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Monday, January 3, 2011

Wild sunrise, wild animals, and wild bike ride

It's becoming our tradition - K and I started the day by hiking up to see the sun rise. Today, we were a tiny bit late, and the sun didn't wait for us.
Another glorious start to a winter day...
After I took K's photo, I looked back to the east and the picture had changed dramatically in the blink of an eye - wild black clouds drifted in front of the sun.
After lingering to enjoy the sunrise, we started hiking upward, through a maze of boulders and pine trees all surrounded by snow. K seemed distracted. Something in the forest that I couldn't perceive had her attention.
When I feel that K or R is focused on something other than me, I always stop and play the eye contact game. Here, K fixed her mesmerizing eyes on me but her ears were pinned back as she monitored sounds behind her.
Within about 50 yards, I discovered what had K's attention. Last night, a mountain lion had traversed the broken meadow and forest yet again.
A closeup of one track showed it to be a smallish mountain lion, again. The size looks about the same as the tracks that I found two days ago and two weeks ago. I'm beginning to think that we have a female mountain lion who has young kittens stashed in our area. Females with kittens hunt a small area with fiendish intensity rather than cruising a huge area of up to 500 square miles like a male mountain lion normally does. That scenario would explain why I'm seeing these smallish tracks on such a regular basis. In the photo below, my chemical handwarmer is in the photo for scale and is 3.5" long.
As we tracked the cat, I discovered one spot that she's passed in each of her recent excursions through our forest. Yes, you guessed correctly - there is now a wildlife camera posted at that spot - it's a saddle on a small ridge where the lion likes to cross the ridge. I hope to get her photo to honor the Year of the Mountain Lion.

Ann from Zoolatry kindly made a fabulous badge denoting the Year of the Mountain Lion. It's in the upper right corner of my sidebar and is free to be copied if you so wish. Thank you for sharing your amazing talents, Ann!

I saw that the lion's tracks headed down a steep hillside and would have taken us on a much longer journey than I'd planned. So, we left the lion's trail and started heading toward home. Once we left the tracks, K relaxed.
And, she enjoyed her ability to gallop through the snow.
I left K at home at the end of our hike, and I headed out on my snowbike. I haven't mentioned it for the past couple of days because the snowbiking has been frustrating, to put it mildly. Ferocious winds hurled our snow into small drifts with a cement-like tough layer on top - a nearly impossible snowbiking situation. I repeatedly got stuck in the cement, unable to pedal strongly enough to break the windpacked snow. The snow was so tough that it held my bike upright all by itself.
Today was different. I'm not sure why - but I could ride again. I pedaled nimbly up to Hug Hill where the skies beamed deep blue. Almost all the snow had been blown off of the peak and eastward toward Kansas.
As I descended via a meadow, I heard the thundering of hooves and looked to the south to see a huge elk herd. As soon as I stopped moving, the elk stopped galloping downhill. Almost all eyes were on me.
As I took photos, the herd started oozing forward again, spreading out into a long line with a few stragglers grazing absent-mindedly behind the moving herd.
The herd constantly moves, never grazing in one meadow for more than a couple of days in a row. An elder female leads the herd from one grazing site to another.

I had an extraordinarily hard ride, encountering sections of deep snow and fierce winds. But then, when I was ready to fall over from exhaustion, I'd hit a section like this one - a beautiful ribbon of trail stretching out westward, reaching for the Divide.
So often, the small battles that I fight in a mountain bike ride mimic real life. If I can slog through the tough parts and keep an optimistic spirit, I usually am rewarded with gleeful riding later. Such is life.


  1. Thinking about the sound of a huge herd of elk thundering down the side of a valley is enough to give me goosebumps! Sounds like you had yet another magical day in the forest.

    K's pinned ears are a familiar sight - I guess it comes with the territory of owning a hypervigilant dog!

  2. The eyes so show us 'stuff' -

    I have a pair of browns on me quite often - wouldn't trade it for the world!

    Glad you enjoyed seeing Conway/Jed - he made Mango's ears ache when his momma squeed - I had actually sent his pic to her as soon as I got notified of the transport -

    Hoping his pal Hugh can come North soon too -

    Now off to snag a pawesome 'khytty' badge for Khyra's blog!

  3. We have our eyes peeled to the west for that snow, but nothing in sight yet:)

    There's that spirit again that inspires us so much - stay optimistic even in the tough times and reap the reward eventually.

    Ann does wonderful work, doesn't she? And it all comes from the heart.

  4. I don't know if you follow Shawnee the Shepherd's blog about hiking, but I thought of you when I read her blog tonight. They saw bear tracks and hiked the other way. I figured if you'd been there, you'd have followed the trail, and here you are tracking mountain lions today! lol

    That is some seriously tough snow! It makes for an impressive picture of the bike, though! Yay for photo ops! :P

  5. Do you think the kittens are spotted young-young, or big-young? That would be amazing to get a picture of the female.

    I sometimes tell Kona to "be my eyes" on the trail. She almost always notices things before me. I have turned on my heels the handful of times a scent has made Kona nervous. I'm not brave enough to investigate =)

    Wow again with the snow bike riding! The next time I get whimpery on a hill I'll think, "KB would do this, on a bike, in concrete snow!"

  6. I agree about Sam and the Elk and then realizing their eyes were on me, would further give me the Willies (or maybe the thrillies!)

    Cheers and hugs,

    Jo and Stella

  7. When I saw the picture of your bike stuck in the snow, I wondered how in the world can she ride through that - but then I read the last paragraph. I agree with your metaphor - we somehow make it through the difficult moments so we can enjoy life's treasures!

    Your pal, Pip

  8. Galloping hooves,,
    I hear them!
    I see what K sees in the distance
    I see your sunrise,,
    I see you climb over obatacles.

    Here come those Elk...!
    thank for the awsome experience.

  9. Bart ALWAYS senses animals on our hikes wwwaaaayyyy before me. Sometimes it's a coyote sometime, like yesterday, 2 labs who ran across our very swollen creek to say 'hi'!

    Love your metaphor. Very true! At least for me...

  10. love the true.
    and i love seeing K bound through the snow!
    snow cement..only good for holding bikes up! and little critters to scamper across...
    seriously cool mnt. lion image on your sidebar!!
    thx for checking out my "other" blog...i will be posting on both of them...(i can't imagine your little body with that much weight, must have been a difficult time)

  11. That orange rock lichen in the second photo shows that you must be blessed with pure, unpolluted air. Long may it last.

  12. What a profound thought in your last statement!
    As always, you haves da bestest fotos evers!

    Oh and I so hope dat snow keeps blowing overs to Kansas furs da Op Pack...hehehe!


  13. OMC and OMD ~ what a beautiful blog and what totally awesome photography. Impressive!
    Glad we've gotten to meet you all... the Zoolatry Girls.

  14. What perfect pictures of the Elk, so amazing.

  15. I think, too, that the tough parts in life only serve to prepare us, so that we can enjoy the good parts that are sure to follow. So often, our eyes are focused straight ahead, and we miss the little things, because we haven't learned to value all that passes in life.

  16. I'd completely forgotten on all the holiday hubbub that the Year of the Bobcat was over. And, so the Year of the Mtn Lion begins. The badge is very pretty.

    I have a meditation card, I guess you'd call it, that I got from the animal communicator we used years ago. It has a woman warrior and both a female and a male lion (the regular kind) on one side, with the word COURAGE above. The other side features this encouragement:

    Take the leap. Your courage will see you through.

    I keep it in my desk, along with a quote from Will Rogers that says, "Even though you are on the right rack, you will get run over if you just sit there."

    I think both are appropriate to the new year.

  17. Amazing first day photo! I love watching SR's attentions on things, and trying to figure out where she is focused. K is so alert!
    Your snowbike standing on its own! The snow didn't look that deep even.
    Ah...the layers and turns of our pursuits, and those that life hands us.

    Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
    Sierra Rose

  18. Can't help but wonder if some of these incredible shots are with your new camera and if you've mastered it this quickly! Love the new badge, and I hope it is an omen for many, many excellent cat photos throughout the year!

  19. Beautiful photos as usual. Are you enjoying the new camera? I hope it's as portable as you wanted.

  20. Hi Y'all,

    Playin' catch up with my readin'.

    My Humans get huge enjoyment out of sunrise and sunset. Momma's favorite is watching sunrise over the ocean.

    In the mountains the sun rises behind our mountain, so we don't really see the sun. However, we can watch it spread across the opposite mountains as it creeps upward and peaks across unseen peaks behind our house.

    Hawk aka BrownDog

  21. I love your final thought. I couldn't agree with you more. The rough patches are always temporary.


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