One of the things that we love about where we live is our “back yard”. Thirty minutes from the driveway and we’re at the lake. Head in the opposite direction, and we’re driving down dirt roads, past iconic farm homes and old barns. And yet, one more turn in the road and we’re in Idaho at one of my favorite places on the planet … McCroskey State Park.
I grew up at the base of this ambling, understated wonderland … we knew it as Skyline Drive, and it was my Dad’s favorite place to drive. Now it’s ours.
Skyline Drive is where we headed on a recent Sunday afternoon. The crazy smoke and awful pollution from the onslaught of early September wildfires had finally cleared out and the sun beat down on us, unfiltered.
Camera in hand, I set out for a short hike between two campgrounds along the top of a long, tree-lined ridge. Unfortunately, the camera didn’t prove useful for the amazing wildlife experience I was about to have
I had just descended down the hillside, well out of view of the main road and deep into the brush on both sides of the under-used path. My feet screeched to a stop … I think they did so long before my brain comprehended why.
Something … something rather large it seemed … was rustling in the thick brush to the left and uphill from me. This wasn’t a chipmunk … at least not one of usual proportions. My heart rate agreed … this was bigger … and scarier than a chipmunk.
However, more curious than scared … a dreadful fault of mine … I readied my camera, but also reached for my cell phone and turned on the video setting. If this was my award winning moment at capturing a moose in the wild maybe I wanted it on video. (Or if I was trampled by a creature, like, say … Sasquatch ,,, the video would answer a few questions for my husband, who had stayed at the trailhead … he’s not into hikes so much. )
Snap, snap, snap. Rustle. Snap. I guessed that I was hearing chewing and moving sounds as whatever it was drifted closer. Seemed like there were echos because the sounds came from straight ahead AND to the left AND to the right. I strained to see through the leaves and shrubs but they were just too thick. I could see nothing.
I thought I heard a snort, so ruled out Sasquatch … he has never struck me as a being who grazes for food on all fours.
This apparently ravenous creature was now within 20 feet of me separated by a short clearing and maybe a 10 foot wall of brush.
Suddenly, a thought occurred. What if it were a bear?
Bear, although rarely seen, are not uncommon on Skyline Drive. A story that my neighbor told many, many years ago came to remembrance, causing little beads of sweat to roll off my neck. She had been at the restroom at the trailhead of this very same spot and pushed opened the pit toilet door to find a black bear inside. She raced back to her Jeep so fast she couldn’t remember if she left the door open enough for the bear to get out.
What if I were standing 20 feet from that very same bear? Forty years and a lot of imagination had it weighing about 4000 pounds. And from all the noise, something nearly that big must certainly be in front of me.
I had just decided that maybe I should slowly back my way up the path, when there came a loud crash to the right. Something burst into motion and bolted down the hill. I aimed my video in time to capture a blur and then a white butt with a short flapping tail above it. (Not very good quality, so I didn’t post it.)
But … the snapping, rustling noise DIDN’T stop. There were more…. and they were now about 15 feet away.
Deciding that it wasn’t worth having them burst through the brush on top of me, I scuffed my feet and broke a twig.
An explosion of movement sent several deer crashing uphill. I didn’t get a single glimpse of any of them, but marveled at how quickly they broke through the terrain and disappeared. In just a matter of seconds I could no longer even hear them.
A little disappointed that I hadn’t gotten even one close up photo, I was still thrilled at this close encounter with nature. “It was the greatest hike ever,” I told my husband later, although I didn’t have a good reason as to why … not even a truly good picture.
A smart person may have returned to the car at that point. I didn’t. Now that I knew what was on the hillside and how skitterish they were, I continued on.
Finishing the hike had its rewards. First the view …
Then, after reaching the other camping area, I followed the main road back. About a quarter mile away from the car, I had the distinct feeling that something was watching me.
Pretty sure this was the guy who first bolted away from the rest of the group. Love his ears … makes me think of a dog who got caught dragging the trash can all over the kitchen.
Eventually, we came off the mountain. COVID and politics were still down below. Laundry waited in the kitchen. Weeds in the yard hadn’t gone anywhere.
But that hour in nature … a sliver of time away from it all … no better medicine.
Oh … one more reward for the day … notice those flights climbed! That’s a BIG deal for me.
Cheers until next time!
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