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.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Black Lab Sunday

When the time for his morning run approaches, R pays rapt attention.
He buzzes with happy energy. Then the excitement overcomes him, and he breaks into happy barks.
He does this, every single time he gets to go for a run. Life is pure joy for him.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Beautiful Animals and a Thief

I love my trail cameras. They let me see what is going on in the forest, with a view that an actual human can never see because they scare the animals when they're around.

I've fallen behind in telling you about the very large numbers of mountain lions I've captured photos of recently. This was one of three occasions where I captured two lions together. I never saw the whole body of the second one so I'm not sure if they're a mother-kitten pair or a mating pair.
I'm guessing that they were a mating pair, because male mountain lions scrape the ground frequently, like in the next photo. This adult lion is in the process of kicking back with each hind foot, to leave a territorial "scrape". There's no reason for a male lion to be with another lion, except for mating.
For the following month, a mother deer and her fawns hung out in this spot. Aren't they incredibly cute?
And then, the top predator was back again. He sniffed the ground.
And then he carefully sniffed the low hanging tree branches. I'm betting that the deer had rubbed against them during their visits.
On the same night, I believe that the same mountain lion visited another "marking spot" that our lions are drawn to. I love this view... he looks so long and lithe.
Alas, today, I went out to check a favorite trail camera, and my faith in humankind was shaken again. The camera was gone - stolen. Some lowlife person must have seen it earlier in the summer, and then returned with tools for cutting the lock. So, it was "premeditated" theft.

It's amazing how I continue to be surprised by the downright mean behavior of some of our fellow humans. I should have learned by now that some people have no ethics. Instead, when I saw the camera's spot empty, I just stood there, feet stuck to the ground, as I attempted to digest the "news" that my camera had been stolen. I was shocked.

Just like last time this happened, I will not let the bad people win. Unlike when the first theft occurred, I now have a system in place that might help me get the camera back. The first time this happened to me, I had naively assumed that no one would ever steal a trail camera. Ha! I have some hope this time because I was prepared for it to happen again.

We will try to bounce back and forge forward, just like Sweet Shyla.
Shyla Flies!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Two Years!

Two years ago, we met Shyla - a sweet and very timid little chocolate lab.
It's been a long journey, as Shyla and I have learned to cope with her fears. They are not banished but are much better. We've learned, together, how to live a life that makes Shyla very happy, as you can see from the photo above.

Shyla adores the mountains and running like the wind. As her name says, she is a "daughter of the mountains". She brims with confidence when we are outside in nature.
Shyla loves her brother, R, and he loves her. They have a strong bond - perhaps the strongest we've seen among any pair of our dogs.
The Duo on Top of the World
Over these past two years, Shyla and I have come to share a deep love of the high mountains.
 And a love of seizing the day - together.
Shyla has changed our family, showering us with the love and sweetness that overflows from her soul.
Thank you, Shyla, for helping to heal our hearts. We love you.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Long Journey - Part 2

This post is about the second half of my point-to-point ride in the San Juan Mountains during our recent trip. When I left off the story on Tuesday, I'd just arrived at the high point of my ride at a Pass that's almost 13,000' high. I was about halfway to where I was supposed to meet the Pack. The problem was the weather...
As I stood on the Pass, the threatening clouds started bombarding me with hail. I didn't linger but started downhill at a good pace. As I lost elevation, the ice balls became drizzle, and I started noticing the world around me again.  Pretty flowers in the foreground. Hmm, what are all those white lumps in the distance?
It took me a moment but then I realized that they were sheep. Hundreds of them.
Soon after that realization, I heard angry barking, and I remembered reading that these flocks are protected by specially-bred sheep protection dogs. The dogs work independently so there isn't usually a person nearby to control them. I'd also read that hikers and bikers needed to be careful around these dogs because they will go after anything that seems like a threat to their sheep. In my case, I simply got off my bike and walked (since some dogs are provoked by fast-moving targets). The one dog that I could see kept his distance as he barked at me. He was a great deterrent - there was no way I'd approach those sheep with him around!

The huge flock of sheep reminded of the poignant stories of the demise of the Grizzly Bear in Colorado. They were driven to extinction by bounty hunters who were paid to kill them to protect the sheep being raised in the mountains. Some people believe that there are a few extremely secretive Grizzlies left in the San Juan Mountains (a book called "Ghost Grizzlies" tells the story - it's fascinating).

After I'd passed the flock of sheep and their canine protectors, I resumed pedaling, mostly downhill from the Pass for a while.

For a brief time, I thought that I'd escaped the storms, and I slowed to enjoy the flowers.
High above treeline, they were endlessly glorious!
I even got down on the ground to drink up their beauty and their scent.
Alas,I was wrong to be so complacent. As I slowed to enjoy the wildflowers, the iceballs resumed their aerial assault. Even more scary to me, the thunder started booming from behind me. As you can see, I was still way above treeline. However, I had descended from the zone were the purple flowers dominated to a lower zone where the yellows were out in force.
I pedaled as hard as I could, forgetting the "no red line" rule. Then, the oddest thing happened. I hadn't seen a single cyclist all day, and suddenly there were a couple of large groups of mountain bikers heading uphill directly into the storm. I was aghast that they were so brash. In their shoes, I would've at least waited out the storm at a lower elevation - lightning above treeline is no joke.

Because the brash cyclists were going uphill, I had to yield the right of way to them. I stepped off the trail to let them pass and wasted seemingly endless time with crackling lightning and booms of thunder nearby as a couple of large groups moved at a snail-like pace past me. It wasn't my happiest moment in the ride...

One cyclist decided to turn around rather than face the fury of the storm, and she became my downhill guide for a while. She was a local and knew the trail very well. As we continued the long descent from the Pass, I watched her from behind so I could be forewarned of obstacles too tough to negotiate at full speed. We talked a little, and she was in disbelief that her friends had chosen to pedal up into the storm.

Eventually, the descent from the Pass was over, and the trail started undulating up and down as it crossed snow-fed creeks tumbling down from the high peaks. I took a moment to appreciate how strong I was feeling. Before the ride, I'd expected to limp to the end but instead I felt like I could power up the finishing climbs. What a great feeling! I guess my body hasn't totally betrayed me yet!

I didn't take any more photos for a long time as I continued to flee the storms that seemed to be nipping at my heels. Only when I was within about 30 minutes of my destination did I take one more photo. There were storms on all sides of me by then.
I was a little worried about whether the Pack was at our rendevouz point yet. We were using Delorme satellite communicators (there was no cell reception up there) - and I hadn't yet received the message that they had arrived.

I rolled down into the trailhead parking lot just minutes after they'd parked the Labmobile. I was so happy to see them! They'd stopped for a long run to break up the drive, and they'd had a lot of fun too.
After the ride, I tried to distill some sort of wise lesson from it. I'd totally surprised myself with how strongly I could pedal my bike over a long distance and lots of elevation change, despite all the health challenges of 2014. Perhaps the best advice is not to doubt myself so much. I'm a champion self-doubter... and it wasn't necessary this time. As I look back at my cycling life and my everyday life, I usually am stronger than I expect to be.

I will keep doing these high alpine adventures every year, for as long as my body will let me. I adore them - the beauty and the adventure make my heart sing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Summertime Photos


R's Intensity to Win the Stick

Star Trails over the Lizard Head
Stars over the San Juans

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Long Journey

One of the hardest days of the year is the one when we have to leave our idyllic campsite in the San Juan Mountains. It's a campsite replete with an incredible view of the mountains and amazing wildflowers.
It even has a nearby cluster of six small lakes that no one else ever visits. The Runner found them by studying a very detailed USGS topo map. The Duo adores playing there! I am already looking forward to visiting again next year.
But, it was time to go, and I had a big mountain bike ride ahead of me. I was planning to ride a rugged trail through the wilderness from our campsite to a main road, where I'd meet the pack. It's a very tough ride that I've done several times in the past but I was honestly scared of it this year.

The reason is that I feel as if my body has not completely recovered from my surgery last February and the subsequent trains of cluster migraines. I'm now on medication to prevent migraines, but the medicine leaves me bone-tired and in a brain haze. Over our trip, I'd felt like a shadow of my usual self on my mountain bike rides - I was so tired all the time.

So, I seriously wondered whether I could trust my body to get me from point A to point B through a long trek of roadless wilderness when there would be NO option of turning around. I pondered it for a few days ahead of time. I tried to rest up, eat well, and get lots of sleep, and I started to feel a little better. After a couple of good shorter rides when my body felt strong, I finally decided that I was going to take on the challenge.

Due to my medical issues, my rule for the ride was to stay well below my "red line", or that threshold where the body is working too hard and can't recover quickly. I started out pedaling easily through a big meadow with the last views (for this year) of the mountain ranges that I've come to love so much. I took this photo as I looked backwards bidding them farewell. I was about to climb a ridge that would lead to the next mountain range on my bike journey.
After the initial huge meadow, the trail wended through pine forests and across numerous creeks for miles and miles. Near one creek, a hillside was covered in Columbines.
While in those forests, I couldn't see the full sky so I didn't know that thunderstorms were brewing. The forecast had called for the "usual" 20% chance of thunderstorms "in the afternoon". I took the next photo well before "afternoon". Uh oh. Regardless of the threatening clouds, I still had a very high mountain pass to cross.
The urgency of my pedaling ratcheted up a notch but I still stuck to my "no red line" rule. As I climbed, the sun would occasionally break through the clouds, and the world would look safe and cheerful, once again.
This climb is one of the hardest I've ever pedaled up. However, the wildflowers were awe-inspiring and constantly distracted me during the seemingly endless upward grind.
I had to stop every now and then to photograph the flowers. They are a natural wonder - one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen. I wish the sun had been shining on them!
 There were even Columbines in the mix!
After almost an hour of pedaling uphill, the purples took over. The scarlet paintbrushes were like a carpet.
I lay down on the ground to look at the world through the scarlet forest.
After that short break, I kept pedaling steadily and patiently, peering upward as I rounded each curve, hoping to see the top.
Finally, I topped out with big views in all directions!!! I took a photo looking backward from the top, feeling elated to be so high. I'd started my ride on the other side of the mountain range in the distance of this photo.
I wanted to linger, rest, and enjoy the views but the clouds chose that moment to start hurling ice balls down at me. Grrr. So, I started pedaling again, now downhill, with even more urgency than before. Because I'd been so conservative with my effort level for the first half of the ride, I felt like I still had energy to spare.
And, I was going to need that energy because storms chased me for the rest of the day. The second half of the ride was a bit harrowing but I survived! I'll save the conclusion of the story for Thursday.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Our Big Adventure

Life is, again, seeming to return to normal. We've had a whirlwind August, filled with lots of fun and adventures. I'm tired, in a pleasant sort of way - from doing the things that we love so much.

We spent the vast majority of August living in our LabMobile, a modified high-clearance and 4wd camping van (commonly known as a SportsMobile).

We spent a number of days in the San Juan mountains, high in alpine territory. Shyla and I had our biggest adventure together so far. We took a long mountain bike ride to an alpine pass. Although Shyla visited this area with us last summer, she wasn't strong enough for such a physically demanding ride yet. Moreover, last summer, she didn't have the training for me to feel certain that I could count on her to stay by my side for such a long ride, no matter what we might encounter.

This year, with a tiny bit of trepidation, we undertook the ride together. The first mile was on a rarely used 4wd road. You can see that the sky was blue, and Shyla was bursting with energy.
I took almost no photos on our way to the Pass, partly because I wanted to beat any brewing thunderstorms to the treeless world near the Pass. Physically, it seemed to be an easy run for Shyla.

Here she was, as she arrived at the top.
On our way to the Pass, we had passed a woman backpacking with llamas. I called out to her from behind so she'd know that we were there, and I watched Shyla's reaction to llamas. I know that Shyla is great with horses... but I didn't know if that training would extend to llamas. It turned out that Shyla was afraid of llamas and kept a pretty big distance from them. I liked that - no llamas were spooked!

After we reached the Pass, we could see the Llama Lady climbing up behind us. The llamas were carrying all her gear for about 10 days out in the wilderness.
For sentimental reasons, it was heartwarming to see Shyla stand atop that Pass. The reason is that K and I did this ride together several times in her life. Indeed, I suspect that K stood exactly where Shyla was in this photo.
It felt like Shyla also knew that this was an important moment. She stood tall, head above the mountains.
The wind picked up while we lingered on the Pass, enjoying a rare alpine day when the sun was strong enough that we weren't cold in the wind.
Alas, we couldn't linger too long. Clouds were building all across the horizon. We needed to start making steady progress back to camp just in case a thunderstorm developed.
The meadows below the Pass were crowded with bright wildflowers so I had to stop for one photo.
We followed a breathtakingly beautiful trail back to camp.
When we returned to camp, it felt as if Shyla and I had achieved a big milestone. I sometimes feel as if my bonds with my dogs are built through our shared adventures. That evening, Shyla's eyes seemed more mature and softer to me than I'd ever seen them.
I feel as if Shyla is reaching that "sweet spot" in a Lab's life when they are physically so strong and their training is getting good enough for big adventures. I'll admit that Shyla has had her share of "teenage" moments this summer - but she was wonderful on our big ride together that day.

After K's death at a relatively young age, I find myself hoping with all my heart that Shyla and I get to climb many more mountains together, like these ones that we gazed at as the sun set that evening.