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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

One Year Ago - Bear Cubs were Born!!!

You might remember that I discovered a bear den years ago. It was occupied in the winter of 2009-2010 by a sow with her yearling cubs. Then, I kept a trail camera pointed at it for SIX years before the den was used again. Last winter (2015-2016), it was occupied again. .

My trail cams in the area saw the last sow walk a nearby bear trail at the end of October, 2015. Her movements suggested that she was heading toward the den. I waited until December 10, 2016 to check the den for an occupant. I completely expected it to be empty so I walked straight to the entrance and peered into the murky cave. A pair of eyes was looking straight back at me. I think that I jumped a foot or two into the air!

I quickly retreated and gathered trail cameras that could record photos and video. I revisited the den to set them up. Then, I waited and waited and waited before going back again. I didn't want to do anything to upset the bear.

At the end of February, I returned to the den to check the cams. No sounds emanated from the den so I didn't know until I got home and put the memory cards into my computer that the mother bear had given birth to two cubs on 1/31/16!

Here was the time line of the mother bear's actions.

All through the winter until 1/14/16, the bear ate snow only twice, both times by reaching her head outside the den to take a bite or two of the snow on the ground.

On 1/14, things changed. She began eating snow at least once per day. She wiggled so that her head reached further outside the den, day by day.

Then, on 1/30, she was a restless bear. Her head was visible in the den entrance almost all day.

She ate snow many times. Twice, she walked outside the den. Each walk was only about 6-8 ft in distance but it was an odd departure from her behavior earlier in the winter.

On the night of 1/30, she seemed not to sleep. She looked outside the den, and she seemed to toss and turn until our last video clip at around 11 PM. After that, she was deep in the den, and there were no visible movements to trigger the cams.

The next morning dawned with incredibly strong winds. The tree holding the cams swayed in the wind, which triggered a cam to record video and audio. The audio told the story - cubs had been born, probably very early in the morning of 1/31/2016!!!!!

You can watch the video here or at Youtube. Make sure that your sound is turned ON!!! The bawling of the cubs tells you the most exciting part of the story!

I know from the accounts of others that the cubs were tiny when they were born. They would have fit into a human hand. The scientific literature says that they weighed about 1 pound when they were born. They spend almost all their time over the first months of their lives latched onto nipples, nursing. They bawl like you heard in the video when they lose their grip on the nipple or are not covered by mom so they get cold.

I plan to follow along with this story from last year. Last year, I severely limited my visits to the den and my cams to avoid upsetting the bear family. Each time I visited, I got more than 100 GB of videos and photos, and I was unable to keep up with watching all of the footage and posting it in a timely way. I plan to post new footage this year, using the "extra" footage that I didn't post last year.

I hope that you enjoy it!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Black Dog Days

I had some extra time with our Black Dog this weekend. He, Shyla, and I hit the trails together. It's so fun to see how strong he is after how hard we've worked with him on his strength and coordination.

It's very hard to believe that he's nine years old. People still ask us if he's a puppy because of his over the moon exuberance for life.

The only sign of his growing maturity was how incredibly well behaved he was. Riding a mountain bike with one dog is hard because I must have true off-leash control. There's no faking it when my hands are on the handlebars - voice control is critical! Adding a second dog makes the dynamic really hard for me because the two of them have more confidence to follow their whims than a single dog. Yet, I can't think of a single instant when I was unhappy with their behavior!

R even brought good luck in terms of gorgeous sunsets. Ours have been muted for at least a month or maybe two months. Over the past three days, we've had three glorious sunsets. 
It meant that the Duo and I were out on the trails until darkness fell each night, watching the sky change colors. I loved every minute of it!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Silhouette Sunday

Oh what a beautiful world we live in.
The Labraduo and I got to enjoy a stupendous sunset last evening. No one was around, and the world was completely quiet. I felt so lucky to be in our mountains to see this wonder of nature.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Memories of my Mother

I lost my mother almost three decades ago. I wonder what she'd think of my life today. It's different from anything that she could have imagined. She was a city dweller who loved Paris more than anywhere. I had the privilege of a mother-daughter trip to Paris while she was still alive so I saw the world that she loved so much. I have a lot of her in me but I have lost any love of cities.

I started my day at sunrise riding my snow bike with Shyla, sharing the forest with the moose and the mountain lions. I visualize my mother shaking her head in disbelief.

I ended my day hiking on our trails with the Labraduo.

Then, the Duo and I stood in the freezing cold air with a finger-numbing wind out of the west watching the sky light up at sunset. My mother was an avid photographer so she might have understood why I stood there getting colder and colder, waiting for the sunset to reach its most vivid color.
My mother always told me to follow my heart and not to do what everyone expected of me, just because it was expected. I truly learned that lesson from her, and I've followed my heart as I've built a life that I love.

Happy Saturday.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Winter's Crystalline Beauty

The other day, a bank of freezing fog enveloped our world and then departed, leaving behind the most magical sight. Every tree, branch, and bush was covered in frost.

It was the kind of magic that doesn't last long but we sure enjoyed the sight while it was here!

Shyla sat in front of frost covered pine trees, waiting to find out what we were going to do next.

She was going to run around some more - her favorite thing to do!

She romped with such exuberance that day. It was the perfect temperature for her - quite cold but still in her comfort range.

I know that I say this frequently - but I love this girl like crazy! Her verve for life inspires me.

She reminds me to live each day to the fullest. For example, I've been finding that I've been exceptionally tired recently - and I tend to blame it on the medications that I take to prevent migraines and control chronic pain. Then, I remember that Shyla is on a very strong medicine to prevent seizures. She isn't complaining - she's making the most of every moment on this miraculous Earth.

Carpe Diem, for there may never be another day quite like the one that I'm living right now.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Finding Peace

I have to admit that I feel a bit like a turtle these days - I want to pull my head back into my shell and ignore the outside world. The turmoil, divisiveness, and the fear of losing our open lands or irreparably damaging our Earth scare me deeply.

For a person like me who loves nature and lives in the mountains, it is possible to pretend that all of that outside stuff isn't really happening. So, despite the world's issues, I choose my closed little world some days, seizing the wintry days. I can ride my fat bike so many beautiful places - it keeps me happy in the winter.

During my fat bike rides, I often pass a rusted out vehicle that sits next to a dirt road near me. People say it's a Model T although I don't know that for sure. If it is, it might have been sitting in this spot for close to a century - through at least one world war and many smaller wars. I find myself wondering how it came to be sitting in this spot. Did the engine die in this very place and the driver just walked away from it? Or did it slide off the road and get stuck in this spot? How many winter storms has it sat through? When did someone shoot at it, leaving all the bullet holes in the driver's side door?
I love living in an area where a specimen from history has sat in one spot for a very long time. No one has hauled it away to try to profit from it.

I also love having so much open space that I can have Shyla by my side for many of my fat bike rides. Our stops for play are a highlight of my days.

I think that she loves it too. She runs with such exuberance!

I know that it sounds simplistic but that's how I'm coping with the world's turmoil these days. Most days, it's enough for me to find peace in our mountains and spend time with our pure-hearted dogs.
I hope that all of you are finding peaceful parts of your lives regardless of the turmoil around you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday - The Moose Gauntlet at Sunrise

When Shyla and I get out early for sunrise, we get to see some special animals.You would think that moose would be easy to spot but that's not always true. I get help from Shyla in spotting them because she freezes in her tracks when they're nearby.

If we safely run the gauntlet of moose, I can capture glowing photos like this one of Shyla at sunrise.
Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Saga of Mountain Lions and their GPS Collars

Over the years, many of you have seen the big bulky GPS collars and the ear tags worn by the mountain lions that my trail cameras photograph.

Many of you joined me in bemoaning the fact that these majestic animals had to wear such bulky hardware.

The good news is that the study that required that the animals wear all that stuff ended about a year ago. Last winter, our wildlife agency was supposed to remove all the hardware from our mountain lions. Indeed, as early as last February, we began to see mountain lions with long lithe necks and no collars in trail cam photos!

Alas, it should not be surprising that some mountain lions are still wandering around with non-functioning collars and/or ear tags.

Here's one that I called the wildlife agency about because he/she stayed in the same area for a couple of days. I thought that they might be able to trap him and remove the hardware if he was staying in the area to eat a kill. As far as all of us can tell, this lion was gone by the time the wildlife officer arrived. I was told that the GPS collar is not functioning so they can't track down the mountain lion without sightings like mine.

This lion somehow shed the GPS collar but still has ear tags.

I understand that collars fail and cats wriggle out of collars (while keeping their ear tags) so it makes sense that some cats are still living with that awful hardware. The hard part for me is knowing that the hardware will probably stay on these cats for the rest of their lives. I have always suspected that the hardware makes some aspects of their lives harder.

I made a short video of the sightings of collared cats plus a clip of one gorgeous and collarless mountain lion walking in the snow. They are awe-inspiring creatures. I hope that you enjoy it.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Seeking Joy

It's been a rough week for me between the turmoil in the U.S. and the loss of my German Shepherd friend. Every time I go out on our trails, I see the evidence of the events of that dog's last day, and my heart hurts. Also, I also still feel the aftermath of my sled-pulling in my spine - it wasn't the smartest thing to do in terms of back pain. However, I can never walk away from a dog in need.

At times like these, I stick even more strongly to my ways of finding peace for myself. The best way to lift my spirits is to ride my fat bike out into the forest with Shyla at sunrise. I immerse myself in the sights, sounds, and scents of the forest. And, I rejoice in Shyla's contagious happiness in greeting each day.

 She's an amazing spirit - so sweet and gentle yet so wild about playing in the snow.
The other morning, she decided to dig up a juniper branch and chew on it. I guess that it didn't taste as good as she expected because she dropped it and made a series of hilarious faces.

I laughed out loud when I saw her facial expressions in these photos (she was fine after I assisted her in getting a juniper needle that must have tasted horrible out of her mouth). Seeing these photos was exactly what I needed.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Black Dog Sunday

Our black dog continues to do wonderfully since his CUE (elbow) surgery 9 months ago.

We were surprised, however, by how much he was set back by his 2 week complete rest due to minor surgery recently. We've been gradually bringing him back up to speed, and he's doing well!

We've come to realize that we need to continue doing his strengthening exercises for him to be able to live life to the fullest. We previously called them "rehab" exercises, and now we think of them as maintenance exercises. We have a strengthening program where he alternates exercise sets day by day.

I made a short video of the exercises that he does. I realized after I made it that the wobble board exercises are the most fascinating to watch, and they're at the end. So, you might want to watch all the way through to get to them!

We really hope that this program keeps him sprinting full speed ahead for a long time!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Moon Still Rises and Sets

It's been a tough few days. From the death of my dog friend to US events, I've felt worried and sad. However, I was cheered up when I was cleaning out my photo library and saw a few photos from November's Super Moon. Some pure natural beauty was exactly what my spirits needed.

The first series of photos were from moonrise just after sunset. I love watching the progression of the rising moon as it rises above the ridge to our east.

Part of why I never shared those photos of moonrise was that I captured some photos of the Super Moon setting over the Continental Divide for the first time ever. It would have been better if the moon had set just a trifle earlier in the morning but I can't be choosy. This was our first full moon rise and set without the sky obscured by clouds in more than a year!
These photos remind me that, short of a world-wide catastrophe, the natural world will still keep awing me no matter what. I'm going to try to put aside the terrible visions that have haunted me recently and immerse myself in the incredible world that we have the honor of living in.

Thank you for all of your sweet comments yesterday. The German Shepherd's human feels relief that he was able to leave this Earth on his own terms. She feels that he chose to go on an adventure that he probably knew was his last. He loved our trails more than anything so I, too, am glad that he managed to spend time on them during his last day on this Earth.