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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Zany springtime

Springtime in the mountains is zany, imitating the wild ride of a back surgery recovery. K and I rolled out under looming dark clouds but the forecast said that the storms had missed us so I was optimistic.
The forecast was wrong. Thank goodness that I dressed for a snowstorm because that's what we got! Both K and I were having trouble keeping our eyes open because the snowflakes pelted out of the sky like tiny asteroids aimed directly at our eyes.
I thought about turning around and going home. But, then, I thought about all the days that I'd pined for a bike ride but couldn't take one due to doctor's orders. So, I put my head down and pedaled, remembering how lucky I was to be out on my bike.
We circled the network of trails that's free of snow, and just before heading back home, the aerial assault ended. We made a quick detour to a view point where a slight glow of light emanated from just above the mountaintops.
K managed to keep her eyes open for this photo, taken as the storm's fury died out.
And, then before we made it home, the mountains glimmered and glistened in the sunshine. The birds who had hidden in the canopy or in tree holes ventured out and began singing, albeit tentatively at first. I smiled and remembered my motto that if I don't go out into the elements, I won't feel the special moments like the forest's reawakening as a storm wanes.
After I dropped off K at home, my back felt good enough for some more riding and the sun shined warmly. I headed for a trail that's been closed by snow since November. I wanted to be the first to explore it - even if I needed to walk my bike over a few snow drifts. Before getting to that trail, I spotted the mountains once again. Wow, they looked nothing like they had less than an hour earlier.
As I floated down a steep and rocky hill into an aspen grove flourishing in the moisture of a hollow, I spotted a Northern Flicker flitting off of an aspen tree and onto a higher perch. He chirped alarm calls from high above me. On every passage through this grove, I've seen Flickers behaving just like this for the past few springs. Today, I finally stopped my bike to look around.
I immediately spotted a large and newly renovated nest hole in the biggest aspen tree near the trail. Voila - that hole is probably why I've seen Flickers in this grove every spring for years.
Here's a photo of a Northern Flicker leaving his nesthole, in an aspen near my house, last June.
My eyes scanned the tree and, whoa, I saw claw marks on the tree. Several sets climbed up toward the nesthole's height but stopped there. I'm guessing that bears have tried to steal the eggs or nestlings on more than one occasion.
Then, I noticed some fairly fresh scratch marks that looked different. The pattern didn't fit the normal pattern of a bear's claw marks. In fact, I immediately wondered if these marks were left by the stiletto sharp claws of a cat. Notice that only three claws left marks, although the fourth claw mark was a tiny puncture near the far right of the other marks. If a cat left these grooves, it had to have been a mountain lion, based on the height of the marks and the large paw size.
Sometimes it's hard to remember to stop and notice things, especially when I'm in familiar territory. I've ridden past this particular tree hundreds of times, and I've seen the Flicker every spring for years. Yet, I've never stopped to investigate before today. Quite a story was playing out right next to one of my favorite trails but I hadn't seen it.

In the same little grove, I noticed a Pasqueflower with its petals clenched tightly closed. These early bloomers can close their blossoms more tightly than the wildflowers that bloom later in the steady warmth of summer. Moreover, Pasqueflowers don't reopen their flowers until quite a while after the bad weather passes.
The rest of my ride was glorious. As I wound my way through pine forests, the sun baked the wet pine needles and a sweet aroma wafted from the forest floor. The pine tree canopy filtered the sun's rays, and those rays illuminated the dripping pine boughs. I breathed deeply and smiled.

My back felt better after the ride than before it, as almost always is the case. I think that I'll be back to my pre-concert condition within a few days. I have to admit that my spine's reaction to relatively benign activity, like going to a concert, scared me.

I hope that I have a long and winding road of adventures in the forest ahead of me, like the trail heading to the horizon that I rode today. But, I never can be sure so I try to remember to slow down and enjoy each day.


  1. The before and after pictres of the mountain range are really cool!

    Poor K must be one of the best sports in dogdom! Mine would have let me know that they did not appreciate the elements more forefully than she did.

    That icicle must have had some aim! It's crazy how freak things can happen sometimes. I'm glad you guys got out, even if you did have to drag K out of there!

  2. I so love the colours of the last flower -

    Of course, Khyra is jealous of the weather!

    I know my walks through your world would be filled with looking at EVERYTHING!

    As always, thanks for sharing your world!

  3. I'm sorry but I'm just stuck drooling at that last pic of singletrack trying to escape me. You are so lucky to live and ride where you do!

  4. Yes! We all must remember to slow down and enjoy each day. Great ride! Love the snow capped mountains and the great trail...can only imagine the trail network in the area.

    Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
    Sierra Rose

  5. It's soo beautiful! That must be one scary storm..
    Thanks for sharing it with us!
    Happy Friday!


  6. lovely! so glad you enjoyed the concert, but know what you mean about sitting.....
    keep moving girl! so glad you are back on your bike taking in each day and the constant changing of the scenery! just beautiful....
    have a glorious weekend!

  7. I so enjoy your excursions and discoveries along the way!

  8. Hey there KB!

    THanks for a FABULOUS post today!!!
    I thoroughly enjoyed it!!! Somehow we have the same focus today...marvelling at the small (and big) things in our creation.
    Please (if you have the chance)go and look at my post today on MAXMOM's BRIC-A-BRAC:

    Take care! You are sounding wonderful! I am really happy for your new vigor!

    With love

  9. That picture of the snow coming down sideways is something else! K is a great all-weather pup!

    Really neat claw marks. You'd be proud of the tree investigating I now do thanks to your blog. I don't run around many trees, so when we get to a higher-elevation wooded area, I'll make circles, looking for animal fir, claw marks...

  10. What a beautiful place! K is such a lucky dog!
    Those claw marks are so cool.

  11. That squinty photo of K is adorable.

    I'm glad your back is feeling better are the rides.

    I wonder ... how much do you have to alter your downhill body position to protect your back?

  12. "Both K and I were having trouble keeping our eyes open because the snowflakes pelted out of the sky like tiny asteroids aimed directly at our eyes."

    Best desciption of riding in a graupel storm. EVER!

    I can just picture a mountain lion using the aspen as a scratching post, thanks to your photo! What a trailside treat! I'm so glad you were able to spot it, and then enjoy it.

  13. Great observations, KB! We do have to keep our eyes open on familiar paths. Last year, I saw Calypso Orchids for the first time on a path I use all the time - wonder if I had missed them for years? Hope your spine soon feels A-OK. Today was my last day at Rehab - I'm a Graduate!

  14. Great observations, KB! We do have to keep our eyes open on familiar paths. Last year, I saw Calypso Orchids for the first time on a path I use all the time - wonder if I had missed them for years? Hope your spine soon feels A-OK. Today was my last day at Rehab - I'm a Graduate!

  15. Thanks for all the great comments!!!

    And, Roxanne, so far it doesn't feel like I need to change my downhill position very much compared to pre-surgery. However, I already ride in a very different position than most mountain bikers. I'm more upright and can keep my spine straight, rather than rounding my back. This position has really worked so far!


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