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.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

An Otherworldly Campsite

Our next campsite was next to incredible rock mesas with deep lush canyons between them.
Next to the cliffs, the world is a jumble of humungous boulders. Some were so big that we used them for shade during the day.
And we played on them around sunset when the sun's warmth was a welcome feeling. It was wonderful to see how comfortable Shyla has become with our camping routine and settling into each new campsite. None of this was easy for her at the start of her time with us. It's still not easy for her to meet new people but she's generally very confident when she's with our pack.
This campsite was in an incredible area where I love riding my bike. I'll show you more of the rock sculptures that Shyla and I visited during our mountain bike rides in the coming days.
Happy Saturday!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Desert Beauties

I love the colorful Collared Lizards that live in the desert. I remembered where I'd seen a pair at this time last year so I made that my bike ride destination one day. Believe it or not, a male and female Collared Lizard pair was in that spot!

The male is more blue than the female. This guy was pretty shy and hid soon after I arrived. Both of them were big, perhaps about 10" long, including their tails.
To my surprise, the female seemed curious about me. She kept walking so close to my feet that I couldn't even focus my camera on her at times.
Finally, she perched on some rocks near me to keep an eye on me.
She really did keep track of me.
It was fun to see her so closeup. You can see her nostrils, her ear holes, and the details around her eyes that almost look like eyelashes.
Apparently, this species is among the longest lived wild lizard species. They don't reproduce until they're 2-3 years old, and then they produce two clutches of eggs each year. I'm guessing that this male-female pair was together at the same time and same place as last year for a reason!
Finally, I feared that I was stressing out the female so I took off to finish my ride, leaving her on her rocky perch.

That was our last full day at K's Rock, playing around in the sunshine. Do you see the Runner peeking at me from the top of K's Rock? Apparently, it's a fairly easy scramble to get to the top when you start from the other side... but even easy scrambling was too much for my spine so I stayed on the ground.
In fact, I get scared when the Runner is up there so I distract myself by looking at other things like flowers. A Prickly Pear cactus...
And, taking pictures of our canines is another good distraction.
That evening, the clouds rolled in, looking very threatening but it didn't rain.
We gave thanks for a wonderful time in this familiar and gorgeous spot as we mentally prepared to leave the next day.
It was a peaceful and healing stay at K's Rock but it was time to move along to a new place in the desert. My back was feeling substantially better after our days of lazing around in this idyllic campsite.
We'll be back at K's Rock after the summer!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Many Faces of the Desert

We spent a lot of time relaxing around our campsites during our trip to Utah, which meant that I played with my camera a lot. It's so nice to move more slowly than usual!

The desert flowers were glorious, thriving under more rainfall than they've had in years. Their colors lit up the desert, along with the red rock and the blue skies.

As I tried to take it easy around camp, the dogs also served as my photo models. R generally doesn't love being a model, except if he sees his sister being photographed. Then, he gets jealous of the attention she's getting, and he becomes an enthusiastic model!
I loved this graceful pose that Shyla did as she looked to the heavens.
One of the health problems I was trying to overcome by taking a break was a horrendous exacerbation of my chronic spine pain. Because I've battled a congenital spine problem since I was a teenager, I know that total rest does not work for my spine. When my spine pain first hit years ago, I was told to "bed rest", which caused my pain to escalate to dizzying heights. I gradually learned that gentle movement, especially easy bike riding, is what helps me most.

So, over our trip, I rode my mountain bike despite the spine pain, usually spinning the pedals easily on relatively smooth surfaces (getting on the bike was the hardest part). However, if you know me, you won't be surprised to hear that I "cheated" on a few days. On one of those days, I rode to a lookout point that I love, a cliff that requires about 2000' of steep and very rocky climbing to get to it. At the top, you can peer over the cliff's edge down several thousand feet into the deep desert. I adore this spot so much that I'll endure serious back spasms to get there.
No one else was nearby so I could soak up the views that included nearby snowy mountains. The juxtaposition of the arid desert and the snowy mountains always boggles my mind.
I love this spot so much that I "cheated" again a few days later, and I rode to it with Shyla. I leashed her well before we got close to the cliff, and we sat and gazed at the amazing world. Actually, I "gazed" and she "sniffed". I had the impression that scents from all over the west were wafting past our spot.
These two tougher rides certainly helped my spirits even if they slowed my back's healing. I'm about 80% back to "normal" now in terms of spine pain, and I'm guessing that I've dodged this crisis. I truly thought that surgery might be needed because I was incapable of standing up straight or walking normally at the start of the crisis a few weeks ago. Now, I feel pretty sure that my body will heal without drastic intervention if I'm patient.

Being out in such a peaceful place with my pack certainly helped!
I adore the west. I'll never leave the wide open spaces out here - I am sure of that.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: The Desert Edition

Only 6' off the ground - an optical illusion

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Springtime Bears and Milton's Return!

When we left Colorado to head for the Utah desert, it had just snowed almost 2 feet at home, and we were seeking warm sunshine. We found a blooming desert. This is just one of many blossoms brightening up the desert floor.
We didn't have access to much media so we simply immersed ourselves in camp life, moving slowly, enjoying sunsets, and resting.
I plan to tell you more about our trip but first, I want to tell you about what was happening at home with our wildlife.

While we camped in Utah, we didn't know that Spring was taking over at home. For me, the biggest sign of Spring is the activity of the Black Bears. Mating season usually starts around now, and the mature adult bears are now walking the bear paths, starting to look for mates.

Long time readers might remember that a male bear with a white blaze on his chest, who I dubbed "Milton", dominated our scene for years. Then, last year in the Spring, he hurt a front paw badly. He tried hobbling around to mark trees and find mates for a brief time at the start of mating season. Then, he disappeared. I feared the worst.

When we returned from the desert, I was greeted with video footage from a trail camera that made me smile ear-to-ear. There were three clips of males marking one of the most heavily used trees in the area. The last two clips in the video are definitely Milton!!!! And he looks good. You can watch the video here or at Youtube.

You might think that Milton looked stiff as he walked away from the bear tree but that "cowboy walk" is actually part of the marking behavior. Bears stomp their feet into indented spots in the ground when they are marking territory. The tree shown in the video above has been marked by so many bears that it's possible to see the indents in the ground where the bears "stomp" as they walk away from it.

There is one hitch in the story. Last year, when Milton disappeared, a bigger male bear who I dubbed "Tiny" started patrolling Milton's old territory. Tiny has arrived on this mating trail too. I'm not sure if or how they will co-exist. However, I do know that there are plenty of available females this year so perhaps it will be okay for both of them to patrol the same area.

This is Tiny at a different tree. Tiny is more brown than Milton, and Tiny doesn't have a big white blaze on his chest.
Tiny's marking on this tree went on and on and on. You can see that he broke off a branch between the two photos. The poor trees that are marked are often mangled and stunted from all the abuse they receive from bears!
So, while we were in Utah, my favorite animals were starting their annual displays leading up to mating season. I think that June may be my favorite month of the year due to the bear antics!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Giving Thanks

To me, it feels like a day for a peaceful post. We went to the desert partly seeking peace, calm, and quiet - after a rough winter. On our first evening, we saw a gorgeous moonrise over a silent world of red rock shaped into castle-like shapes.
Later, as darkness fell over the place that we call K's Rock, the world was silent. The full moon made nighttime unbelievably bright - so bright that very few stars can be seen.
We call this K's Rock because we discovered this camping spot on her last trip to the desert two years ago. Indeed, her last day in the desert was spent in our camp at this quiet and beautiful oasis.
K has departed our Earth now but the world still spins on its axis and the stars make their own art. The full moon illuminated K's rock but made it possible to see only the brightest stars.
K's little brother, R, gave thanks that we were here. Just above my watermark in the photo, you can see a faint "K" that I etched into the stone on K's last day in the desert. She and I sat on that very rock on that heart-wrenching day. It was a day when I said one of the many goodbyes uttered in those last few months.
And Shyla gave thanks too. I feel as if Shyla was picked for us by K looking down from heaven. Shyla is the essence of love, and I'm so grateful for her.
And, I gave thanks for this beautiful world and for the wide open spaces of the deserts and mountains of our country. On this day in particular, I am thankful for all of those who have fought to let us have the freedom to roam our awe-inspiring country.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

From Snow to Sun

I saw all of this in one day recently. My morning bike ride on a dirt road because there was too much snow for trail riding...
Then, some driving to where the sun was warm enough for basking. By sunset, winter garb was no longer needed....
And we watched the fiery sunset over the desert.
Good night...
I think the warmth and relaxation helped me make progress toward healing. It also brought lots of fun and smiles to our pack. I am going to gradually get back in the swing of things now, hoping that the healing continues.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Dog Bells and Bears

Many of you have commented in the past about the bells on our dogs' collars. We first started having our dogs wear bells after Puppy K met a bear. And, she chased the bear out of the forest directly toward us. Fortunately, the bear veered away from us, and K didn't. So, the incident ended there. However, we decided that it would be kind to the wildlife to have our dogs wear bells that would warn all the animals, not just the bears, that we were moving in their direction.
The bear action around here gets pretty intense in the summer. It's just starting to heat up now. Here's a series of photos that made me smile.

First, a youngish bear sniffed a bear tree. This bear might be "Socks", the young bear who we followed 3 years ago after "seeing" her be driven off by her mother at the start of mating season (via trail camera). She literally walked in circles for days on end, passing my trails cameras repeatedly. Then, she disappeared for most of her first summer on her own. We saw her again last summer, and her dark legs ("socks") were fading. I suspect that this is the same bear, whose legs are getting more cinnamon every year (I would bet that Cinnamom is her mother!).
After sniffing the tree that other bears have marked in past years, she decided to do a dance, a tree-marking!!! I love seeing this. Look at how she pulled down a higher branch to rub on her head, so her scent would be on more of the tree!
After marking the tree, she sniffed the rock. You can see her face looks a little mottled - as if she's lost some fur from it. It's quite common for bears to get a mild case of mange while hibernating because their immune systems are not as active as usual. Apparently, their bodies win the battle with the mange soon after they become active in the spring.
Then, she departed.
Just 15 minutes later, another young bear arrived at the same tree. S/he stood up to sniff the scent left by Socks. This bear's coat looks gorgeous!
After sniffing, he put his nose to the ground and started following Socks, as you can see in the next photo.
About ten minutes later, he came running back at top speed. He's in a full gallop in this photo. I suspect that Socks wasn't happy to see him and drove him away.
As you'll see in the future, these two bears are small compared to the ones who will be marking these trees when mating season begins in earnest. Soon, the mature bears will be on this trail, trying to find each other for mating season.

I'm glad our dogs wear bells now. We've never had another encounter like Puppy K's bear chase since we started having our dogs wear bells! I think it's good for our dogs, preventing them from getting hurt. But, it's also good for the bears - because our dogs could cause harm to a cub (like causing him to fall while trying to climb a tree to escape them), especially in the early part of the summer.