Photos and text copyright Romping and Rolling in the Rockies 2009-2017.

All photographs and text within this blog are copyrighted.

You may not copy or repost any photos or text without specific permission from the author of this blog. When in doubt, please ask.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Nature and Feline Friday - Kitty love is in the air!

Close to human trails, there is a line of mountain lion scrapes that host myriad animals all year around. The scrapes are just barely hidden from view, and lots of animals, including cats, venture there even during the day.

This video covers the very snowy last two months. I'm sure that the deep snow is a lot of trouble for travel by wildlife but we will all benefit from it in the long run. You'll see the vast changes in snowpack throughout the two months. We've had lots of days like this one.

We have a pair of adult mountain lions together. If the successfully mated, the female will have kittens in May, which seems like a wonderful time of year to raise them. Mountain lions can have kittens at any time of year but there is a pulse of kittens born in springtime. 

Later in April, a female lion visits a scrape and caterwauls, which means that she is looking for a mate. Love is in the air!

Check out the short video!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for the awe inspiring beauty around me.

I am also thankful for the online photography courses that I've been able to take during the pandemic. My full moon photo session did not work out this month. So, I pulled out a set of photos from an April full moon photo shoot a couple of years ago. At that time, I considered it to be a failure. 

But, now, thanks to my courses, I knew how to resuscitate the images. I had to combine two images to make this one. And THAT is something that I did not know how to do back then. I love learning new things!

There is so much to be thankful for!

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Wordless Wednesday

It's still winter here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

River Otter at Labrador Valley (for real, this time!)

A little while ago, my trail cam began picking up new-to-me mammals moving along the mostly frozen creek in Labrador Valley. It took me a little while to realize that the first videos were of a mink. Mink are considered to be semi-aquatic, and they love to eat fish. The mink in our creek was diving below the ice, presumably fishing.

I really wanted to discover that river otters were in our creek. They were considered to be gone from Colorado. Then, the state reintroduced them in 1976, and they've been expanding their range ever since then. 

So, you can imagine my glee when my trail camera picked up a large mammal on the ice atop the creek. River otters weigh 10-30 lbs which is about ten times the weight of a mink. I checked with some experts, and sure enough, it was a river otter!

It's a very short video because the otter turned around just after the camera spotted him. Check it out!

Monday, April 26, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

It's been another back-and-forth week. I sometimes think that this constant change is slowing Hachi's progress too much. I've been reading about dogs with his genetic make-up, and behaviorists tend to say that reactive dogs like Hachi want a set schedule in their lives. They want to be able to predict what will happen next and when it will happen. Hachi doesn't have that right now.

Then, when I see him at Lab Valley, I know that this phase is totally worth it. He is a different dog at Lab Valley - far more care-free than ever before. Also, getting lots of off-leash exercise helps him immensely.

This week, we felt that his response to strangers was more muted than in the past. He still reacts - but his barking seems less intense - and he recovers quickly. The thing that seems to throw him into the most reactive mode is when people appear at times and places where he doesn't expect it. It's called "sudden environmental contrast" by behaviorists - and Hachi really does not like being surprised.

Shyla continues to be the best part of Hachi's life. She never gets upset with him, even when he badgers her relentlessly to play when she doesn't want to. In the next photo, she was as engrossed in playing as Hachi was. I love when I can capture a moment of eye contact during play.

I've been frequently noticing the funny play faces that they make. Hachi didn't used to make faces like this but I think that he's learned from his sister.

We love our Hachi. Even when progress is slow, working with him seems so worth it.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

In this week of snow, I've thought of our Black Dog many times. He adored snow more than almost anything. In the archives from 2014, I found a photo from when we were out in an intense snow storm. His crazy passion for playing in the snow shined through on that day!


This week, we played in the spot where I took lots of snow photos of Shyla and R over the years. His strong and joyful spirit was never far away as Shyla and I played. We smiled at the memories.

We're so glad that our Black Dog had so many happy days in the snow over a lifetime of living in the Rockies.

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Shyla Saturday

Shyla and I have had such fun together this week out in fresh snow. It is too much snow for snowbiking so we've been snowshoe hiking together. It is rare that Shyla isn't in motion but I caught her sitting still at one instant during a hike.


More often than not, she is galloping through the snow looking ecstatic.

Seeing her joy makes me smile. I love our one-on-one time in the mornings. It starts off my day on a wonderful note!

Even though it's late April, Shyla is hoping for more snow. I wouldn't object because it's so much fun playing in snow with her.

Happy Shyla Saturday!

Friday, April 23, 2021

A Carnivore Message Center

In my previous video installment, I shared footage of a mountain lion who had cached an elk carcass very nearby to a forest clearing. In fact, I found the forest clearing by following the lion tracks from the carcass to it. It turned out to be a great wildlife spot for years and years.

For the 10 months following the lion's frequent visits, many animals came through the clearing including lions, bobcats, moose, and a coyote. My favorite part is how the smaller carnivores like bobcats have the courage to mark over the scent of the lions. They are amazing creatures!

Check out the video if you have time. And, Happy Earth Day, a day late! Let's protect the parts of the Earth that we can by giving wildlife and their special spots space to be truly wild.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Thankful Thursday

It's still snowing here in Colorado. A couple of nights ago, a rapid and intense storm hit, and it dropped around 12-18" in short order. By the next morning, the storm was gone, leaving the most gorgeous world behind.

I think that it was my favorite snowy day yet this winter. Shyla and I had a glorious snowshoe hike.


Shyla happily galloped through the deep snow, loving every minute of the bluebird day.

I even enjoyed a little bike ride on the local roads. The crystalline beauty of the white snow and frost against the blue sky was incredible.

While I was riding, I had to stop to take off my boot and try to remove whatever felt like it was cutting the sole of my foot. As I stood on one foot with my boot off, a moose sauntered by and then stood in some aspens nearby. She looked like a yearling to me. Fortunately, she was completely unconcerned with me.

There is so much beauty to be thankful for.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Wordless Wednesday - Scenes from Lab Valley


Sunrise before the next foot of snow

Residents of Lab Valley - Mama and yearling

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

A mountain lion's marking spot near his meal

I frequently hear the misconception that a mountain lion lives in a certain den or hiding place all the time. In fact, lions who don't have tiny kittens are constantly on the move. When they manage to kill a deer or elk, they will stay close to the carcass for a few days. 

When they've finished eating that meal, they move on to hunt for their next meal. This video includes an example of a mountain lion who visited a spot in the forest at least twice per day for about 3 days while he ate a cow elk that he'd successfully hunted. Then, he vanished, in pursuit of his next meal.

Over the years, a mountain lion appeared in this forest clearing about once every three months so his twice daily visits were extraordinary!

Check out the video of three days of a mountain lion "commuting" to and fro his feast. He's a big cat, and his behavior is fascinating to watch.

Monday, April 19, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

It was a snowy and cold week in Colorado. Among all of our dogs past and present, Hachi likes snow the least. Despite that and moving back and forth between homes, he had a good week.

The snow began at our old place. I used to take Hachi out to play on our old land until people started trespassing very close to our house (it seemed like pandemic-induced lack of consideration). I spoke to them, and they were not apologetic or even pleasant. So, I stopped spending outdoor time with Hachi for a while due to worry that he would chase and bark at trespassers. 

When it snowed this week, I'd had it with inconsiderate people stopping me from playing with Hachi on our own land. So, we went out to play in the snow, and we had FUN!


No interlopers appeared in the midst of our play so it was peaceful. Hachi seemed very happy about it.

Then, the best fun began when we went to our new place. There's enough space for the pups to play to their hearts' content.

They love making funny faces together. It makes me laugh!

I do have to admit that progress on "real" training feels like it's been slow this week. Hachi was tense several times during our daily "Bucket Game" sessions. Our play sessions were so-so with Hachi worrying about things that we couldn't see. But, he handled seeing strangers on the trails near our old place remarkably well so that's good news.

It is truly astonishing how he is transformed when we arrive at our new place. It feels as if he has a clean slate with little history of fear there. That is a good thing.

We are seeing glimpses that Phase 1 of construction will be winding down soon so we'll be able to be there a lot more. Hachi will be happy about that!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

We all looked up to him.

And we all loved him.

 Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Shyla Saturday

Shyla loves our morning outings as much as I do. At our old place, she knows all of the great photo spots. She's become a bit of a diva, always assuming that I am planning to photograph her. She poses before I even ask her to. She is the best model that I can imagine. Her enthusiasm is infectious.

Together, we are slogging through this stormy month. She adores the snow and the cold. It makes her want to run so fast, checking out every scent to the sides of the trails. Her energy lifts my spirits!

Happy Shyla Saturday.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Feline and Nature Friday - Mountain lions and a Black Bear (Tiny!) out in spring snow

Deep in the forest, there's a narrow path that our most shy wildlife love to use. I found it last summer after bear mating season had ended. Since then, mountain lions and bobcats have dominated it with an occasional bear wandering through.

After our huge spring storm, a mountain lion very slowly plodded through the snow. Then a deer and pair of dueling  robins. After another mountain lion, the highlight of my spring arrived. Tiny the Black Bear sauntered through. He marked a tree with his trademark "sitting" style.

Seeing him on video made me so happy. He looked good, no different from last fall. Check out the video!

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Thankful Thursday

After we've had some nice warm weather with sunshine in April, I have a very hard time being happy about snow. Yet, April is our snowiest month so I have to face it yearly. Most years, we go to the desert in April which helps deep my happiness level high.

We haven't been able to go this year due to the construction. We are the only ones who can make certain decisions so we need to stick around just in case they run into yet another unexpected decision. Given that we have a whole week of cold and snow in the forecast, I am fighting to keep my chin up. I know that we "need the moisture" but I'd rather not be here for it. Yes, I'm a wimp.

So, for Thankful Thursday, I had trouble figuring out what I was thankful for. For that reason, composing this post was a great exercise for me this week, helping me to remember just how lucky we are.

First, I loved that a big turkey marched around our house for about 4 hours the other day. No ladies were nearby so we aren't sure why he was displaying just for us. But, it was opening day of turkey hunting season - so perhaps he felt safest by us.


As always, I am thankful for Shyla's happy companionship in the forest. I took this one before the current grayness descended on our neck of the woods. She and our world are gorgeous.

And I am thankful for incredible skies with Shyla howling in front of them. I went back through my library of photos searching for smiles, and it seems that I never shared this one. It looks unbelievably brilliant so I went through all of my settings to make sure that I hadn't over-saturated it. I didn't touch the saturation or vibrance buttons. This was for real. It was like fire in the sky.

There is so much to be thankful for. I know how fortunate we are, and I try hard to remember it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Wordless Wednesday

From this...

To this...

That change was within a day. It's April in the Rockies.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Mink at Lab Valley

We visited Lab Valley last weekend. In addition to pondering the scintillating topic of sconces, I checked a few trail cameras.

I had heard through the grapevine that there might be a few river otters in the creeks in the Lab Valley area. River otters are considered "extremely threatened" in our state. At one point, they had vanished from the state but then wildlife officials reintroduced them in 1976. They've gradually increased in numbers since then but still aren't common.

A friend said that she'd seen the tracks of an aquatic mammal on a snow covered creek in the spring months. You can imagine that I was motivated to set up a couple of cams to try to get footage of animals on the creek that goes through Lab Valley.

Believe it or not, I got some footage of an aquatic mammal right away, and some of the footage was in the daytime. One cam captured the animal bounding along on the snow atop the creek. Another cam captured footage of him hunting under our bridge. He swam under the ice, doubtless fishing.

It took me a while to figure out but it turns out that the animal was a mink. The clearest difference is that mink are much smaller than otters. An otter can be the size of a medium dog or the same length as the coyote who appears in the video. A mink is about half that size.

I am excited that we have a mink but I am still hoping for river otters. I'll keep you posted! Check out the video.

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

Despite the chaos of our lives, Hachi is doing pretty well. We humans are coping with construction decisions, and I am sometimes cranky about them. I think that remodeling a house is "death by a thousand decisions", and each of those decisions seems to be required *right now*. Today it is bathroom towel racks and which side to have the hinges on the basement door. Oh my...

No doubt, our stress affects Hachi. It becomes most obvious when we go back and forth between our places. He needs about 24 hours to settle in after a switch. That is understandable. I need 24 hours too. But, with Hachi, I need to work harder to remember to be more careful for those 24 hours.

In the first 24 hours, he doesn't play as well with me and the Runner. He will play a tiny bit and then check out his surroundings. Sometimes, he will spend half of a 10 minute session checking out his surroundings. We never pressure him to play. We simply make ourselves available to play if he wants. 

He almost never says "no" to playing with Shyls!

He also occasionally gets a little growly with Shyla in those 24 hours. That happened this weekend soon after we arrived at Lab Valley. We were out on a short hike, and it appeared that Hachi thought that the Runner was about to give him treats (although he was mistaken). He growled/snarled at Shyla who was next to him. Shyla barely seemed to notice but we humans did.

So, the lesson from this week is to be aware of the possibility of resource guarding when Hachi might be trigger stacked. I need to remember that what feels like a fun transition is also stressful.

This next photo was a fun from an indoor photoshoot when Hachi was about 4 months old. I love seeing the trio together. I remember Hachi's resource guarding from that day (no one else was supposed to get treats, in Hachi's opinion) - and that memory made me realize that how much better he's become since then. It is less frequent and less intense. That is a Victory!

We have accepted where we are with Hachi. We have wonderful days with him. Sometimes, bad behavior emerges. I have learned to analyze it and then let it go. It has taken me a couple of years to reach this point of acceptance, and I'm glad to be in this place. 

We are so glad that Hachi is part of our family.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

The definition of joy. 

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Shyla Saturday

She watches my back while I am engrossed in photographing wildlife. As long as the animals are alive, she is totally reliable about leaving them alone (but all bets are off if it's a carcass!).

She is an amazing athlete who easily mountain bikes with me to this day. She can run like the wind.

How utterly wrong her previous owner was who said that she was "useless". Yes, keeping a puppy in a crate for the first 9 months of her life creates some psychological problems - but that owner did it anyway. I'm so glad that we invited Shyla to join our family and never looked back. In Shyla's case, love erased her past.

Happy Shyla Saturday.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Nature and Feline Friday - Wildlife plowing through winter

A wonderful animal trail is now gone, bulldozed for a road. I've been going through my footage from that path and making videos to give others the sense of what a special place it was.

Now, I cannot go to that area because it makes me too sad to see the desolation where there once was a path so heavily used by animals. Since we are moving, I have decided not to try to figure out how the wildlife adapt to the loss of this key corridor. They have been coping with our transgressions for years, and I choose to believe that they will adapt this time too.

Let's enjoy seeing the wildlife activity from last winter, starting in November and going until the first bear marked a tree in April. For me, the "first bear of the year" marks the start of springtime. Enjoy the video!

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for signs of spring. I love when mountain bluebirds puff up their feathers against the cold.


I love when the swallows argue. They seem to argue more than any other birds who I know. Fortunately, they also seem to forget their arguments very easily.


I love when the mountain bluebirds glide past me.


 And I love when Shyla is happy.

We probably have a lot of snow days still ahead of us but the warmth of the sun, the brightly colored birds, and being outside with Shyla make me smile.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Wordless Wednesday

There's still lots of snow in some places (and it's snowing again)

But some intrepid birds are here anyway (Western Bluebird)


Tree swallow

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Full moon setting

Almost every month, I go out early in the morning to try to get good images of the moon setting. "Try" is the most important word in that sentence because I don't always succeed. Some months the clouds get in the way. Some months the composition that I visualized doesn't work out. And some months I make too many mistakes - plain and simple.

Some months I walk away with a gorgeous cloud formation whipped up by the mountain wind but no good moon photos.


And then, every now and then, I end up with more than one moon photo that I like. That can happen because I usually go out for multiple days around the full moon. This was a second-most-favorite photo from a recent month. Moonset was a little later than sunrise so there wasn't alpenglow but I still like it.

I started my "full moon setting" project about 20 months ago. I think that I'll keep at it. It's a fun way to spend an early morning or two each month.

Do you have any full moon traditions?

Monday, April 5, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

Even though we've been at our old place for a while now (construction is too intense for us to be at Lab Valley), Hachi has had a good week. He has been so affectionate with me and the Runner, spontaneously giving us kisses and snuggles. 

In bigger news, he's continuing to have a more muted response to strangers on the trails. Sometimes, if they are at a great enough distance, he doesn't even bark. That blows my mind when it happens.

Every single day, we play the "bucket game" for handling with him. I won't lie - it is going slowly. We are both feeling as if plain old counterconditioning might be working better. However, we will keep at it as long as our behavior team still thinks that it might work.

We also still play with Hachi every single morning. All three of us love it, and we humans think that it may be the single most important thing that we do with Hachi. While we play, Shyla gets personal time with her "machine", which is a Pet Tutor that is set to a program that delivers treats when she is quiet for a certain period of time. I think that her Pet Tutor time might be Shyla's favorite thing all day!

We also try to do Hachi's Relaxation program every day. It's a short training session that is designed to teach Hachi to relax whenever he's on a certain mat. It seems to be working but we still do it only at times of the day when he tends to be sleepy.

Moreover (this is a time intensive dog!), I try to practice putting on Hachi's harness every day. Putting on his harness has been a long term issue for him. It seems to terrify him, and his body language while it's being put on worries me. Just today, I managed to put the harness over his head without him becoming so worried. That was a great moment!

I decided to list all the stuff that we are doing with Hachi just so you'd know that it's a big undertaking to try to help a dog like him. Through a couple of years of having him in the family, we've become very committed to him so we are willing to spend the time. I still believe that there will come a day when we'll look back at his early years as a long-ago memory, kind of like how I have trouble remembering how fearful Shyla was as a youngster. 

I think that we'll be back at Lab Valley soon so he can resume outdoor playtime with Shyla. Despite the lack of playing for the past couple of weeks, he's a happy Hachi these days!

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

Shyla joined our family in 2012 as one of the most fearful and meek dogs who I'd ever known. From the start, our Black Dog loved her.

One day soon after Shyla's arrival, I came home to find our Black Dog lying in a sun puddle with her. I grabbed my camera to take a photo of their Labraduo snuggles. However, sweet R chose that moment to give his sister some kisses. I felt so lucky to have my camera out and ready at that moment.

Shyla looked sort of shocked - perhaps because of her retiring personality. Over the years, she came to expect spontaneous affection from our Black Dog and reveled in it.

Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Shyla Saturday

This girl is the best forest exploring companion who I can imagine. We've been hiking in the mornings rather than biking because there's so much soft snow. Hiking is good for our bond because we move more slowly and have more time to interact. Shyla gallops happily on the snow crust, sniffing and exploring. I call her over for treats and pats, and then we walk onward. 

We have no particular destination. We eschew the trails because they are so pock marked with peoples' footprints that they're very difficult for walking. Instead, we follow our noses to wherever the footing is best. 

Then, some mornings, there are glorious sunrises, and Shyla shifts into model mode!

Happy Shyla Saturday. What a sweet pup she is.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Nature and Feline Friday: Mountain lions, bobcats, and dogs all share a scent post

A scent post was started by mountain lions at least a decade ago. Over time, the spot became less secluded with hikers and bikers turning a tiny path into a bigger one. Over time, mountain lions have visited less frequently, and dogs have been the most common visitors. But, wildlife still marks the spot too, with feisty bobcats marking it most often.

Watch the dogs - they show strong interest in the spot. If you're curious about where wildlife mark in your forest, keep a close eye on your dogs. They will show you!

Check out mountain lions, bobcats, and dogs all in the same spot in this video.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Thankful Thursday

Yet again, I am grateful for the happiness of our pups. Their happiness makes us humans smile with gratitude.


At Lab Valley, we have a long driveway that is plowed. It is a great place for us to walk and the pups to play when the snow all around it is deep. You can see how tall the wall of snow is along the driveway when they sprint along the driveway.

Sprints like that one often end in some playing. I love Hachi's body language when he plays. I think that playing with Shyla makes him happier than almost anything.

 And sometimes, they even dance together.

The unbridled enthusiasm of our dogs for play is one of our great joys in life. We thank our lucky stars that these two get along so well. We humans walk along "supervising" and smile ear-to-ear.