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Thursday, March 31, 2011

From the cliff to the valley

After we all climbed to the "Top of the World" and peered down into the valley below, I rode back to our campsite via a scenic route that wended along the base of Entrada cliffs of shiny pink sandstone.
The swooping curves of the cliffs towered over me for the entire ride.
Eventually, after descending into a canyon and climbing out, I recognized the rock formation that our campsite sat beside.
I found a pleasantly tired Duo, sleeping soundly on the hard rock. Notice that we'd placed soft mats out for their comfort. Rather than lie on them, K kicked sand all over them and then curled up on the sun-warmed rock next to her brother.
Soon after I arrived back from my ride, we broke camp and headed toward the valley that we'd gazed into from the Top of the World. That valley is in the sun-bathed middle ground of the photo below, punctuated by spiky tall towers. The snowy La Sal Mountains stand behind the valley.
The hiking path curled through a labyrinth of spires.
We perpetually gazed upward, looking at the amazing sculptures created by 300 million years of erosion. Eons ago, this area was a flat plateau of sedimentary rock but water and wind have scraped away the softer rock, leaving behind the harder rock shaped like ghosts and goblins from the past.
The Duo was allowed to hike with us and enjoyed perching on boulders as we hiked.
We could see clear across the Colorado River. Although we were warm in the sun, a ferocious storm had cut loose across the valley.
We finished our hike close to sunset, and the tops of the towers glowed in the falling sunlight.
Just before finishing the hike, K stood in the setting sun with starkly dramatic rock formations behind her in the distance.
Hiking in the valley that we'd viewed from 2500' higher earlier in the day made the circle complete. The red rock world near the Colorado River in Utah is unlike any other place that I've visited. It's stark, harsh, and sharp, yet it glows with warm beauty.

After our hike, we hightailed it to a campsite that we've visited in the past. We climbed out of the van, and K surveyed the scene. She approved.
Several of you have asked about where we camp. We tend to find out-of-the-way corners, not in campgrounds, where we can relax in peace and quiet. Most of the land that we visited on this trip is administered by the Bureau of Land Management. It can be accessed via 4WD roads, and our Labmobile is a 4WD high-clearance vehicle retrofitted for camping (it's technically known as a "Sportsmobile"). It's sitting in a typical campsite below with my trusty bike leaned against it.
To me, the sight of our white van sitting in a quiet campsite is nirvana. I do sometimes wish that we could still camp in a tent - but my spine has deteriorated to the point that it needs the "real bed" in the van. And, the Duo LOVES the Labmobile. As soon as the sun sets or hides behind clouds, they start demanding to curl up in the sleeping bags in the Labmobile. I think that you can see where the van's nickname originated!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Top of the world

For some reason that I don't even vaguely understand, our internet suddenly crawled to life today after about ten days of sleeping. The repairman is due later in the week and will hopefully figure out this mystery. For the moment, I'm typing on an ancient computer after just being informed that my usual computer needs a lobotomy or to be replaced.

While all our technology went on the fritz, we took a trip toward springtime. We headed west, over the endlessly snowy Continental Divide, and downhill toward the western part of the state. Our first stop was near Fruita, Colorado, where we enjoyed a day before heading further west.

We camped with an incredible view of the Colorado River and the reddish cliffs lining it.
The river is a haven for wildlife, particularly migrating birds. Near the river, we spotted numerous bluebirds. I captured a male showing off his flying skills for a gawking female.
I rode my mountain  bike on the gloriously snow-free and dry trails. I started our day near Fruita by riding with K. Although we weren't out early, we didn't see another person during our entire ride. I took it very easy on her because it was her first run on hard ground since her toe amputation. In the photo below, I'd decided that it was time for us to turn around and K looked appalled! The theme for the trip was that K's spunk, happiness, strength, and speed surprised me daily.
On our short foray, K and I spotted a few early blooming flowers. Woo! Spring!

Later in the day, I headed out for a longer ride solo, following a trail that teetered on the edge of an undulating wall of cliffs. In the photo below, my immediate path is in the foreground but the trail turned and followed the lip of the pinkish cliffs visible in the distance.
I stayed back from the edge because vertical exposure isn't one of my favorite things and it was windy. However, I loved swooping along following the erosion lines of the Colorado River's canyon.

Back in camp, I played with the Duo, taking photos of them on what appears to be a scary promontory but fell off by only about 3 feet behind them.
I had to take a photo of K's fabulous paws. I absolutely cannot believe how lucky I am to be riding with her again. When we decided to have her toe amputated, I believed, based on the vets' predictions,  that it might mean the end of our mountain biking days. We lucked out, and we seem to have an incredible reprieve!
R stood in the same spot, barely containing his urge to scurry away and find out what kind of bird was rustling in the juniper trees.
Early the next morning, the ever-intrepid Runner suggested that I do a point-to-point trail ride and meet him a couple of exits west on the interstate. We studied the map, and it looked like the route would be easy to find. Ha!

I didn't follow the biggest trail in the area, the Kokopelli Trail, because it was a boring double-track in that section, Instead, I followed rim trails that paralleled the river and then needed to find a route up a headwall away from the snaking river to meet the Runner. That last step turned out to be a challenge. Fortunately, I decided to ignore the details of my map and follow my instinct after exploring and rejecting almost every option for going up the headwall. In the end, after some serious worrying that I was lost, I found the Labmobile only slightly later than expected. I hopped aboard, and we headed further west along the Colorado River.

I started wondering why I keep challenging my shaky navigational abilities with these solo point-to-point rides in unknown territory. The only answer that I could muster was that I like adventure and facing my weaknesses - and navigation is a huge weakness of mine. Without fear, we never get to exercise our bravery. As I feverishly pedaled that day feeling adrenaline coursing through my veins, I realized that K has to be brave every single day because mundane aspects of life scare her. For example, she's terrified of the steps down to our basement but she must navigate them to go for a mountain bike ride with me. So, each morning, she musters the courage to descend them, literally one step at a time with a pause on each one before reaching her toes down to the next one.

After driving into Utah, we camped near the top of a canyon with slick pink rock cliffs lining it. Being surrounded by towering cliffs sculpted by water and wind was awe-inspiring. Our campsite was secluded and quiet. Just perfect.
It rained shortly after we arrived and for much of the night. When we emerged in the morning, we could see fresh snow on cliffs that weren't much higher than we were.

Our foursome headed for a climb to the "Top of the World". It's the sort of terrain where a runner and a biker can travel together because a mountain biker is certainly not faster than a good runner and is sometimes slower.

After climbing rough rocks up an unrelenting steep pitch, we arrived at the top of the world. My bike is afraid of cliffs so it waited a good distance from the edge while we and the leashed dogs cautiously surveyed the valley that sat thousands of feet below us.
This was not the Grand Canyon but it seemed deep enough to me! It also was utterly devoid of other people - so we had solitude that we'd be hard pressed to find in a National Park.
It's an oddity that K did not seem afraid of the cliff but she's terrified of our steps in our house!
We lingered a long time at the top, enjoying the views and the quiet. We live in an amazingly beautiful world.

To make our day complete, we later took a sunset hike in the same valley as we'd peered down at from the "Top of the World". I'll tell you more about that tomorrow or whenever my internet connection decides to cooperate again. I'm hoping that it continues to cooperate for long enough for me to visit some of your blogs!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A quick update

I'm still plugging along here in the Rockies trying to get a functional computer and internet connection. I'm presently at the public library throwing together a very quick update.

While repairs were presumably underway, we decided to take a jaunt west to the desert of Western Colorado and Utah. Here a few photos to show you the incredibly early spring beauty that we found.

K's "new paw" was amazingly resilient. She frolicked like a puppy in the sand and on the slickrock.
Don't worry. R was leashed for that last photo. The cliff behind him falls off 2500'!

I'm afraid that it will still be a wait until I can be back online regularly. I hope that it won't be too long but I have no real prediction. I wish that I could visit your blogs but that will have to wait.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Internet hiatus

This is a quick post to say that my computer broke and my internet antenna isn't working so I don't know when I'll be able to post again. Please don't be concerned if my blog goes silent for a while.

I couldn't upload any photos due to all my technological difficulties but it snowed last night, and the world looked as gorgeous as it did after a spring snow last year, as shown in the photo below.
We'll be back! Take care, everyone!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day and Bobcats!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! It's one of my favorite holidays. I've had chocolate labs in my life for 25 St. Patty's Days and counting! K and I warmed each other during sunrise this morning.
The sunrise, blue sky, singing birds, drumming woodpeckers, and touches of green on the ground had my spirits soaring this morning. K sparkled in the morning sun as she surveyed the meadows.

After K came down from her boulder, we rode through a meadow and almost crossed paths with the elk herd who had been hidden behind rocky outcroppings. It was a big herd who seemed indecisive about which way to go. They'd decided on southwest when I took this photo. It shows only about half of the herd.
K has had tons of experience with encountering elk herds when she's off-leash. Because I've called her to me every single time we've seen the elk, I no longer have to call. Spotting the elk is her cue to come to me and then to maintain eye contact. She hovered near my studded bike tire while the herd passed, eyes pinned on mine but her nose twitched as she sampled the elk scent. I rewarded her lavishly!
I've been asked several times about K's bell. She wears it for two reasons. First, when I'm mountain biking, I can keep track of her by the sound of her bell. She prefers to run to my right and slightly behind me, and, due to my neck fusion, I can no longer swivel my head to check that she's in position. The bell has solved that problem because I can hear her. The bell also forewarns wildlife that we're in the area. The unexpected thing is that we seem to "surprise" a lot of animals despite the jangling bell so I'm not certain how well it works. It's not an "official bear bell" but rather a bell that our local hardware store started carrying after wildlife officials suggested that bells on dogs might reduce dog-mountain lion encounters.

I especially like that the dogs wear bells when we're out at dawn or dusk because that's a time of intense wildlife activity.
Last night, the deer continued their return to our forest. This doe stared at my camera for about three minutes - and my wildlife camera snapped about a zillion photos. She stuck her tongue out for this photo, which is why I chose it.
My friend, Joanie De Bever, spotted a pair of bobcats outside her house a couple of days ago and took three photos in quick succession. Seeing multiple bobcats together is extremely rare, as many of you know. I can think of three situations where they would be together: 1) if two competing cats meet and are having a territorial spat, 2) if a mother has kitten(s) younger than a year or so old, 3) if a male and female are courting.

In the photos shown below that Joanie kindly gave me permission to use, it seems like the two bobcats were moving in parallel and working together. Neither has an 'angry posture' or facial expression. The only hint of either of them being upset is that the closer bobcat's ears are pinned back in the first photo and the other bobcat seems to be staring stonily toward his cohort in all three photos. However, Joanie says that they didn't seem antagonistic toward each other and walked away together.

Neither cat looks obviously younger than the other although it's conceivable that one is an almost-adult kitten. It seems most likely to me that they were a male and female courting.
I was so excited to see those bobcat photos! Wow.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Not quite wordless Wednesday

6The beauty around me makes me smile even when my neck hurts. Here are my favorite images from the past two days. Spring has taken hold, at least for a brief time.

Sun crests the ridge

Downward dog in rising sunlight

We rode to the top of Hug Hill for the first time in months!

A glittery vision

Forerunners... Do you see why our skies are often called "bluebird skies"?

Fuzzy spiral

Yes, there was an easy way to run to me... but R didn't choose it.

Labraduo silhouette against stormy sky

Deer are returning to our melting forest