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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Caves, a bobcat, and Zen riding

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.


  1. Well, I guess I too am glad you got the fist post-surgery crash behind you with only a few scratches to show for it.

    That bobcat was cool. Tom has seen one, but I never have. Me? I'm the one who runs into mtn lions.

    Well, kudos to you for taking care of that log. People are seriously disrespectful that way.

  2. Glad the crash was minor.

    How awesome to see a bobcat. I think I have told you that I saw one a couple of years ago, but did not get my camera ready in time. He (she?) was beautiful and so incredibly muscular.

    Sigh on the campfire. We have so many wildfires here and it drives me crazy to find campfires and smoldering cigarettes. Is it really that hard?

  3. W-H-A-T? A whole field of Mariposa! Your photos today are breathtaking KB - and I'm glad to hear that K is so much better. The Green Gentian is a beautiful find and the Bobcat a special blessing. Too bad about the campfire - so glad you came upon it, though. I live in fear that a careless person will set a fire behind us - we would be up in smoke in no time!

  4. What a day! First post-surgery crash, cave exploration, bobcat!

    I laughed out loud at your description of R's post-grooming tantrum. What a funny boy.

    Oh, I'm glad you caught that campfire. We had a similar situation two years ago (although the campers "only" left embers) that ended up burning tens of thousands of acres and over 200 homes. The lack of education (and oversight) can have devastating consequences.

    I like your zen riding. I'm going to have to use that on our trails.

  5. How unfortunate about both the fall and the fire, but so glad you were OK.

    We can only imagine the thrill of seeing the bobcat - Mom would have been so scared. She appreciates the flowers much more:)

    Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

  6. I am trying so hard to find the zen moments. I have learned a lot in recent years, but still have far to go.

    Sorry about the spill but glad you are all right. Our dogs don't mind ear cleaning, thank goodness. We clean them three times a week since Goldens have such a high risk of ear problems.

    What a shame about the smoldering log. Such stupidity. I'm glad you came along and were able to make things safe. We are pretty dry again, and I am always so fearful some idiot will start a forest fire.

    The gorgeous meadow and mountains are beautiful to behold.

  7. Another 'WOW' post!

    Great pics - and colours!

    Sorry about the crash AND the 'trash' -

    So sad that so many humans are so thoughtless -

  8. So much, so much... first, hope you are truly okay from that fall - I know how scary that must have been. But then... so much activity - from the awesome to the awful. Cycling and hiking - bees and gorgeous flowers (btw... that poisonous flower looks rather like digitalis..sort of?). And the bobcat... doing his summer thing, finding a territory for himself! But what a nasty camping find you located - I hate reading about that sort of thing and just honor you so much to have not only found it, but extinguished it. I don't like hearing that the Forest Service would possibly be disinterested. Bummer. Thanks so much for showing all the beauty and hugs and kisses to K and R!
    Sammie and sis

  9. I'm glad you were okay after that crash!

    Of course it was a bobcat! I mean, we are still in the Year of the Bobcat, so it'd have to be! I love that way they have of walking!

    It's hard to believe that people are still stupid enough to leave burning fires behind!

  10. Ride on con cuidado... :)
    Can just imagine the bobcat sauntering from the hideout cave. A breathtaking moment to watch the bobcat's movements. Locoweed is truly deadly, no? Does look like digitalis, which we have a lot of here.

    Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
    Sierra Rose

  11. Phew! at least you are ok!

    I feel your pain about the ears! ERRRGH! I am scared of the earwash bottle! But I do enjoy my nails being done cos I get tummy rubs!

  12. The duty roll of the responsible citizen! You must pass on the technique for claw trimming - ear cleaning is one thing but claw trimming elicits noises that don't bear thinking about.

  13. As disgusted as I am too about the messy campers, I'm glad you happened along that campsite when you did. Even with a storm, there is a possibility it might have turned into something completely out of control. You were a blessing to the forest on this ride.

    I love your bee photos, and I had no clue until I read your post that the green gentian has a similar lifespan to the century plant in New Mexico, where I grew up. That was a GREAT piece of trivia!

  14. PS: I forgot to chime in that I, too, am glad your crash left you relatively unscathed. I don't want you missing out on any more rides!


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