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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Snow biking with Shyla and our elk herd

Our old friend, the wind, has returned, and Shyla's ears flapped in the "strong breeze" this morning.
I said recently that she didn't seem afraid of the wind. Well, I need to revise that. Something had her uneasy this morning at sunrise, and it might have been the wind. Here's another ear position. Based on her eyes, I didn't think that she looked thrilled with the cold wind.
We took a shorter than usual hike because it was a big day. It was the day that Shyla went snowbiking with me for the very first time. We went only a half mile, to test out her leg. To be honest, I don't think that snowbiking is any more stressful on her body than zooming in circles around me as I hike. Snowbiking is slow because it's so hard to propel huge tires through snow... and Shyla tends to follow the bike closely.

It was a great first ride, and her gait still looked perfect after it (no limp). We'll stick with very short rides for a while, as she continues to rebuild the strength in that bone. On the vet front, she does have one more x-ray ahead of her, to make sure that the unusual "lesion" that we've been following is continuing to resolve, like a fracture rather than something more insidious like an infection or cancer. I feel very confident that the x-ray will be fine because I can feel that the lump on her bone has shrunk to be a fraction of its original size.

This is my fifth winter of snowbiking on my Fatback snow bike with very wide tires (4").
Most places near us, the snow cover is much thicker than atop Hug Hill (photo above), where snow gets melted and blown away very fast. However, this is, by a huge measure, the best year for snowbiking so far. We had a couple of substantial storms before Christmas, and then we had beautiful weather over the holidays. Tons of people went out walking on the trails, packing them down beautifully for snow biking.

Today was the first day that I ventured very far on my bike since my pneumonia, and I found endless trails to ride. That is a very different situation from most years, when the majority of trails are blocked by huge snow drifts and are truly impassable in January.

I get to see our elk almost every day when I ride my snowbike but they're usually pretty far away from me. One of you asked about how the elk deal with fences. Fences seem to cause them some consternation. In the photo below, the majority of the herd was on the side of the fence closer to me. A few lagging elk were pacing along the fence line searching for a good place to cross it and regain the safety of the herd.
Here's the leading part of the herd, not looking back at the elk having trouble with the fence.
In the center of the photo below in the midst of the lagging elk, you can see that one of the bigger laggards was taking the leap over the barbed wire. As I watch them make these leaps, I imagine that the elk sustain quite a few barbed wire injuries while trying to get across fences. The fences seem toughest for the calves, who are so much smaller than the adults.
Today, the herd was even closer to my house. I used a very fancy lens and extender that a generous friend loaned me to take photos from more than a hundred yards away.
Some of the herd was resting, lounging in the snowy meadow. Magpies were fluttering around them, landing on their backs. This photo was from very very far away (and isn't in perfect focus) but you can see a magpie sitting on an elk's back. The elk didn't mind. It's a symbiotic relationship. The magpies eat the parasitic bugs that live in elk fur, which is an advantage to the birds and the elk!
It is so fun to be able to watch the elk throughout the winter! And, I am thrilled that, after months of patience, Shyla and I had our first snow bike ride together today!


  1. Hi there, So glad that you were both able to get out and that Shyla is learning so quickly. Hunter isn't quite as fast a learner. The weather here today was cool but warmed up to almost 50; however the mountains looked covered in mist. Our snow is all but gone; I'm happy about that. Saw your calendar-wow, I am so impressed!
    Hugs tonight.

  2. Your pictures of the elk remind me of my visit to CO in 2011...I searched and searched for them, and saw a small herd at a very far distance. Then when I was visiting the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, suddenly there was a herd in the parking lot, and I was sitting in the car less than 30 feet from them. It was amazing!

  3. Oh... what *wonderful* commentary & even MORE *wonderful* pictures!! They simply take my breath away!! Thank you for blogging so that all of us readers can bike along with you... on the easier side of things. *lol*


  4. I know you've been waiting to snow bike with Shyla and I'm so happy for you that the day is finally here!

    The elk herd seems so huge. It must be quite a sight to see them all at once!

  5. Glad you and your girl got out with the bike. I can tell she is going to LOVE doing that.

  6. I know how eagerly you've been waiting for that bike ride with Shlya!
    Beautiful pictures! Love seeing all the elk

  7. So glad that you two had your first snow bike ride. I love the elk pictures too. Thanks for sharing.


  8. You and Shyla just keep growing closer as you explore your world together. It must be a thrill to experience bike riding and watching the Elk from her innocent perspective!

    KB, the money back guarantee makes trying the Thundershirt much more attractive in fact we went today but they were out of his size (more by Friday). So we are going to try and see. thanks for your very valuable feedback.

  9. Watching the Elk must be really neat! Your worries about the barbed wire remind me of a Ranger Rick magazine I read years and years ago, talking about barbed wire and prong horn antelopes. In the story, the bottom wire didn't have any barbs on it, so the antelopes could go under....I wonder if anybody still does this (or if they actually did it)?

    That snow bike looks pretty righteous!

  10. Woof! Woof! I LOVE if there's a WIND. LOVE the idea of the warmers on the bike handles. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

  11. So glad the bike ride went so well. And that Shyla's leg is doing better. Hope the x-rays are all good news for you.

  12. We love the picture of your butterfly ears, Shyla and we are so happy that you're now snowbiking with your mom!
    The elk are just so beautiful!

    Love ya lots,
    Mitch and Molly

  13. We just knew that Shyla was going to be an excellent biking buddy. We're so happy that her leg is doing better so that she is able to run becide you.

    Those elk are amazing! Some of us will never get to see something as beautiful as that in our lifetime.


  14. beautiful elk. That snow biking looks like fun, hard, but fun.

  15. What a great outdoorsy life you lead!

  16. Be careful and take been ill and have to be well now. Shyla need her Mom healthy for all the hikes you will do,

  17. Wow those Elk are such a sight! I'm sure you an Shyla had a great time Elk watching :)

  18. I'm ever so glad that both of you are well enough for a snow-bike trip. And I am fascinated by the elk herd.

  19. Glad you were able to snow bike. The elk pictures are amazing!

  20. Hip hip hooray for your first snowbike ride of the year, and woohoo for Shyla doing well with it!

    We don't get too many elk in our neck of the foothills, but when we do, it's fun to just watch them. Well, and listen September-November...

  21. That's great that you both got out on the snow bike! Just be sure and take it easy and don't over do it! Ours can understand Shyla's dislike of the wind, with their upright ears, the cold wind can be annoying.


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