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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Late Winter in the Mountains

It's that time of year when we get our most wintery weather. It was cold and windy this morning. Deep crusty snow still covered the ground.
I love living in the mountains but I reach a point, around this time of year every year, when I want springtime to arrive. Unfortunately, at 8200' elevation, springtime isn't knocking at our door yet.
I know almost every nook and cranny of our forest. When there's not deep snow on the ground, Shyla and I can disappear onto little known trails and have complete solitude for our rides. However, at this time of year, the deep snow constrains me to stay on the "popular" trails because they are well packed down by snowshoers and others. Shyla still goes into the deep snow but she's an uber-athlete and I'm not.
It's probably hard for most people to imagine but the world seems to get smaller at this time of year due to the limited trail options. I want to go visit all the secret wildlife places that I've found over the years but it's impossible to get to them - unless, of course, you have the athleticism of Shyla. I actually tried to get to one of those spots today but knee-deep snow stopped me.
Yesterday, on my solo ride, I tried to get to a different wildlife spot from today. I managed to roll down a snowy hill toward it but then the snow got too deep for me. I knew that I was in for a long trudge to try to get to my camera so I turned around to retrace my steps.

Much to my delight, a bobcat had been following in my tracks just behind me. I spotted him but he ran off too fast for me to get a photo. As he went into the unpacked snowy forest, it looked like incredibly hard work. The snow was almost as deep as he was tall!

Bobcats are so tough. Here's a photo of one from earlier in the winter, when it was very cold and he was hunting in the snow. The snow was much deeper yesterday than in this photo.
Aside from using packed human paths, it's hard to imagine how bobcats can eat enough calories to offset the hard work of moving through deep snow.

Very gradually, in a month or so, it will start being easier to move around the forest because the sun will compact the snow so much. In the meantime, only athletes like Shyla (and the wildlife) have the freedom of leaving the packed paths!
I've also noticed that Shyla has a special strategy for landing on crusty snow. She lands on the "heel" of her front paw with her toes spread out wide (you can see the strategy in the next photo).
I'm betting that she's trying to spread out the pressure under her paw, so that there's a better chance of the snow crust not breaking. But, at a full galloping speed, it take a very strong snow crust for Shyla to avoid breaking through!

I'm hoping for a sunny and bright day tomorrow to remind us all that spring is on the way!


  1. I just love the first photograph with Shyla looking around the tree. Hope your trails will soon be passable.

  2. Shyla is so cute! That bobcat is so neat! I hope it warms up a bit for you soon!

  3. I've backtracked in deep snow and found moose had used my footsteps to save themselves the effort of breaking another trail :)

  4. I love your photos, and share with you your feelings about spring--But I do so love your winter photos!

  5. We are closer to sea level and we don't think spring is ever going to arrive. Shyla is such a beauty.

  6. It would be so fun to be as athletic as Shyla!! Some of her moves are amazing!
    And it would be so fun to be in your back pack to see those bobcats and all the wildlife you see!

  7. Just checking in since starting the job and getting sick! I just adore shylas red tongue with her snow covered body.

    Macy's affections have dropped off again...

  8. Just checking in since starting the job and getting sick! I just adore shylas red tongue with her snow covered body.

    Macy's affections have dropped off again...

  9. Such wonderful photos of Shyla in the snow!
    Mr Bailey, Hazel & Mabel

  10. It's interesting that she adjusts her foot for walking.....and that you noticed it.

  11. We just love the photo of you knee deep in snow, Shyla! You sure don't look like you're in any hurry for spring to arrive! Enjoy your snow☺

  12. Such wonderful photos of the Queen Snow Shyla!

  13. so cool that you saw a bobcat walking in your tracks. I know we all do it and i see the tracks all the time, but rarely see the animal. I really don't enjoy snow that is crunchy on top and then we fall through, but never knowing which step will bring the big jolt. our snow has been crunch for a month now due to no snowfall and cold nights and warm days, so we can walk places now that are too brushy in the summer. I think we have begun the spring thaw this week.... time will tell.


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