This morning, we humans decided to trade dogs. K went running in the very early morning, and R went mountain biking with me a little later. Initially, R acted distraught over being left behind by the runners. But, he was immediately mollified when I gave him a bully stick. We've had a moratorium on these treats for a long time because K's pancreatitis precludes her from gnawing on them.
When R and I rolled out the door, I decided to attempt to ride to the high point of our local trail system, Hug Hill. R led the way through still bare aspen branches. According to my journal, the first green leaves usually unfurl in the next few days - but I think that the leaves will wait until later this year because it's been so wintery.
I pedaled almost all the way to the top before running into deep snow drifts. We were so close to the fabulous viewpoint that I pushed my bike the rest of the way. In the photo below, R celebrated next to my bike!
I'll never cease to be astounded that an almost 360 degree view featuring snowy mountains is only a fifteen minute ride from my house, when the trail is clear of snow.
We switched dogs this morning partly for fun and partly so that each of us could work on trail etiquette with a different dog from usual. I practiced recalls with R. Here, you can barely see him holding a sit-stay in the distance before I called him.
When I called him, he sprinted to me but with slightly less intensity than when he's racing his sister. Competition motivates this boy but his recall is great even without it!
The dog-trade turned out to be a fun experiment, and it also strengthened the bond between R and me because I was solely focused on him. That can't be a bad thing!
After I dropped R off at home, the yen to explore dominated the rest of my ride. Although I did a familiar loop with stupendous views, I veered off it several times and found new trails! Just after this glimpse of the snowy mountains, I steered my bike off the known path, searching for a secret trail on an obscure slope.
Sure enough, now that I've learned where to search, I usually can find the well kept secrets. I found a sinuous trail wending through the dense forest.
I followed it in the depths of the woods and started seeing impressive scrapings on the forest floor. Within a mile, I saw about four of these territorial markers, although most scrapings weren't as obvious as this one. Since I was certain that no one had walked a dog in the depths of this forest anytime recently, my bet is that a mountain lion recently patrolled this route, using his hind paws to scrape pine needles into piles to warn other lions that this territory is TAKEN.
Eventually, after fun and fast riding on trails carpeted in pine needles, I emerged into an open meadow with another fantastic view! I love when the clouds lift to show us the mountains.
Next, almost without thinking, I turned onto a hidden trail that I've noticed before but have never ridden. It plunged deep into the woods, and the entire elk herd had tromped along it recently leaving myriad tracks and scat piles. I kept following it with a vague notion of where it would emerge. My reckoning was slightly off, as I came out next to a house...
Fortunately, the house is owned by people who have given me permission to ride on their land. Up here in the mountains, getting permission to cross your neighbors' land is absolutely key because National Forest sits behind the private property lining the road. With permission from enough neighbors, it's possible to do amazing mountain biking loops from my house without ever riding on a road.
Today, a small group of elk were on private property near the house. I wonder if they asked permission like I did? Only a couple are visible in the photo. The others had retreated into the trees. However, I'm seeing more and more small elk groups away from the main herd. This fragmentation is the preamble to the elk migration toward the alpine meadows for the summer.
I started wondering how much our spring is lagging previous years - especially since the elk seem to be following their normal timetable. That pondering led me to look back at photos from a year ago. Almost immediately, I was sidetracked from my goal by finding numerous photos of S, our sweet and gentle yellow lab who was nearing the end of his battle with cancer at this time last year. I miss him.