What a Difference a Week Makes

It was a mere week ago that I complained about the weather while out riding. What a difference a week makes. I went for a ride yesterday with my good buddy Tim, and we both reveled in a spectacular spring day. It also turned into a micro-wildlife spotting day, as Tim is a parasitologist and knows more about "herps" (lizards, snakes, amphibians...) than, oh, pretty much anyone.

I was taking Tim along an old railway grade from along a river, and then another back to town. Remembering last week's ride, I had my winter riding jacket, booties over my cycling shoes, thermal gloves... needless to say soon into the ride I was peeling layers off as I began to steam up. We passed people walking their dogs, crossed some trestle bridges over creeks, and headed further from town and into the forest. The trees were green with mosses and lichens, and tiny creeks were rushing with the snowmelt in the mountains. It was an altogether beautiful ride.

Sure sign of spring - skunk cabbage everywhere.
A particular favourite of bears, and although we
saw scat, we didn't see any lumbering bears on our path.

I discovered that Tim has a particular talent for identifying snakes on the fly. I guess I already knew that from a ride we did ten years ago in the Okanagan valley, as we spent a lot of time ID'ing squished rattlesnakes and other species on the side of the road. Twice we were clipping along at a pretty good pace when he hit the brakes and turned around. The first was a regular old, garden-variety garter snake (the Northwest garter snake), but the second was a rarer species of garter snake I didn't know about, the Western Terrestrial garter snake. This one was coiled up like a venomous snake, ready to strike! They are not venomous, but are aggressive and will bite. Cute little thing, really. Was it planning on gumming me to death? They do eat small fish and even small mammals, which is pretty cool!

Western Terrestrial garter snake acting tough.

We saw several red-legged frogs, which is exciting as there are population concerns due to habitat loss, agriculture, urbanization and forestry. Those are all definitely factors here in the valley, so it was good to see these frogs, even though it was only a quick glimpse, as they dove into ponds and buried themselves in the mud to avoid us.

On the mammal front, we saw lots of gnawed trees by swamps, several dams, and a big beaver lodge. The area we rode through is frequented by Roosevelt elk, and although we didn't see any, we did see quite a few tracks.

The tilted tree has a beaver lodge in front of it.

Elk tracks.

Even though we rode for three and a half hours, it passed quickly and soon we popped out onto the pavement back in town. I love afternoons in the outdoors, with good friends and fresh air.

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