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Thursday, December 31, 2020

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful that Nature keeps showing us her beauty despite the difficulties of 2020. This was the last full moon of 2020.

I took this photo at dawn in a spot near Labrador Valley. It was cold, with wind sweeping off the Divide and the temperature around zero. It felt fresh, as if the world was clean and new. I love the area around Labrador Valley. Finding our new home was a good thing that happened this year. 

I am thankful that 2020 included some good things. I hope that was true for all of you too.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Life within an elk herd during the rut

This fall, our area had a very early big snowfall in September. The elk had to come down from the high mountains, their summer home, earlier than usual.

That meant that our area had many elk in the area during the rut. Bugles, the loud sounds made by bull elk during the rut, rang out throughout the area. 

A pair of local ponds saw a flurry of elk activity. Both are on private land but the owners have generously let me have trail cams there.

I was thrilled to find that the cams captured "life within the elk herd" during the rut. When you watch the video, be sure to have your sound on so that you can hear the bugles.

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Just a bit more than 2 years ago, we adopted Hachi. He, his mother, and his littermates were rescued from city streets in Texas.

I didn't see this photo the same way 2 years ago as I do now. His eyes look old - as if he'd already seen and experienced too much in the weeks that he'd been on this Earth.


He was scared of lots of things, including venturing out of the house to take a walk. In this photo, he had decided that it was way too scary to leave the porch.

He loosened up as the days rolled by. He even learned to "stay" within the first month.

In retrospect, it was surprising how well he seemed to fit into our pack in his first 6 months. He seemed to love R more than anyone.

As many of you know, we hit a dark phase when Hachi was about 6 months old. We had to change everything - including getting him behavioral vet treatment and separating him from the other dogs. He was behaving aggressively toward R and very fearfully when out in the world.

If we fast forward through those dark days, I can now say that Hachi is so much happier and more relaxed. Just two days ago, he started having happy dreams. He wags his tail joyfully during them. We didn't realize that he never had happy dreams (all of our other dogs have had happy dreams) until we heard his tail thumping while he was sleeping. It has happened twice now, and I think that it's a super sign!

We think that Hachi is happier than he's ever been in his life. One part is this paradise that is our new home. Another part is his sister - who he gets to play with daily when we're at our new place. 

Happy Gotcha Day, Hachi. You've taught us so much as we've traveled this journey with you. The journey is still a long and winding road but we will help you get happier and happier. Here's to many more tail-wagging dreams!

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Despite congenital elbow dysplasia and being blind, our Black Dog adored sprinting through the snow, and he loved it most of all when he was racing his sister.

As many probably remember, R had a number of elbow surgeries, including an elbow replacement called "CUE". After his CUE surgery, I did a ton of rehab with him. It turned out that his rehab exercises were something that both of us loved doing. I'd been close to R prior to that surgery but our daily rehab games brought our bond to a new level. I think that he felt the same way.

By the last year of his life, many of the exercises were getting harder for him because of his blindness. We stopped some of them but continued doing the ones that he loved most. His favorite of them was a chair game. I called it "doing chairs", and R would started barking as loud as he could when I asked him if he wanted to "do chairs". I wish that I'd kept the barking part of the videos but, alas, I did not.

To play the game, I lined up a bunch of chairs on the deck. R crawled forward and then backward through them. It was utterly amazing to me that he could still do this game when he was blind.

Here's is a video of R playing this game just about a year ago. Enjoy the video and smile for our Black Dog today.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Shyla Saturday

Shyla is Hachi's pillar of strength. Right from the beginning, she behaved a bit like a mom to him. Given Shyla's tendency toward fearfulness, I was surprised to see how sensitive she was to him. 

When they played together during Hachi's first winter, she usually let him win no matter what the game. When I called them both, Shyla would hang back to give him a head start.

That head start translated into a big gap between him and Shyla as they got close to me. Look at how hard Hachi was trying!

I think that Shyla's soft touch with Hachi is the reason why he trusts her completely. Their friendship is so strong and happy.

We haven't had a big snowfall yet this winter. I think that it will be even more fun at Labrador Valley where the pups can play without leashes during all of our hikes! I am looking forward to see them frolic in a real snowfall.

We love our Shyla. She is the sweetest being on Earth.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas


May you have a peaceful and happy day.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for sunlight. Today, we had 12 seconds more daylight than on the Solstice! Shyla's spies the sun peeking over a ridge to our southeast.


It was below zero degrees and windy. The wind was blowing our fresh snow through the air, creating a small ground blizzard. But, the sun made it look warm, right?

We didn't stay still for long. I think that Shyla was staring at me to urge me to move!

She was thrilled when it was time to sprint!

From now until spring, I'll be rejoicing in every single second of added daylight. More sunlight makes me so happy!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Wordless Wednesday

At Sunrise



Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Life at a bear marking tree while the bears are in their dens

In the fall, I set up a trail camera at a bear-marking tree in preparation for spring. I didn't expect to see bears because they don't mark much in the fall and then they go to their dens. However, other animals walked past it, giving us another glimpse into the activity in the forest when we humans are not watching.

As you watch the video, you'll see a smallish pine tree in the background with a branch leaned against it. That's my low-tech way of knowing if bears have been marking it. They cannot mark it without knocking down the branch.

This is another site that I thought would be impacted by the nearby fire. Fire-fighting equipment and personnel passed the cam but the animals did not leave. They must have known that it would be okay while all the rest of us were worrying.

It's a short video - and be sure to watch to the end. There's a fun snippet to see.

Monday, December 21, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Despite getting only a couple of chances to zoom and play this week, Hachi had a good one. He still has a couple of triggers that are specific to our old home area that date back to his puppyhood - and he lets us know about them. We've learned to anticipate them and to manage his behavior.

Whenever they had the chance to run and play, he and Shyla made the most of it. As you know, they adore our new land.

I love seeing them carry a stick together. It speaks to the bond that they have. Hachi has had no repeats of his bad behavior toward Shyla since we got home from our desert trip.

They get pretty rowdy while they play. This was one of Hachi's silly moments.

I love weeks when I cannot think of any "Hachi news". That is so different from early in his life when I felt worried and upset about his behavior a lot of the time. He's continuing to adapt to life with us and seems fairly happy. He'll be even happier when we can be at Labrador Valley!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog is always watching. This photo is a favorite of mine. Early one morning, I took the two of them out in the snow. They were full of antics that morning, loving the snow and being together. With just a tiny bit of encouragement from me, they peeked at me from behind this pine tree. I felt like they were each looking out for each other while they looked at me.


This photo was from that same morning. It was R who taught Shyla to howl and sing for the camera. He was more vocal than most dogs right from puppyhood. He made a variety of grumbly, happy, howling, yipping, and impossible to classify sounds. One of his favorites was to start howling as soon as I pointed the camera at him. What a funny dog!

Snow always made him happy and playful.

Happy Black Dog Sunday. I am channeling my inner Black Dog to keep winter fun!

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Shyla Saturday

One day recently at our old place, we awakened to great conditions for a beautiful sunrise. Shyla and I hustled out the door so that we would not miss it.


Shyla and I have not done a silhouette photo in a long time but she had not forgotten about it. I parked my fat bike at the base of the best silhouette boulder, and she scampered up. She caught a scent in the breeze and lifted her nose high to sample it. 

Shyla has the most amazing nose and ability to pinpoint the source of a scent of any dog I've known. Last week, she found a dead elk from a long distance away. It had been killed by a mountain lion, and it had little useful meat left on it. When I caught up with Shyla, she was gnawing on an elk bone. I guess that it pays to have a good nose if you're a dog.

After Shyla had finished sampling the air scent at sunrise, she decided that barking and howling would be fun. I love when she does this!

Happy Shyla Saturday. I am so lucky to have this dog as my photographic partner.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Two little cams and lots of wildlife that survived the wildfire

Just before the fire broke out that caused us to evacuate Lab Valley, I set up two trail cameras, each facing in opposite directions, along a path next to a stream. I chose the spot because there are bear-marking trees there. The jet-black fur stuck to the tree's sap told me that bears had used it sometime within the previous few months. I always try to set up cams to see the mating rituals of bears in the fall before the spring mating season. Otherwise, I might miss the earliest bears.

Then, very soon after I set up the cams, the winds raged off of the Divide and multiple wildfires broke out in Colorado. One was very close to us. After we evacuated, slurry bombers hit the fire hard and prevented it from burning too much forest. 

It's a small thing but all of the activity made a bush fall partway in front of one cam - and that's why the view is partially blocked.

This pair of cams was in the midst of that insanity. Firefighters swarmed the area, and fire retardant painted all of the trees red. Smoke was thick, and I thought that all of the animals who could flee would do so.

I was wrong. In the midst of it all, a mountain lion family passed the cams looking perfectly relaxed - far more relaxed than any of us humans. A few days later, a coyote ran past the cam carrying a deer leg. My guess is that the lion family had killed and eaten that deer, and the coyote was scavenging what remained.

Check out the video. I am thankful to the firefighters who kept the entire area from going up in flames and saved the lives of so many animals.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Thankful Thursday

As we approach the shortest day of the year, I am grateful at sunrise. The color of the sunrise light blows my mind year after year.

As we head out the door in the morning, the world is dusky and oh-so-cold. The snow glows in the dim light. Then, as I pedal, I spot the first beams of the deep red sunrise light up on the tops of the pine trees. When we are at our old place, I know exactly where the first rays will reach the ground so I make a beeline to that spot. But, at our new place, I am naive, and my eyes eagerly seek the first spot to be bathed in sunlight. 

One day, I spotted a shaft of sunlight hitting some boulders high above the creek that runs through the land. We hustled up there, and Shyla settled into the warm spot of sunlight.

As I took these photos, a trio of Stellar's Jays flitted around the treetops watching us. They cawed their suspicions about the new person and her dog for the whole world to hear. Just a week later, the trio had accepted us. They followed us with curiosity but they no longer tweeted out warnings to the world.

I am grateful for sunrises around the winter solstice. They are magical.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Wordless Wednesday - Scenes from the past week

A splash of winter color

A foggy and snowy day


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

A Glimpse of the Visitors to a Secluded Spot in the Forest over Six Months

For years, I've had a trail cam at a mountain lion spot near our old place. It seems to fluctuate in its popularity with the cats. It used to get occasional visitors, and I often thought that I should move the camera. Then, in the past six months, it started getting visitors very regularly. Many were during daytime!

Most of the visitors are mountain lions but a few other species show up too. A red fox seemed to spend some time in the area this fall but then moved on. 

Enjoy this glimpse of the animals who visit an isolated spot in the forest over the course of 6 months! If you have trouble watching it in this post, here is the link to it.

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi has had a good week! Despite switching houses, he seems pretty happy and mellow.


When we can, we drive to the new place to let him and Shyla blow off some steam. It's a long drive but worth it. With enough exercise, Hachi is far less anxious.

Playing off-leash with Shyla is the best kind of exercise that he can get. And Shyla loves it too.

They would run like the wind all day long if they could.

When Hachi is happy, so are the rest of us. Aside from our desert trip, he's had nothing but good weeks in quite a while. We are smiling.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Just about a year ago, we had a big snow storm. After the snow stopped flying, I took our Black Dog out to play with me. The snow was over his head in places. He looked cute peeking over the top.

His vision had seemed to go precipitously downhill in the months prior to the snowstorm, and I had the impression that R couldn't see anything. Yet, he trusted me to lead him around the forest, and even walk a short distance away from him in this deep snow. I'd chat with him about everything - the weather, what was for dinner, whether I had treats, and whether he was getting too cold. On that day, it was me who got too cold first.

He loved sticking his whole head under the snow while taking loud snorting sniffs. Then, he'd come for air and sneeze from too much snow in his snooter. He didn't only do that in snow but he also did it in summer dirt when he smelled rodents underground. He'd dig for them so intensely that he'd scrape the top of his nose until it bled. He loved hunting for rodents.


What a fun dog he was. I am smiling as I think about his ability to have fun no matter what. He would have loved the snow that's falling now. In my head, I'll be talking to him about the fresh snow when I ride through it tomorrow morning. He's never far away.

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Shyla Saturday

Back at the old homestead, Shyla and I are having fun playing in the area that we know so well.


From this sunrise perch, Shyla has warned me of moose approaching in the past. She watches the world carefully, seemingly knowing that she is the lookout.


After that one day in the sunrise light after arriving here, the world suddenly changed. It became bitter cold but also pretty. Shyla was happy to snuggle into the frosty grass in a favorite meadow.

No matter what, Shyla and I will keep on having fun on our morning outings. She and I are always happy while we're out exploring nature together.

Happy Shyla Saturday.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Feline and Nature Friday - Mountain Lions, Coyotes, Dog, and Deer

Near Lab Valley, the land has an abundance of gulches and creeks. On one of my first rides in the area, I headed down one of a smallish gulch almost to a big creek that sits in a valley. At the confluence of the gulch and the creek, I saw clumped up pine needles under a big Ponderosa Pine tree. 

Whenever I see disturbed pine needles, I check out the forest floor. The disturbance was often created by a mountain lion creating a scrape. Sure enough, that's what it looked like. I dropped a waypoint in my GPS app labeled "SCRAPE!!!" - the caps indicated my excitement.

I went back the next day with a trail cam. The results over the coming month were fun! Check out the video! Be sure to notice where the dog rolled and then how closely a lion checked out that exact spot.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Thankful Thursday

I am so grateful for my sunrises with Shyla.

The very short days of winter are challenging for me to stay upbeat. But, being outside when the sun rises makes me so much happier. It's cold but so gorgeous. And, Shyla is over the moon with happiness while we play together. She barks with joy.

And she sprints exuberantly.

On the day that I took these photos, I was working on how to get good photos with the rising sun behind Shyla. She was glad to oblige as I asked her to do the same thing again and again as I tried different camera settings. The colors are pretty intense but I think that I like this back-lighting.

It was another fun morning with Shyla! I am so thankful for spending winter sunrises with her.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Wordless Wednesday

Our new place just before sunrise...


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Carnivores strutting along a forest path

I've been having such fun trying to figure out the wildlife routes close to Lab Valley. Occasionally, as I ride my mountain bike, I get a strong feeling that I'm in a spot that is rich with wildlife. 

That feeling hit me as I rode near the top of a gulch. I stopped, stashed my bike, and started looking around. I found several trees that bears mark, and I saw aspen trees with bear claw marks that went almost all the way up their trunks. Then, I saw bobcat scrapes and possible mountain lion scrapes. I knew that I had to move a cam there.

On that day, I did not notice that there was a spring at the top of the gulch that had deer, elk, and moose tracks pocking its shores. It turns out that the area is a wildlife bonanza.

Here is video of the first 10 weeks that I had a trail cam there. Notice the skinny mountain lion - she concerns me. Don't miss the absolutely gigantically fat bear who went by in late September. Bobcats are the dominant species on this path, and notice that one seemed to chase another in early December. Perhaps it was a territorial conflict?


Monday, December 7, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi's week has been good. It seems that Lab Valley is his happy place.

And his sister is his best friend.

It's been a sun-drenched week when our afternoon walks have been bright and fun. Hachi cannot get enough playing.

Playing brings a lightness to Hachi's personality. I never see his body language so loose and happy as when he is playing with his sister.


We see a similar lightness when we play with him daily. Play seems like the most important factor in helping Hachi be happy.

I love weeks like this one with Hachi. Happiness reigns.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog never missed a chance to have fun. He loved romping in the snow more than anything. Each time that I called him to me, he sprinted as if running to me was a new and amazing adventure. He must have run over this saddle a million times in his life - but he ran with the same verve in the last year of his life as in the first year.

He was such a hopeful and happy dog. I miss my "conversations with R" - because his irrepressible attitude would put a wide smile on my face. He is looking at me quizzically in the next photo, perhaps wondering what was next or what kind of treat I was about to give him.

I miss him, and I still talk to him in my head as I ride my bike. I've been stopping by the Lone Ponderosa almost daily to think about him and remember all of his antics. He is one of those spirits that will stay with me forever.

Happy Black Dog Sunday. Please find a way to smile today in memory of our Black Dog.