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!
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.
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 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.
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.