I had a fascinating hike deep in the forest with a friend yesterday, exploring bear signs in our area. We found more "bear saplings", obviously freshly used, and contemplated new wildlife camera locations. Here was a dramatic sapling, whose top was snapped off at least a year ago but its branches were freshly snapped in the last month by a bear. Fur stuck to the recent wounds, showing us that it was the work of a back-scratching bear.
The top of the tree lay brittle dry on the ground at the base of the tree.
Black bear trail has been a haven for bears for a long time, based on the old claw marks on aspen trees and the many "bear saplings" that line it. We treaded softly hoping not to deter any bears from passing that way.
We wandered through a pine forest, noting a maze of animal trails and casually scanning for new den sites. We eventually made the arduous hike out of our way to visit the den that my cameras monitored last winter - we had a very hard time re-finding the den - it is SO well hidden. We discovered from the memory card on my wildlife camera that two bears, likely a female and male in hot pursuit, had visited more than a week ago. I believe that the "scarfaced" male is the same one who visited in April. Here's a short video of their visits and a bear traveling on Black Bear Trail.
This morning, we hiked/ran as a foursome, deep in a pine forest. K looked resplendent in the pine-filtered sunlight.
Her eyes glowed gold in the sun.
We briefly emerged from the forest, and saw a snowy mountain through a collage of green aspen leaves.
After the other three pack members headed home, I started on a very familiar trail that I'll never stop adoring.
But then, I explored, rolling my wheels over terrain that I've NEVER visited before. I love the feeling of being on the edge of lost... but still blindly trying to find my way. Do you see my trail here? The 12" wide path is deep in the foliage.
I crossed a spectacular meadow, so richly green that I almost couldn't believe it.
Then, I re-entered the forest, following next to a creek. I heard an animal crashing through the water-loving shrubs at one point, and I guessed that it was a bear but wasn't sure. Then, to my utter surprise, I found what I'm almost certain is a recently used bear den.
The hole under the boulders is about 24" wide and 18" tall, and the cave is deep. The ceiling never exceeds 18" (these dimensions are very similar to the active bear den that I monitored last winter). Moreover, the top of the entrance is well-rubbed by animals wriggling into the den. Moss and lichen cover every last inch of the boulders, except the inner walls of the den entrance - those have been rubbed clean. Wow, what a find!
Near the entrance, I found a well chewed and degraded humongous log. Just above the entrance, a bouquet of penstamons bloomed. I'm sure that the scene isn't so colorful in the winter!
This bear den is a fair distance from my house but I think that I'll visit with a wildlife camera after the world freezes this winter to see if the den is occupied. I absolutely cannot believe my luck, finding two dens in one year!
I finished my ride by plunging insanely straight into a forest in a direction where I had a vague notion that someone might have built a trail. After much bushwhacking, indeed, I found a buttery smooth and sinuous dirt trail heading down into a gulch. I connected it to a trail that I know, and VOILA - I have a new riding route. I love exploring!