Photos and text copyright Romping and Rolling in the Rockies 2009-2017.

All photographs and text within this blog are copyrighted.

You may not copy or repost any photos or text without specific permission from the author of this blog. When in doubt, please ask.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The fury of the mountains - a close call

This morning, I found photos of a gorgeous coyote on my wildlife camera. His rusty coat almost glowed in yesterday afternoon's light. In the other photos that the camera captured, he looked chubby, with his belly almost bulging! I think that our coyotes have had an excellent summer, leaving them strong and ready for winter. I've never seen them looking so well fed.

It was a warm Indian Summer morning. During our mountain bike ride, K and I stopped and relaxed in the sunshine. Or, I should really say, that I relaxed in the sunshine. K seemed convinced that something very dangerous lurked behind some pine trees and fixed her stare on it.
K eventually relaxed in the gorgeous grove of aspens, with reddish leaves that went beautifully with K's chocolate coat (in the background of the next photo).
After K had run as far as I could allow her to go, I set off on my own, still in a warm and sunny world. I was dressed for a warm autumn day and had no reserve layers in my backpack. My trail cam caught a photo of me.
I stopped to photograph some autumn colors, rose hips with maroon rose leaves and yellow aspen leaves in the background. I took off my jacket because I was too hot in the sun.
As I rode, I kept tabs on the growing angry bank of clouds over the Divide. The wind came to life and whipped through the aspen trees, creating a storm of yellow leaves flying through the air. At first, the wind was warm but soon it turned frigid.
I started pedaling harder, trying to get home fast. As I amped up my effort, the rain and snow started. I pedaled even harder but there was no way to keep my body temperature from dropping precipitously. As I approached home, I navigated what's usually an easy trail for me but I was becoming clumsy because I was cold all the way to my core. Fortunately, I realized that I was losing my coordination and took precautions. I forced myself to get off my bike and walk the "hard" parts (usually easy for me) to avoid crashing and being in even more serious trouble.

Soon, I felt my mind starting to lose it from being so cold. My brain was swirling in circles as if I had low blood sugar, but I knew that I had plenty of sugar in my system. So, I started talking out loud to myself, growling out jumbles of words like "go girl, you can do it, you can make it home". I yelled some unmentionable words when my fingers started hurting so badly from the cold that I could barely brake. I must have appeared to be a lunatic to anyone who heard me.

I made it home, just barely. My first challenge was opening the door. I couldn't feel my hands to work the key - but, by dumb luck, I eventually (after about 5 minutes of fruitless tries and a temper tantrum) got the door open. By then, I felt like I was on the verge of collapse. I couldn't manipulate my fingers to take off my shoes, helmet or backpack. So, with all those dripping wet outdoor accouterments still on me, I curled up with K on her dog bed, trying to borrow as much body heat as I could. After a little while, her body heat started to work its wonders, and, as soon as I was capable, I dragged myself into the shower and sat in its steaming hot stream.

It was one of my scariest bike rides ever. I've lived in the mountains for a long time, and I should know by now that winter can arrive at any instant in September or October. Instead, I was stupid, stupid, stupid, and I brought no warm clothing. The thermometer read 38 degrees when I arrived home in the rain and snow mix, and I was dressed for the summery sunshine and 50 degrees that had greeted me this morning.

I took this one photo when it started to snow but I wasn't too cold yet. After that, I had far more serious things to worry about. I honestly questioned if I would make it home at various times during my frantic pedaling in the winter weather.
The mountains reminded me of their power today. They'll kill you if you don't respect them.


  1. Mother Nature will always give us a reminder now and then to respect her powers. I'm so glad that this story ended well. It must have been a very frightening experience, one in which you probably were sufficiently angry with yourself to keep talking and keep going. I can almost hear you chanting, "Not this time, Mother Nature...not this time."

  2. wow that is scary and glad that you are ok. The coyotes do look nice and plump which is awesome so that it will give them an easier winter hopefully. We are still sweating down here in Texas

  3. Well KB, I can't tell you how angry I am at you right now. What were you thinking? Shame shame on you.

    OK, that said. I am sooo sooo glad you are ok. I remember a search in your mountains when the weather turned so quickly I too almost died from exposure.

    I remember the same thing about my camera. I took one picture, then realized I was in real trouble and forgot all about the camera. (crazy but to this day I always wish I had taken the time to get some pictures of the snow storm that almost took my life.)

    We have more in common than I like to admit.

    Be safe
    Bert's My Vickie

    PS, this post had my mind just racing with worry. I am having a bit of a hard time relaxing after this.

  4. KB,

    You must be more careful from now on cuz I would be very sad if anything happened to you. :(

    Woofs and Licks,
    Maggie Mae

  5. Bet you didn't have your blue bandana or your light stick either! Please be careful with K's mother and our favorite photographer!

    glad you made it home safely :-)

  6. When we look at that photo of you, we think we do ee some blue on the back of your jacket:)

    You had us very worried too, but we won't reprimand you. We, like Maggie Mae, are very thankful you are OK. Please do be careful.

    Your Kansas Mom - :)

  7. Oh KB, thank goodness you and K are okay.
    Mother Nature was kind this time, and gave you a warning- to not play with her.
    Our Mt Hood is the same way as your wilderness, one moment its nice and the next minute, the fury is unleashed.
    We are happy your okay.

  8. Oh my word more rides for the next 2 days.
    Benny & Lily

  9. Oh dear, KB, now look what you have done! You have caused Benny and Lily to have to punish you! I feel almost sure they do not like to have to do this!

    I read through this blog feeling so scared except that I knew if you wrote it you made it home! Count as a lesson learned!

    The coyotes look beautiful!


  10. What a scary experience. So glad you are home safe and sound and OK. I too have left unprepared because started out nice, or looked nice, and then everything would turn. So glad K was there to take care of you.

  11. Glad you are safe now. Thankful to the Universe for sheltering you just enough to face the challenge.

  12. It's been 38 here but thankfully Celsius not Fahrenheit !

  13. It seems like no matter how many change of seasons I go through, they always manage to take me by surprise at some point (luckily the worst that happens here is a bit of a chill). So glad you made it home OK.

    BTW - never saw such a fat coyote. Must be a great year for rodents.

    Mango Momma

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. I had that happen to me once while jogging and it was scary

  16. Now that is scary! Such a weather change. So glad you did manage to make it home.

    Re your comment: that's a great story about one dog saving the other by pulling it out of the water.

  17. The coyote looks like he's enjoying the warm morning too.

    Whew, glad you made it home okay.


  18. Ohmidogness! This was a very scary post. I'm SO happy you made it home okay. I think it's just super easy to not think abouts things when you're around them a lot. But I bet you never let that happen again. Sometimes we just gotta get reminded.

    Wiggles & Wags,

  19. Thank God for dogs, eh! The "key scenario" rings a bell for me...years ago when I used to live in the city I would bike to work and the very same thing happen to me on a cold winter's fingers couldn't manage the key into the lock to open the store where I frightening. You feel so dumb when these kinds of things happen.

  20. Good heaven, how scary! I'm so glad that you made it home safely! It's crazy how fast the weather can change.

  21. Glad you're O.K.!! You're right about's not very forgiving.

  22. Goodness, I just start reading your blog and you go and try to die on me!

    That being said, I am very glad you are safe. After reading your newer posts, (expecially the one about the mountian lion) I was wondering what you do for protection? You mentioned K, but what other precautions do you take?

    You live an amazing life. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!


  23. I'm so glad you are ok. Definitely a good wake up call for all of us who live and play in the mountains.



If you are a Blogger registered user, you can skip the step asking you to verify that you are not a spammer. For posts older than 5 days, I have comment moderation turned on.

Thanks for your comments!!!!!