We started our long weekend with a picnic atop a peak labeled a "Hill" that soars over 10,000'. We slogged through hillsides of spring snow to reach our little hill. The high peaks around us evoked images of deep winter with their sparkling snow.
As we sat on our little hill, the dogs seemed mystified that a picnic didn't include a dog dinner. We're starving, they seemed to say!
We lingered until the sun dropped below the summits to our west, enjoying the breath-taking views and absolute solitude.
As we retraced our steps to the trailhead, the world morphed into a pinkish blue hue around us.
For the past two days, I've ridden my mountain bike with dogs, enjoying their exuberance.
Both halves of the duo streaked around me as I pedaled the trails.
The world seems to become more summerlike by the minute. Just a couple of days ago, this trail was a tunnel through naked aspen branches. Now, tender light green leaves have unfurled. They seem so delicate, like they might not survive in our harsh world. They remind me of my pale skin when it's first exposed to the sun in the summer.
And, new flowers have blossomed - early larkspurs - glorious purple creations.
Alas, there is a downside to the birth of summer in the mountains. Our neighborhood email list is ablaze with reports of illegal shooting, campfires left burning, and trespassers. Most people who live up here endure the long winters for the peace of living in the middle of the forest. We all become shell-shocked when non-locals, some of whom don't value nature for its beauty and quiet, invade at this time of year.
So, my solution is to ride on the most remote and difficult trails that I know of. Very few people even know that these trails exist. Some are very tough riding, like the one shown below.
The reward is that wildlife love these trails. I try to tread softly while reveling in the knowledge that a cat or bear might be nearby at all times.
On my route yesterday, I found some new "Bear trees" - trees that bears have climbed, leaving behind their tell-tale claw marks. The scarred marks on the aspen shown below probably were left by a bear many years ago.
However, nearby, I found fresh claw marks, together with a muddy paw mark, telling me that the cub who climbed this tree did so VERY recently.
I've had a wildlife camera set up next to this trail for months, and NO animals passed it until about a week ago. Since then, numerous bears and one bobcat have ambled by. The video below shows a bear who lumbered past the camera on Friday afternoon and stopped to rub his/her back with a pine sapling. I'd read about this territorial behavior - but I was ecstatic to see it in my own video!
Then, in the evening, a bobcat sauntered past, leaving a scent mark right in front of the camera. I chose this spot due to the many signs of cat dirt scrapings that I'd seen there over the years. Most of the scrapings were left by lions. They were huge compared the scraping done by the bobcat in the video. I wonder if I'll get a lion marking that spot soon?
Intriguingly, after leaving his scent mark, the bobcat strutted up to the pine sapling that the bear marked 7 hours earlier. The bobcat threw himself on the ground and rolled on the spot. He vigorously wriggled on his back for a long time. He was still doing it when my camera stopped recording. Do you think that the bobcat was making an authoritative statement by trying to overshadow the bear's scent with his own? While I knew that bears vie to win the "scent marking contest" by covering each other's scent, I had no idea that a cat would be competitive with a bear. I find this stuff absolutely fascinating. What I love about the wildlife cameras is that I see the animals acting normally, uninfluenced by human presence.