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Monday, August 31, 2015

An Alpine Journey

During our trips in the high mountains, the Runner encourages me to do point-to-point rides. He drives the LabMobile around the mountains that I ride over on my bike to meet me.

We've had some epic disasters but 2 out of three of my point-to-point rides went well this year. That third one was a doozy but I'll save that story for later.

After our LabMobile was fixed much faster than we expected, we decided to make the whole drive out to the San Juan Mountains that day. It was a loooong drive, with my sciatic nerve hurting like a bolt of lightning was sizzling down the back of my leg.

We reached Ouray as it got dark, and, after we got out of town, we decided to find a place to camp ASAP. The cool thing about the San Juan Mountains is that open space abounds. There are innumerable mining roads leaving the main road, and most of them are empty. We found one, drove about a quarter mile down it, and we parked the LabMobile in the dark.

After arriving, I fiddled with my camera a bit, trying to capture more shooting star images, and then we went to sleep. It turned out that I did capture a shooting star (near the middle of the photo) along with the Milky Way. You can see the silhouette of the mine building in the lower right of the photo.
We woke up the next morning to find that we'd parked next to a mine that had once been a bustling workplace and then had been abandoned after the mine stopped producing. Below the mine and the LabMobile, streams poured downhill, draining the mine area. We were leery of the water, after the Animas River disaster earlier that week. There are mines all over Colorado that are slowly leaking out poisonous mining by-products.
We knew where we wanted to go next... but it usually involves a long point-to-point ride for me and a long bumpy LabMobile ride for the Runner. I hesitated because I felt tired and had a headache that felt like it might be the start of a migraine. However, in the end, I decided to "go for it" (with migraine medicine on-board) because I always count the day that I do that alpine ride as one of the best of the year. It's so beautiful.

We drove to the trailhead, and I bid the pack adieu, promising to meet them 25 miles (and many vertical feet) to the southwest. After I started my solo journey, I quickly remembered why I love that particular ride so much. The gorgeous views are endless.
And when I emerged above treeline after a very long climb, the flowers stunned me.
The ride has a long section above treeline so I was fortunate that there was almost no chance of thunderstorms. I could enjoy the beauty without any worry about lightning.
The ride climbs up to a tall pass (~13,000') at the middle of the journey. Near that point, I realized that I was exceptionally tired, and I was only halfway to my destination. I had that "empty" feeling in my legs like I couldn't produce much power when I pedaled.

I took a break to eat and drink, and I hoped that my flagging energy would come back. My rest spot certainly had a gorgeous view.
As I sat there, I noticed Columbines blooming in the midst of the many Paintbrush flowers. Photographing them was fun because our local Columbines had stopped blooming weeks earlier.
To be honest, my energy never really returned and my headache got worse. The second half of the ride was very hard, as I struggled to pedal through terrain that normally would be easy.
As I crested the last ridge before our usual campsite, I received a text on my Delorme satellite messenger from the Runner saying that our campsite was a mile further along the route than usual. I almost had a meltdown. Another mile seemed like an eternity with my body as tired as it was.

I knew I had to ride this long straight trail slightly downhill for a few miles, and then I'd have a steep climb up the campsite. After I took the next photo, I didn't take my camera out again. I just put my head down and doggedly pedaled toward our campsite.
I was a basket case when I arrived in camp. I ate everything in sight and then I finally got out of my sweaty biking clothes. It had been such a long day. Usually, this ride isn't so hard for me. I can only guess that the stress of the previous day's drive plus my headache had taken more out of me than I expected.

We took a very short little evening hike, and I even got a golden sunset photo of my sweet girl. I slept well that night!
All in all, it was a day to remember... although the memory of the fatigue is already fading. The memory of the incredible wildflowers will never fade.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Shyla's Third Gotcha Day!

Yesterday was the third anniversary of the day we met Shyla. We didn't have a big celebration because we were too focused on R getting well again. Sometime soon, We'll go for a celebration outing sometime soon.

On that day when I met Shyla, I had no idea what an amazing journey I was embarking on. She was far less confident than I expected - indeed, she was truly fearful of almost everything. I wanted to "fix" her fearfulness immediately so I called a trainer to get to work.

It turned out that it has been a long but wonderful evolution from the fearful Shyla to today's Shyla. Now, she appears "normal" to most people, and that is the biggest victory that I could ever imagine. She's happy in her life and comfortable with the world. I honestly had moments over the years that I didn't believe that she would reach this point.
Most of all, we've bonded. Our bond is deep because we've been through so much together. We've both learned to muster the courage to put one foot in front of the other, even after major setbacks. We've become a team, and I love her with all my heart.
I feel like an incredibly lucky human to have had K and then to get a second dog who I love so very much - Shyla.
Yesterday, Shyla was the only pack member who wanted to hike up to see the full moon rise with me. We sat on a ridge in the midst of the most heavenly sage scent. The forest was completely quiet, and we watched for the first glow of the moon over the eastern ridge.

To my surprise, the moon was pink! I'm sure that it was due to the smokey haze from wildfires but it felt magical as Shyla and I gazed at it.
Happy Gotcha Day sweet Shyla. You are a gift to all of us.

P.S. R seems much better today. He's still not back to normal but I now feel confident that we're headed in the right direction.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Saturday Summary

Somehow the days since we returned have become very hectic! I only have time for a short update today. R is better than yesterday. He's eating small and bland meals but he's still very tired and subdued. We're hoping that rest will help his GI tract mend.

It's amazing how much I miss his crazy exuberance when it's absent. Sometimes his energy can be overwhelming when he's at 100% strength but the world feels wrong when he's subdued.

Here he was on our vacation, romping in the wildflowers in the San Juan Mountains.You can barely see an iconic peak, the Lizard Head, in the background.
 I hope that tomorrow I can report that his energy is returning!
Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Unexpected Day

We woke up to clouds on the horizon this morning, both literally and figuratively.
R had come down with diarrhea on Wednesday. However, it didn't seem too bad so we tried to manage it ourselves with a bland diet and some mild medicines. Then, overnight, it got very bad and he started vomiting too.

The poor guy wasn't feeling well this morning, and we humans were sleepy from being awakened so many times last night.
We conferred with our vet, and the Runner took R to see her this morning. R needed to stay in the hospital because he was dehydrated and acting very subdued compared to his normal boisterous self.

Since there was nothing more I could do besides worry, Shyla and I got out for a late mountain bike ride. We did have some fun together. I loved this instant that my camera captured.
Then, I needed to shore up my trail camera situation. Someone has monkeyed with a couple of my cameras, and I added another layer of protection. I felt that this was urgent because the mother mountain lion with kittens denned near us has been so active recently. I don't want to miss any of her travels.

One camera caught her moving very slowly in front of it. First, she paused with her head in front of the lens.
Then, she paused with her body in front of the lens. I can't tell if she's still lactating based on this photo.
She paused again with just her hind end in front of the camera.
Finally, she departed.
I've been getting many photos and videos of her by my trail cameras. I know the general vicinity of her den with two kittens in it, and I know that this is an extraordinary chance to see a mother mountain lion's behavior when tending to young kittens. That's why I worked so hard today to try to make my trail cameras "monkey-proof". (Sometimes, I wish it were winter so the riff-raff would stay out of the forest!).

After all that, I got the news that R is on his way home. The vet says he is acting perkier but is still refusing to eat. Refusing to eat is extremely rare for R. I can think of only one occasion before in his life when he wouldn't eat. So, I'm worried about him. I hope his tummy starts to feel better soon and that nothing more serious is going on. I want to see him playing with his sister again soon!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

From Mountain Trails to Pink Toe Nails

On our first day in the high mountains, we all went out to play on the trails in the morning. It was a glorious day with barely a cloud in the sky.
I was riding my bike with Shyla. We started early enough that the trails were mostly empty, although Shyla was continually vigilant watching for other people who might be around.
I was thrilled to see that some wildflowers were still in bloom. The alpine summer is so short that the flowers are sometimes gone by mid-August. We were high enough (12,000') that signs of autumn were already sneaking into view.
During our ride, I spotted some baby birds who couldn't fly very well yet, and I told Shyla to "stay" while I photographed them. They were so camouflaged! My best bird books are in the LabMobile which is now at our local mechanic's shop so I can't figure out what species this is. Does anyone know?
Although I've worked hard at teaching Shyla not to chase large animals, she still wants to chase small ones - and sometimes gives into the temptation. I've incorporated a lot of "impulse control" training into Shyla's program. I was thrilled to see it pay off in a real-life situation as she resisted chasing the birds. She stood solidly in a "stay" while the little birds skittered around. I'm so proud of her.
As we headed down toward camp, I noticed that the clouds had suddenly built up over the nearby mountains, as is typical up high in the Rockies.
I also noticed the hazy view to our east. I didn't know that haze would become a theme for our trip due to the terrible fires still burning in the western half of the country.
When we arrived back in camp, the Runner had called a friend's parents, who luckily lived near where we were camped, to ask about a good mechanic for the LabMobile. These people who we'd never met were SO helpful. They lined up a mechanic who was waiting for us when we drove up to his garage. He dropped everything to quickly replace a defective part that our local mechanic had installed before the trip. And we played with a very cool dog named Buster while the mechanic worked. Buster was at least part Pit Bull and had pink toe nails that his human sisters had recently painted. He was a truly gentle sweetie.

To our astonishment, we were back on the road, heading toward the San Juan mountains, very quickly because the mechanic fixed things so fast. Yay!

It's wonderful to know that there are such generous souls in our world. I hope that we can pay the kindness forward in the future.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Alpine Sky

From our first evening and night camping in the alpine zone of the Rockies...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sunsets and meteors in the Rockies

We've had the luxury of time spent high in the mountains this summer. We've just returned from another "unplugged" trip to the rugged southwest of Colorado, high in the alpine zone of the San Juan mountains.

We didn't drive as far as expected on our first day due to a small problem with the LabMobile that needed to be fixed the next day. We decided to stop at a familiar campsite less than halfway to our destination.

I'm so glad we stopped. We arrived as the sun was setting, and the mountains looked magical.
And the sunset light was warm and glowing.
 The clouds to the east of us lit up as the sun dipped below the western horizon.
It was the peak of the Perseid meteor showers. As soon as the sky became dark, we were mesmerized by the streaks of shooting stars all around us. We wrapped ourselves in warm sleeping bags and watched the show.
It was a magical start to what was an inspiring and restful time in our beloved Rocky Mountains.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Another Alpine Visit

We've just returned from another visit to the alpine world in our wonderful state. I rode my bike high in the mountains.
We reveled in the wildflowers.
And now we're settling back into home, sweet home.
I'm looking forward to telling you more about our trip!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Superstar Sunday - Shyla and the Stars

As you all know by now, I love our days of camping in the high mountains in the summer. Every evening, as the sun sets, Shyla and I play and have fun with photos.

Shyla tries very hard to be a great model but sometimes other things take precedence! I don't know what she saw over there!
The wildflowers wow us as we play.
And Shyla loves lying in a meadow filled with fragrant flowers.
Then, as the sun dips below the mountains, Shyla waves goodbye to the day.
After everyone is asleep, my camera takes programmed time lapse photos of the stars. In this photo, the moon was totally full and was behind the camera. This photo includes 2.5 hours of the stars circling around Polaris. Look at how bright the world was! It was easy to walk around without a headlamp.
Summer evenings in the mountains feed my soul with their beauty.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Saturday Sunset

During our recent camping trip, we stayed in a very high meadow filled with wildflowers that awed us.
But, that campsite wasn't only beautiful by day. It has an incredible view of a couple of towering mountains. One evening, the skies turned pink as the moon was rising.
As dusk fell, the mountains grew darker but the sky seemed to grow more brilliant.
The pink spread all across the sky. The view in the photo above was to the south and the view in the next photo was to the north. Ah, what an unbelievable sunset show!
I won't forget it anytime soon!