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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Wild Cats in the Forest

Shyla and I have settled into our winter schedule, riding together at sunrise, with some breaks for play in the midst of our ride.
Then, I leave Shyla at home while I go ride solo, often riding to faraway trail cameras to check them. This year has been extraordinary because I've been able to ride trails that are usually swamped with several feet of snow at this time of year.

In the photo below, I rode past one of my trail cameras on a trail that I've *never* been able to ride in January or February in past years. It's a place that gets almost no sun all winter long so the snow usually piles up over the winter months. My huge tires leave behind a 5" wide packed trail that the animals like to use for easier walking than in unpacked snow.
Yesterday, Taryn asked what I wear and carry on such cold and snowy rides. You can see in the photo above that I'm bundled up. I have a stocking cap, a neck gaiter, three layers on my upper body, two layers on my legs, winter cycling boots with chemical toe warmers, mittens, pogies (big mittens that go over my handlebars), and chemical hand warmers. I have tools for fixing my bike in the under-the-saddle wedge pack on my bike. I have a down sweater in a frame pack that is in the "triangle" of my bike, and I have high energy food and an emergency beacon in yet another pack attached to the front of my bike. My camera is in my backpack.

That is tons more stuff than I carry for a summer ride but I must be prepared for getting stuck somewhere due to a mechanical problem or an injury. Hypothermia or frostbite could become problems very rapidly. That's why I have so much stuff with me, including the satellite-based emergency communicator.

Here is the same spot as I rode and made a nice tire tack a few days later. After some fresh snow had fallen, a bobcat walked carefully in my tire track.
A week after that, a collared mountain lion passed the same camera. Notice how she is walking as if she's on a balance beam, to keep her huge paws in the 5" wide packed trail left by my bike tires.
The wild cats (and I) are the only animals continuing to use this path during the winter. Even the cats don't use it very much - these two cats each used my tire tracks for about a half mile before heading toward less snowy locales. Starting around April, many bears will parade past this camera after they leave their dens. An important bear-marking tree, a pine sapling, is just behind the mountain lion in the photo above.

It's starting to feel like spring will be here before we know it. Every year, I look forward to my first photos of bears (and often their tiny cubs) and, around the same time, seeing the colors of the first wildflowers in the forest.

But, for the sake of Mother Nature, we need to get a lot of snow before true springtime arrives. Shyla loves the snow so she's looking forward to it!


  1. i like how you provide trails for them. :)

  2. Always good to be prepared:) My pups want to know where their snow is this year???

  3. We pretend that were right there with you-- enjoying your beautiful world! And beautiful photos!

  4. That last picture of Shyla made me smile so much!! She's got such a cute look on her face!

    I'm glad that you carry all that extra gear out there and are safe!

    I'm also excited for Spring!

  5. You amaze me that you do this everyday
    Mr Bailey, Hazel & Mabel

  6. Glad to know you carry a disaster plan with you. This time of year is SO unpredictable in the high elevations. 5" wide tracks are pretty impressive...glad to see they provide trails for your four-legged neighbors.

  7. I love how they go through your tracks. I have a feeling Shyla will see lots more snow.

    Anne and Sasha

  8. Nice to see a picture of you on your lovely new blue bike!
    I've had moose walk in my boot'd wouldn't think they would need the extra help, but I suppose all animals are smart about expending energy - especially in winter.
    Keep enjoying that snow :)

  9. Well....we've had to laugh at you leaving a trail for the animals to, that's service. LOL!

  10. Look at you posin' on your paw waiting for the snow to fall, Shyla! How adorable! What fun to see you on your new bike and all bundled up for your fun rides, KB ☺

  11. U must see amazing things and it's good u f prepared. I prefer the warm though
    Retro river

  12. wow that's nice to make a trail for the animals. We never saw such cats for real... but we just imagine what would happen when our peeps here would see such a cat or a bear
    easy rider

  13. I love that your bike provides an easier walking path for the big cats. Wow - that is a lot of gear! I realize it is necessary though. I love those gloves that go over the handle bars - what a great idea!

  14. You are dedicated. When I rode my bike in the winter, the roads had to be clear because I had a road bike. But I never bundled like that.

  15. We always love seeing the cats...and you too Shyla!

  16. We loved this post, very informative. We liked seeing the pic of you on your bike. Nice to know you are prepared for emergencies!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  17. WE did not know about collars on the wild cats, it was beautiful!
    Enjoy the pictures so much.
    stella rose

  18. So fascinating seeing the cats in the wild and right in your track. We have a feeling you will have a lot more snow Shyla
    Lily & Edward

  19. Thank you for such a great reply to my question! I loved seeing a photo of you all suited up. Really, with all that you listed, you don't look that bulky. So much stuff must add considerable weight though. I have a feeling I look much bulkier dressed for walking my dogs in 25 degree weather. LOL!

    Thank you again!

  20. How nice of you to make a road for the animals. Loved the cats.

  21. Hi Y'all,

    Here in the southeast the birds are donning their mating plumage and pairing up, frogs have been singing loudly for weeks now while flowers start to blossom.

    Stop on by tomorrow and see the flowers blooming as far north as the Pamlico Sound in N.C. where we went on our 342 mile trek to the north.

    My Human loves your springs with their delicate flowers the likes of which she's never seen and probably never will other than in your photos.

    Y'all come on by,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  22. Love the pictures of you and the cats. We would be happy to send you some of our snow.

  23. I want to know how long it takes you to get ready! LOL!! Amazing shots!

  24. My dogs have been inspecting the trails the deer are making through the neighborhood. Right now I think they are one of the few who can go through the loose snow, we have so much of it.

    I was wondering that those things were on your handlebars so thank you for explaining it.


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