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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thankful Thursday - What a Wonderful World

For me, "place" is key to my happiness. When I first visited the Colorado mountains years and years ago, I knew that it was where I belonged. I am so grateful that we found a way to set down roots here.

As an example of a "normal" but actually very special day, I started one day in late September with a mountain bike ride with Shyla. The sky was blue, the leaves were golden, the sun was warm, and I was with my best biking buddy. We had endless miles of trails outside our back door.
On this day, we didn't come home and rest after our ride. Rather, we headed to where we could watch the annual ritual of the elk rut. It turned out to be a stupendous day of viewing.

In the fall, the biggest bull elk gather harems of cow elk and their calves. The bull elk defends his harem against all other bull elk by bugling, patrolling, chasing, and occasionally even having an antler sparring fight.

On this day, we found a lot of elk rut activity very fast. In a small meadow, about five fairly big bull elk had gathered. One had a harem. The others were trying to steal a cow elk or even just spend a few minutes with her so that their DNA would help make a calf.

Here is the bull elk who was herding his harem away from the interlopers.

He was constantly trying to keep them in a tight group and away from the other bulls.
He obviously had established his physical superiority because he needed only to posture to keep the other bulls away. He never actually fought or even truly chased a competitor. Part of his posturing was driving his antlers into the grass while facing toward the other bulls.

He ended up with a grass hat! It seemed hard to believe that the other bulls would respect a guy wearing a hat like that!

He bugled and protected his harem while wearing the silly hat. We dubbed him "Grass Head". I guess that name could have other meanings here in Colorado where a certain kind of "grass" is now legal.

He was a source of tremendous amusement to us.

Eventually, he shed the grass except for a few strands, regaining his regal look!

In the meantime, some smaller bulls sparred, obviously just as practice for the day that they would be among the bigger bulls in the herd.

The stronger one would drive the other one backwards. Then they'd disengage their antlers and stand together amicably. I think that the greatest risk in this is that their antlers could become locked together. I've heard of elk dying due to this catastrophe.

These guys were so small compared to Grass Head that he paid them no attention. Instead, he answered the bugles of the bulls closer to his size.
In an upcoming post, I'll share some sounds of bugling from the meadows where the elk rut was underway.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wordless Wednesday - The Anatomy of a Snowy Leap

I love how her eyes were glued to me when she landed. I love our bond.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Training Tuesday - A new strategy for encountering strangers and their dogs

As many of you know, Shyla has a very hard time with meeting new people and dogs because she's afraid of them. I've tried many different strategies for meeting people and dogs on trails over the years, and none has worked.

I'm currently working with a great trainer who has suggested a new approach. When we meet people and dogs on trails, I have Shyla go under my legs so that I can "squeeze" her between my knees. So far, it's working like a miracle. Shyla is so much more relaxed in these situations!
Note her small "Marco Polo" radio collar that lets me find if she ever runs off
Having her go under my legs serves three purposes. First, Shyla feels very protected by me. Second, dogs don't approach her when I'm standing over her. That surprised me! How wonderful not to have groups of dogs surrounding Shyla very closely. Third, it may be a little like the calming effects of being "squeezed" that Dr. Temple Grandin has written about.

At this point, I have to initiate it, getting a hold of Shyla and standing over her. It would be far better if she eventually learned to get into what we're calling the "under" position whenever we see people. To that end, we've been doing some training.

I thought that you might enjoy seeing a very short session that we did the other day. In this very early training session, I always started with my back to her. As of today, I could face her, and she'd run around behind me to get under my legs. Yipee!

You can watch the short video here or at Youtube.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Big Male Bears of Autumn in Action

Bear activity is waning fast in our neck of the woods. A few big male bears still wander the trails. They are no longer consistently marking trees. This guy is very close to one on his left side in this photo - it's the spindly one that appears to be rising out of his left hip. He didn't even turn his head.

Based on the bears' girths, I can tell that they've had a good eating year! Again, this guy is passing a marking tree on his left hip. This guy looked magnificent as he passed a marking tree with nary a glance toward it.

Interestingly, two bears in a row did take an interest in that marking tree. On the evening of 9/19...

And in the morning of 9/20...
Neither marked it. They just sniffed.

In fact, the last time that tree was marked was on 8/4/17. It was marked only once this season although most bears who passed it did sniff it.

As you can see, the one bear who marked it was very emphatic!

By September, bears seem like they don't have the energy for marking trees willy nilly. However, a couple of bears did, including this one. I believe that this bear is Tiny, who has grown his winter coat and is no longer limping at all. He looks to me as if he'll be back next mating season, assuming that he doesn't get in trouble with humans this fall.
In the past, Tiny has still been out and walking around in early December. He goes to his den late, which means that he will be continuing to try to find food even when most natural foods are finished.

I have a video from trail cameras that are pointed at bear marking trees so that you can see the activity that we've had in December. It ranges from Tiny doing emphatic marking dances to a bear who couldn't be bothered to stand up while he sniffed a tree. That sleepy bear was probably heading toward a den.

You can watch the video here or at Youtube.

Thanks for watching!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog has a significant birthday coming up. He's turning double digits.

Based on his gallivanting in the mountains, you'd never guess it.

He's one of the happiest and most exuberant dogs who I know.
We will be celebrating by doing something very fun with him!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Swimming Saturday

Those were the days, my friend. I thought that they'd never end... the ones when the dogs could play in the water every single day!

Both dogs love to get "big air" when they dive into a lake but R is the maestro at it!

It almost seems as if he's trying to fly.

My biggest challenge in photographing him was not letting him leap up and out of my frame! Look at that air!

Shyla's leaping style is much flatter and probably faster

And when she does get some air, she has a distinctive landing style!
I'm sad that swimming is over for this year but there's plenty of winter fun ahead!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Autumn Flowers with some in Aerial View

Just before our recent snow, I found a flower blooming among the golden aspen leaves. It was a wild clover with a beautiful magenta color.

The majority of our recent flowers have been the golden aspen leaves.

Alas, many of our leaves have fallen to the ground now. However, the day before a big wind event that brought down many leaves (and trees too!), I did an aerial view of a local aspen grove in brilliant gold. You can watch the video here or at Youtube.

P.S. Youtube has been marking many of my videos as "inappropriate for advertising". I think that that rating is an error but they won't review them unless I get a lot of views in a short period of time. I'd be really grateful if you could click on my video to play it and give it the thumbs up if you're over at Youtube (icon in lower right of video). I will be having a fair number of videos in the coming weeks so it would help me immensely if you could do that favor for me! Thank you.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Colorado Rocky Mountain High

I know it's not "cool" to love John Denver's music but I do. He loved the Colorado mountains like I do. I knew, as soon as I first visited the Colorado mountains, that they were my home. It didn't matter where I'd lived before or where I'd grown up - the Colorado mountains stirred my soul.

Today is the anniversary of John Denver's untimely death.

I made a video of riding my mountain bike through golden groves of aspen, and I have John Denver's song as the background. I'd like to share that with you today. I hope that he'd approve of this use of his song (his foundation gets all the ad revenue from this video).

You can watch it here or at Youtube.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

From autumn to winter in a day

Sunday was a classic glorious autumn day in the Rockies. From the point of view of a tourist, we were past "peak leaf peeping". However, over the years, I've learned exactly which aspen groves keep their leaves the longest. I visited those on Sunday.

I pedaled joyfully on golden paths through the aspen groves that still had their leaves.

And Shyla ran through them with similar joy!

I've been negligent about bringing toys for her to fetch so she found a stick and invited me to play.
I could tell that it was one of those over-the-moon gorgeous days so I took a million photos. I'll save some for later. They make me smile!

I may have savored yesterday even more because I knew what was on the way. This was the sight out our window this morning. As a side note, that line of ten chairs is R's rehab tunnel - he crawls through them forward and backward SEVEN times daily. The Runner has shoveled them out so that R and I can resume his rehab soon. We need to wait for the ice on the deck to melt first!

I know that I'm not good at the autumn to winter transition because I tend to mourn the end of long warm mountain bike rides. The key thing is for me to get out in the snow and remember that it can be fun! Shyla loved it from our first instant outside!

The weather here can make such wild swings. Last week, I wore shorts and a sleeveless jersey to ride my bike, feeling the sunshine on my shoulders. Today, it was about 18°F, and I was bundled up like I was riding in the Arctic Circle.

If it's like other years, we have more warm autumn days ahead of us. This snow will melt, and we will, once again, marvel at the warmth of the sun.
There's no place that I'd rather be than in Crazy Colorado!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Moose and bears at two mountain ponds

A couple of ponds nearby have intrigued me for years because I wonder what kinds of wildlife visit them. Water sources are not common in our neck of the woods. By this time of year, most of the smaller ones have dried up.

Imagine my delight when the owners of the ponds said that they'd love to have me put wildlife cameras near them! As you can see from the photo below, there was some fun action at the ponds in late September.

There are two ponds, and it seems that different species use each one. The upper pond is favored by bears while the lower pond is favored by moose. We'll see if that trend continues over time.

I compiled a video of the visitors over the first 3 weeks of September. First, a flock of wild turkeys showed up. They drank from the pond but didn't go into it.

Then, our first bear arrived. He was curious about the trail cam, which makes me think that he's a regular there who noticed that something had changed. He started by examining the cam and fogging up the lens. He then headed into the pond for a swim. After he came out of the water, he rolled around on the grass, much like a dog would do!

Soon there was another bear visitor. It was easier to see this one as s/he swam. This is my first experience with bears actually swimming. Most of my observations have been of very shallow water sources.

Next, the moose came around at the second pond. The first view of them showed only two moose, both bulls. Then, it sounded like a freight train was approaching. It turned out to be a third moose who was galloping through the water!

Last but not least, I included a clip of a mother-calf moose pair in the water at night. I loved hearing the mother "talk" to the calf.

I hope that you enjoy the video either here or at Youtube.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Black Dog Sunday - Looking Regal

I don't know how well you feel that you know our black dog. Let me say a few words to help. He's turning 10 yrs old later this month yet we are routinely asked if he is a puppy. He is ecstatically enthusiastic about almost everything that we do with him.

As an example, I still do rehabilitation exercises with him for his elbow. When he realizes that the exercise routine is about to begin, he jumps up and down, does a few spins, and then barks while tossing his head upward in joy.

He throws himself into most of the exercises as if he hasn't already done about 500 days of exercises since his surgery. Except when I have a migraine, it is almost impossible not to get happy along with him.

He symbolizes a "Life is Good" attitude. It is very rare to see him look as serious as in this photo, which is why I like it so much.
His eyes show the depth of his spirit. If more people loved life like R does, the world would be a better place!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Last of the season - a long alpine mountain bike journey

Near the end of our summer trip, I had one last long mountain bike ride to do. You see, my spine really cannot handle riding in our LabMobile on rough 4WD roads. So, I did a long ride to meet the pack at a trailhead on a smooth road.

I am never leave this place easily. This was one last look backward before I left the the prominent mountain range near our campsite. I know how fragile life is so I always say a little wish that we will be back here again.

It was about a 40 minute climb until I crossed over a pass and entered a new mountain range with a wonderful singletrack path leading the way.

It was a glorious day, with no threat of storms the entire day. This was the view when I was partway up the climb to the highest point in the ride. I had prepared myself to be forced to push my bike up this very long and steep climb. I've done this route before, and I couldn't ride this climb. It was too steep.
Much to my surprise, I did pedal almost all of it! I trained harder this summer than I have in a long time, and it truly paid off. It made these high mountain rides into pure joy rather than heavy-legged slogs.

If you look closely in the next photo, you can see the thread of a trail that I'd climbed up starting in the left middle of the photo and then sinuously climbing up to where I was. I was at the top! The majority of the hard work of the ride was behind me.

As I descended, I ran into wildflowers, and you know that seeing them brings me to a standstill! An entire alpine meadow was filled with flowers. I really couldn't do it justice with my camera.

After relaxing with the wildflowers for a while, I headed further down. I saw a sight that is probably foreign to most of you. A big herd of sheep was spread out across the hillside and the trail.

There was no human with them. Rather, a sheep-guarding dog kept a close eye on them. When I first started through the herd, the dog got up and kept a close eye on me. I know that these dogs have a job that they understand very well - protect the sheep against any threats, and humans can fall into that category. So, I got off my bike and talked to the dog softly. He lay down and looked utterly relaxed.
I thought that the guard dog had dismissed any worries about me so I hopped on my bike to ride through the flock. Then, I glanced behind me, and the guard dog was right behind my back wheel. I took that as a sign to dismount and walk again. He seemed much happier with me walking so I made it through the herd peaceably.

I arrived at the trailhead with almost perfect timing. Our time in the southwest of Colorado was almost over. We stopped for ice cream in a nearby town, and then we drove partway home that day. We stopped to camp that night at a special place before driving the rest of the way home. More about that later.

Enjoy your weekend!