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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Snowbiking on moose trails

The sun's path is shifting northward at an accelerating rate. On December 21, the sun rose 30 degrees south of east. Now it's only 15 degrees south of east. Today, the sun crested the eastern hills in a dramatically different spot than on the solstice. If you look at the photo below, it peeked over that hillside to the right of the two peaks back on December 21.
As the sun rose, the wind howled, tilting the world slightly off axis. K despises the wind, as you can tell by her forlorn expression.
It wasn't until we reached a slightly protected spot that she looked like she was relaxed and happy.
We practiced some recalls, and her habit of quickly licking her nose as she ran toward me was very pronounced. Dog behaviorists say that this is a "calming signal". In this case, she may be trying reassure me that she means no harm even though she's running directly at me. In the dog world, running directly at another dog is aggressive and rude. If you watch two well-socialized off-leash dogs approach each other, they sort of curve toward each other, never looking straight at each other or moving in a straight line toward the face of the other. A good recall to a human requires that the dog learn to break that canine good manners rule.
K and I did just a short ride this morning because so little of our trail system is navigable by bike yet. However, I noticed some animal tracks for the first time since the deep freeze and snow that we had recently. I checked one wildlife camera near the tracks, and I had photos! In the summer, I get photos all the time but it's a big deal in the winter.

The first photo was a cute rabbit with a notch taken out of his left ear. I think that this mountain cottontail had a close call at some point in his life.
Next, a group of mule deer moved through. A doe came closest to the camera.
After K and I had our time together in the forest, I headed back to the trail network where I had so much fun snowbiking yesterday. It did not disappoint. I found a well-packed route up a 4wd road that I never mountain bike in the summer because it's covered in bowling ball sized loose rocks. Three feet of snow fixed that problem, and I zipped up it easily.
I passed through myriad aspen groves, including one with towering trees. Due to having so many sections of my neck fused, I cannot look straight up. I took this photo blindly so I could find out what the canopy looked like, and I discovered that it was beautiful!

After pedaling uphill for a long time, I turned around and enjoyed the fruits of my labor, flying down the hillside with as much abandon as I could muster. If I could change one thing about my spine situation, it would that I would relearn to let my bike fly downhill! I miss it but I'm too afraid of injury to really let loose. Nonetheless, I enjoyed rocketing down in a quarter of the time that it took me to climb the hill.

On my approach to the nearest road, I saw huge pock marks on the trail. At first, I thought - "Who would ride their horse in conditions like this?". Then, I looked more closely. Our burgeoning moose population has discovered the ease of walking on well-packed human trails. In the photo below, you can see the two-toed track with two dew claws in the back. My foot is for scale. Believe it or not, this moose took steps that were about a meter long!
Moose were introduced to Colorado, west of the Divide, about 30 years ago. The population started with two dozen individuals and has grown to about 1000. They've flourished and migrated over the Continental Divide. When they first crossed the Divide, they stayed fairly high, close to the mountain peaks. They seem to be gradually expanding their range further to the east. You might remember my disbelief when I captured video of a moose near my house last summer. That was a first!

I also saw what might have been mountain lion tracks near the moose tracks. I'm guessing that a lion could kill a young moose but might have trouble with full-sized ones. There certainly were no tracks of deer or elk up the snowbound land where I rode my bike today so moose might be the main thing on that lion's menu. Surprising... but it's most likely that the lion was just passing through.

I'll leave you with our handsome black lab taking a snow wriggle in total ecstasy!


  1. Bahahaa, R looked like he's asking you to join him.


  2. K, we HATE wind, too. We live at the end of a canyon that runs from the desert to the San Fernando Valley. During certain times of the year when the desert is much colder than the valley we get major winds. Even the Santana winds are very strong where we live. They scare us!

    -Gizmo, Bart and Ruby

  3. I don't think it's possible to look at R and not smile! K, it must have been windy -- it looks like it was about to blow your nose off in that first picture. I'm no fan of the wind, either.

    The few moose that I've seen seem like they'd be a pretty tough take down for a mountain lion. Those things are huge! Still, it's so cool to hear about them doing so well in your area.

    I can never get over how blue the sky looks in your pictures!

  4. We had 45 degree weather today! Plant the bananas! Whee!

    BUT the problem now is the foot of my driveway is a LAKE and getting over it is going to be some fun.I will have to get out with my scoop shovel tomorrow and see if I can get rid of some of it. Oh winter just gets funner and funner as it goes along.

    Moose are not infrequent visitors here. They are not nice either.

    Cheers and hugs,

    Jo and Stella

  5. Great pictures of the sun.It must be so nice waking up to that beautiful wildlife and all that nature right in your back yard
    Benny & Lily

  6. Through my eyes
    I look at the naked aspens
    soon buds will appear

    through my eyes
    I see the fluffy snow
    soon the whiteness will diappear

    I see that cold wind
    as it turn its tail to run
    and a warm breeze
    settle through the naked aspens
    that is what i see.
    Your photos and world are beautiful, but it makes me dream
    of tomorrow.

  7. Oh R, you make me smile so :)
    Moose are exciting to have near. Please be careful, though - Mainers has a great number of scary encounters with them each year. Still very exciting, though - I didn't know they were introduced there only recently. Any wolves your way? I imagine top level predators might need to balance out things a bit...

  8. Hey there KB
    It's always wonderful to visit your blog - not only for the amazingly beautiful pictures, but because I ALWAYS learn something from you. Thank you!
    It's so nice to see that your riding is going so well too...almost as if your neck problems have disappeared.(although I know that's not quite true) Time to rejoice perhaps?
    Sending lots and lotsaluv from
    Your friends in South Africa

  9. My dog hates the wind also. He must get it from me :). LOL.

  10. I'm sure there's a photo somewhere on the site of the sun coming up straight between the two peaks. Something remembered at the time but not commented on. I'll need to pay better attention.

  11. Hi Y'all,

    I've never seen a dog with such an expressive face as K!

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  12. Oh R! Roach on my friend :)
    You captured a fantastic aspen canopy shot! A mysticaly grove for a ride.
    Will have to observe SR more closely as she bolts towards me to see if there is a toungue out for licks. I often wonder if she is going to put on the brakes, as she is quite direct, but she does.
    Enjoy the day :)

    Sweet hugs,
    Sierra Rose

  13. It's been really windy here too... I won't even stay outside to play when it gets bad! I just run inside and snuggle on the couch :o)

  14. Moose? You have moose, too? Now I have moose envy! Those prints are huge and I can't imagine even a mountain lion bringing down a full grown, healthy moose.

    I never knew that licking the nose was a calming signal either. I'll have to watch my friend's dogs, the next time I see them.

  15. That K is such a charmer!!! That personality sure shines through your pictures!!!

    Thanks for the share.

    God bless and have a beautiful day!!!

  16. Such a blue sky day! I love the aspen grove shots. "My" moose have been keeping a low profile. Their early winter track is now too drifted with snow. I am not going to tell Lucinda about your rabbit's ear - no use agitating her...

  17. That snooter in shot #2 is hilarious - looks all twisted awry:) And the snow wriggle is delightful - oh to be able to enjoy life like a pup!

    Miserable fog here today - zero visibility for a few hours:( followed by the unveiling of almost no snow. Now our area just looks dirty, nothing like the splendor of yours.

  18. No surprise here. I love the last photo.

    Mango Momma

  19. I'm getting purty darn tired of da wind myself...even though I do look good withs da wind blown look.

    Verry interesting bouts da dogs running towards each other at a curve...I nevers knew dat. Good to knows. I always leave here withs more knowledge.

    hehehehe...I loves R rolling in da snow.


  20. We hope the aspen canopy shot thrilled you as much as us! K and R can always be counted on to bring a smile...and nature's beauty as you capture it stills the "noise" and breathes serenity. Thanks for the re-balance.

  21. We've just started practicing recall with Zoe at obedience class and at home. She's doing pretty good, and is getting more relaxed in the room full of doggy classmates. I hope all is well with you and your pack. Stay warm out there! P.S. I love the photo of the canopy.

  22. I did not remember your moose video, but proof I saw it is right there on the post!!! Still as fun to watch now as back then!

    I think your rabbit is related to mine! "Pierce" has a bite taken out of the same ear!


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