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Monday, June 30, 2014

Alpine Adventure

It's truly summer. Shyla and I had our first adventure of the year above treeline today.
I can't wait to tell you more about it tomorrow!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Silhouette Sunday

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Wonderful Summer Day

After my little meltdown yesterday about the abuse of our forest, I had a great day today. The area where I ride my mountain bike with Shyla is almost never visited by anyone but us and our neighbors so most of our rides are in solitude.

Shyla and I headed up high, first thing this morning. It was chilly and windy at our elevation, and we saw fresh snow under a blanket of clouds on the highest peaks of the Continental Divide.
I felt free and relaxed so we lingered in our favorite spot and played fetch for a while. Don't worry - it's really not steep on where I was throwing her toy.
On top of Hug Hill, there's a lone tall flower, called a "Wall Flower", that's been blooming for the past ten days or so. I noticed that the wind was stripping off its petals so I wanted one more photo of Shyla with it. It's been stunningly beautiful this year.
I have to admit that the small signs of the passing of summer make me a tiny bit sad. On days like today, I'd love to have time stand still.

But, there are still Columbines waiting to bloom and lots of summer days ahead of us. This barely open flower/bud was in my garden this morning. I've never had much talent for growing plants but Columbines seem to be an exception. My garden's Columbines are taking off, with dozens of blossoms open right now.

After I left Shyla at home at the end of our ride, I went to check a trail camera that is on a heavily used animal corridor (a place where I never take Shyla). The bear traffic, in general, is waning because bear mating season is winding down.

However, our female yearling cub visited a bear tree. The "bear tree" is really just the remainder of a small pine sapling that the bears have rubbed almost to death over many years. It has a few small branches sticking out from a 4' tall trunk. But, it also has lots of bear fur stuck to its slender trunk.

Our yearling, who the Runner dubbed "Molly", sniffed the tree to find out which bears have been nearby.
I don't think that her mother, Cinnamom, has been to this tree recently. I'm sure that Molly and her mom are sorting out which parts of Cinnamom's territory will be shared with Molly. Reaching this agreement is apparently not an easy process. When Molly breaks her mom's rules, her mom will probably track her down and chase her into a tree to show her that she's in an "off-limits" area.
After sniffing the tree, the sweet yearling departed. I think she's looking really good for a yearling. Her confidence is outstanding compared to other yearlings who I've watched via trail camera. Most of them rarely visit bear-marking trees in their first summer as a solo bear.
So, after yesterday's rant about the overuse and abuse of the forest on summer weekends, I ended up having a wonderful day in the forest today. I didn't see another person, I had a blast with Shyla, and I even captured photos of a bear! A good day...

Friday, June 27, 2014

Weekend Revelry

It's Friday, and our world is filling up with visitors who want to camp up here. Any shoulder on the side of the road will do. Who cares if it's private property or an illegal campsite? After arriving, the first step is to cut down some trees from around the campsite and get a bonfire going. Then, take out your gun and start shooting without checking where houses, trails, and people might be. Last but certainly not least, don't concern yourself with whether your campfire is out before you leave the campsite.Yes, it's a summer Friday in the mountains.

This behavior makes me seek the deepest woods far from the roads. I also try to seek the quiet of the mornings, since most people don't get moving until way after the sun rises. Unfortunately, due to the mind-numbing and sleep-inducing migraine preventative medicine that I'm taking, I am a zombie during most early mornings these days (but not Shyla, as you can see in the next photo).
Last fall, the Runner and I cleaned up some local campsites after a summer of abuse, hauling out about a dozen large garbage bags of junk from one campsite alone. And, then, shortly after the snow had melted this spring, I found that irresponsible campers had already taken up residence. With incredible wisdom (not!), these campers thought a screen would keep the wildlife away from their disgusting pile of food.
Surprise, surprise - a short time later, their campsite looked like this, obviously ransacked by wildlife.
At another site, the campers needed firewood. What's the most logical thing to do? Cut down the live trees next to your campsite. Never mind that green wood won't burn or that you've killed thriving trees, creating an eyesore for everyone else.
I call the Forest Service whenever I see this abuse underway but it is very rare that there is a timely response. The federal agencies are too underfunded to have personnel who can deal with rogue campers or shooters. I have no problem with the responsible visitors but they seem to be the minority this summer.

So, in this beautiful season, I carefully craft my outings to avoid the abusers, going places that require long walks from a car, so few people visit them.
I love this place, and I don't understand the disrespect shown to it by so many people. How can they not want to soak up this kind of beauty?
Obviously, the campers have already corrupted at least one bear, teaching him/her to look near human scent for food (I'm basing this statement on the ransacked food stash at the campsite in the earlier photo). I love our bears so nothing makes me more upset than that. I want them to stay wild and safe.

Fortunately, most of the bears seem to stay far way from the places that visitors inhabit, even though there is lots of unsecured human food available in campsites (contrary to the laws). I hope that trend continues.
So, we will spend our weekend seeking the quiet of the deeper forests, appreciating even the tiniest gems that have sprouted from the forest floor.
We still enjoy the bounty of summer, but there is a hint of bittersweet in my heart, knowing what's going on nearby and that the agency that's supposed to protect the land can't do their job. It's too dangerous for untrained residents to try to enforce the rules so we are forced to watch helplessly.

One benefit to having dogs is that they make a huge ruckus whenever someone comes onto our land. R is vigilant! We haven't yet had anyone try to camp near our house.
I love living in the mountains. I wish that people would visit here because they love the natural beauty rather than because they want to escape the watchful eyes of the law in more urban areas.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Deja Vu

For a photo group I am part of, today's direction was to take a photograph that was somehow related to "deja vu". I knew right away what photo would fit.

There's a stump atop Hug Hill that K always loved to prop her front paws on. Shyla never chooses to stand in that position, and I'm glad. Shyla is her own dog and I don't want her to be like K in every way. Shyla's choice is to jump up on top of the stump.
And then she'll charge toward me when I release her.
So, today, I asked her to prop her paws on that stump, like K used to do. It did give me a sense of "deja vu", with a very strong tinge of sadness that K has been gone for almost two years. It especially reminded me of the last few months of K's life when we'd relax atop Hug Hill on each day that she felt up to hiking there. On almost every one of those hikes, K would stand like Shyla is doing in the next photo.
Shyla's confident demeanor and her deep soulful eyes told me that she has a little bit of K's spirit in her, although Shyla is indeed her own dog.

Shyla is such a sensitive girl. She trusts very few people outside our family. But, when she decides that she likes someone, she never forgets it and greets them like a long lost friend every time she sees them.

Today, we saw a person on the trails who Shyla has met only once before but Shyla liked her right away when she met her a month ago. Today, when we saw her, it was one of the rare occasions that I had to remind Shyla not to jump on someone. People who don't know Shyla well have no idea what a huge compliment it is that she wants to jump on them! For me, it's a delicate dance because I want to encourage Shyla to like new people but I don't want her to jump...

With the glorious weather and Shyla's confidence when she met her new friend - it was another great day on the trails!
And guess who was at home, waiting for us after our ride? R, of course. He'd already gone for a run with the Runner and was happily snoozing when I awakened him for a photo. It's been too long since I've shared our handsome R with you!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


We've been at our lookout point during the sunset light most evenings recently. I love taking photos a of certain chocolate labrador in that light.
You can see the unique yellow background in these photos. The yellow flowers covering the bushes all over our area are blooming, making the entire world smell sweet.
As the sun fell below the mountains, I captured Shyla's image at an instant when she was looking adoringly at the Runner and R. You can see the love in her sweet eyes.
Another wonderful thing is that has happened recently is that a pair of Cordilleran Flycatchers have chosen to make a nest under our deck. I love watching the pair hard at work raising the next generation. Now, they are just about at egg-laying time... so they have a long haul ahead of them.
I'll be watching over their nest for the next four weeks or so!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summertime and a Wildlife Mystery

The idyllic spring-summertime is continuing here, with enough rain that the fire danger isn't even an issue yet and the wildflowers are lasting a long time.
New ones are emerging too. This trail will be "Columbine Alley" a little later in the summer but you can see one tall Columbine just above Shyla's head.
The meadow areas remain speckled with yellow, as the Golden Banner wildflowers have gone wild this year.
Shyla decided that she needed to go incognito so that the crazy photographer wouldn't recognize her...
Meanwhile, I've still been struggling with the dang migraines and an unstable shoulder. But, I don't want to miss even a single day when Mother Nature is glowing with beauty like this.
I've also been puzzling out some wildlife situations that my trail cameras have revealed. One situation involves that mountain lion photo that I showed you the other day. It actually involved at least two mountain lions.

Early one morning, I captured a photo of a collared mountain lion in typical territory for these felines. She was alone. I'm assuming this lion was a female because she wasn't leaving scrapes and she's not big or muscular as an adult male lion.

Then, about a mile away, I captured a photo of another collared mountain lion, who I presumed was the same one as from earlier that morning.
This lion was fascinated with the area near a bear-marking tree.
I really hate seeing all the gear attached to these collared lions. I can only imagine that it hinders them.

After rolling around, she departed to the left in the photo.
That night (14 hours later), at the same site, a collared mountain lion appeared again. This makes sense... The above mountain lion could have been going to a nearby "day bed" to sleep for the day. And then, after dark, she could have been heading out to go hunting.
Here's the part that confused me. Another lion was right on the collared lion's heels. This lion was soaked from the rain earlier in the evening, unlike the collared lion. And, he appeared to be smaller - possibly an older kitten. But, if he was the collared lion's kitten, why was he soaked while she wasn't?

This new lion became interested in the scent where the collared lion had rolled earlier that morning.

 Then, he appeared to hurry to catch up with the other lion.
He even "bounded" out of the picture. I've never seen an adult lion use any gait except for a saunter (i.e., an assertive walk). The "bound" really made me think he was young.
I'd be interested to hear any thoughts you might have on this sequence of trail camera photos. I'm so curious to figure out what was going on.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Solstice Sunset

On the evening before the Summer Solstice, we lingered at our sunset lookout point. The shrubs are blooming, and the setting sun cast a beautiful light.
Sunset was very slow, as the sun hovered just above the horizon for a long time.
After the sun had fallen behind the mountains, we and the Duo hung out waiting for bank of clouds over the mountains to light up. We watched a pair of Night Hawks hunting insects in the sky between us and the mountains.
The sunset colors were worth the wait. Nature's art.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Circle of Life

The Solstice is upon us. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it means long and luxurious days when the air is warm and life is relaxed.

It also means a riot of wildflowers.
I sometimes wish that this floral bounty could be spread out over a longer time, so we could savor each flower, one by one.
But, when Mother Nature decides that it's "time", it seems that all of our flowers burst into bloom at once.
Hug Hill is perhaps the most beautiful place on Earth right now so, after I pedal up there with Shyla, we hang out and play for a little while. Don't worry, the hill is not too steep on the side where I'm throwing her toy.
Before our ride ended, we visited another favorite place. It doesn't have views of the still-snowy mountains but it has fabulous wildflowers. I think of it as the wildflower mecca.
Can you believe that this is Shyla's second full summer with us? The passage of time is incomprehensible in some ways. I feel like I've known Shyla forever but I also feel like K's death was recent.
During our ride to the wildflower mecca, we ran across an elk leg - not just any elk leg - but one with a long history that involves K. Sometime in the last couple of months of her life, K and I were out on a trail together, and she trotted into the forest. She was a super-reliable dog off-leash so I was shocked when she didn't return when I called her. I called and called with increasing desperation. I walked all over the section of forest that she'd gone into but she didn't appear.

Before that day, I'd asked my vet what the "end" would be like for K (she had osteosarcoma), and one of the possibilities was sudden death. After searching for her in the forest for what felt like an eternity, I sat down and cried, convinced that she was either dead or incapacitated in the forest. I decided to go home to get R, who I thought would lead me to her body.

As I started toward home, I kept calling for K. Believe it or not, as I moved toward home, that little rascal then emerged from the forest, dragging a very fresh elk leg that she'd been gnawing, in a nearby spot, for the whole time that I'd desperately searched for her.

All that I could do was hug her, and thank goodness that we'd have another day together. I took the elk leg from her, and I hung it in a tree, out of a dog's reach, to avoid another episode with it. It's hung there for the two years since that day, until today. This morning, I saw that the elk leg had somehow ended up on the ground in the middle of the trail. It appeared that an animal had pulled it down, possibly a bear. I rehung it, and I contemplated that day two years ago and the circle of life.
It is our second summer solstice since K's death but we've fumbled our way to a new happiness, with R and his little sister leading the way.