Yesterday evening, I became an evil being in the dogs' eyes because I cleaned their ears and clipped their nails. R had such a vocal conniption after his ear-cleaning that it sounded like the dogs were fighting (which would be a first). I hurried to break up what I thought might be a fight and found R rolling around, rubbing his ears in a frenzy while making growling and snarling noises.This morning, the endurance race of summer hit me hard. I rolled out the door with aching legs, and found that my quads and calves had the strength of jello when I hit the first climb on my mountain bike. So, it turned into a day of searching for interesting animal signs and not riding far or hard. Somehow, in the midst of not riding very much, I had my first jarring crash since my surgery, probably because I was tired. The good news is that, contrary to my irrational fear, I didn't shatter into a million pieces! I endured... and hopped on my bike to ride home with only a few scratches. It's now been more than 6 months since my surgery so the fused neck joints are probably indestructible, although they'll keep getting stronger for another 6 months. I'd been dreading the inevitable first crash so I'm glad that it's behind me.
Early in our ride, K and I checked out a Green Gentian (also known as Monument plant) and saw a bee feeding frenzy. I captured one bumblebee in mid-flight, ready to land on the plant.
Then, he settled in for a meal on the green understated flowers.
These plants live for 20-80 years before they flower for one season and then die, going out with a big bang. In the photo below, the tall stalk-like plant is in the far left and is slightly downhill of K.
Later, as K and I rolled through the forest, I kept stopping and hiking to check out boulder-strewn north-facing slopes for bear dens. No luck, but at least I satisfied my curiosity about a few places. K stood in front of one of the boulder outcroppings that we'd explored. Bears tend to make their dens on the downhill side of boulders on steep and snowy (i.e., north-facing) slopes.
We stopped near the top of one of the boulder piles for a photo. K is multitasking in the photo - using her right ear to listen to a sound behind her while still looking at the camera. Talented girl!
After I dropped K off at home, I continued on the same theme, investigating every perceived den opening as I passed boulder fields - I spent more time hiking than riding. As I rode past one such opening, an animal floated out of the cavern. The 3' tall triangular dark opening is in the middle of the photo below but the animal is not.
The animal moved like a cat - not bouncy or flashy but rather like liquid gold oozing across the rough terrain. I stopped in my tracks thinking that I might be blessed to see a mountain lion on this summer day. I stood perfectly still because the cat's trajectory would take him into the open if he didn't perceive me. When he emerged, he hurried across dangerous open area without noticing me and then resumed his saunter once he entered the forest. My eyes immediately examined his tail - a short tail means a bobcat and a long tail means a lion. He had a short tail and the distinctive black and white patches on the back of his ears that I've seen in my wildlife camera photos of bobcats.
In an instant, he vanished like a magician. I back tracked him to look at the path that he'd taken and the cavern that he'd emerged from. It was a shallow cave with only a small covered area. The cat had used his hind paws to scrape the sandy floor of the cavern and deposited a scat in the middle of the scrape. So, then I knew why he'd visited the cavern - to scent mark his territory. This spot sits very close to where I found a dead bobcat early last spring. The presence of today's cat tells me that a young cat has claimed the briefly empty territory.
I stood still for a long time, feeling lucky to have seen a bobcat in his natural habitat. I find natural sightings, in the midst of the forest, so uplifting.
The next event in my ride wasn't so uplifting. To make my ride into a loop, I cut through a recreation area, spending about 10 minutes riding through an area frequented by messy campers, ATVs, and gun shooters. Today, I found a burning campfire with flames still leaping from a large log that was OUTSIDE the fire ring. I was out of cell phone range so I couldn't call for help. I searched the wide swath of garbage left by the campers for water receptacles. I found two small containers that I used to fill with water in a creek, pour on the fire, and repeat.
Here's the fire after 5 trips to the creek.
Then, I managed to very carefully drag the still burning log back into the fire ring without hurting my back or burning myself. Another 10 trips to the creek plus heaping rocks on the smoking embers left me satisfied that our entire forest wouldn't be ignited by the campfire. I have to admit, however, that I felt disgusted with my fellow humans. I also felt disgusted with our Forest Service who I knew wouldn't really care about the mess based on my many conversations with them. I realize that they're understaffed but our national lands are being trashed while we wait for them to get adequate funding.
I have this Zen-like thing that I do when one event threatens to ruin a whole day. I simply focus on my breathing and pedal strokes while I soak up the beauty of nature. Whenever my mind starts to swing back to the upsetting event, I realign my mind toward my breathing, pedaling, and nature. That simple exercise usually helps me to leave a lousy event behind me, where it belongs. I learned this technique for spine pain management but it also works for psychic pain.
After about 15 minutes of Zen riding, I stopped in a ridge-top meadow to appreciate the flowers. A Harebell nodded on its impossibly thin and flexible stalk.
And, Locoweed bloomed with yellow flowers as background music. Although it's beautiful, this brilliant pink flower is deadly poisonous.
Then, I hit the high point, where I could see a field of Mariposa Lilies (the white dots) with the mountains behind them. The campfire and garbage were cleansed from my brain. Another good day...
By the time I was almost home, it looked like rain would reign this afternoon. Then, I'll feel completely comfortable with the campfire situation.