Herd: I actually drove a dogsled once, with a team of 8 dogs. It was surprisingly quiet, once the dogs calmed down and stopped barking. What a blast it was! But, I had guessed that your name was a bit of a joke!

  13. I got to see some elk in my mountain drive on Friday. They were too far away to photograph. Some other members of my family saw a her too and one of them they swear is an albino. Ever heard of such a thing?


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