Moose's Garden
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Mon Oct 16 00:48:51 2006
I seem to have the best hikes without my camera.

I guess it's a Murphy's Law kind of thing, but I seem to have the best visual hikes when I go without a camera. I couldn't find mine today and I was in such a rush to get to the woods before the sunset, I decided not to stress over it and to just skip the camera. I think I ended up having one of my all-time best hikes on that trail.

Even in the dusky light, the fall colors in the woods were worth the trip. The ferns are turning yellow as they begin their annual die-back. The maples are reds. I noticed some oranges and yellows, too, but I couldn't name the trees. There's still a lot of green, even in the undergrowth. After this week's frost, we'll see if that persists.

It's difficult to be quiet on the trails during this season. The dry leaves everywhere keep no secrets of footfalls. I heard feet moving rapidly through the brush early on, so I stopped. When they stopped, I continued up the hill and around the bend of the trail to a spot where I've seen deer several times before. The highlights of my hike stood along the trail off to the left: a doe and two young deer--twins, perhaps. We watched each other for a while, sizing up the threat. We were probably only about twenty feet apart. Their presence in the fall woods made me mourn my camera. (Did I leave it in the woods last weekend? Where could I have put it?) As they moved through the woods, I realized the only picture I'll have of that scene is in my head. Too bad I'm not a better visual artist. Their colors and the fall colors and the twins and dusk just came together for a gorgeous composition.

They continued on their way and I continued on mine after a bit. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your perspective, they were going my way. I had been trying not to startle them or make them feel threatened too much, but I was concerned that me following them might cause problems.

They passed through my favorite spot on this hike, making me wish for a camera even more. I proceeded slowly, lest I startle them any more than I already had. Eventually, they stopped moving with me and let me get ahead. When I was far enough away from them for them to know I'm really not a threat, I began walking at my normal, fast pace again.

The single track was absolutely beautiful and spooky all at the same time. I paused several times seeking out the source of footsteps that weren't mine and other noises in the woods. I heard something several times that made me think of an owl, but I think dusk is too early for owls to be out. More trees are down. I wonder if part of the allure for me of this set of trails is the spookiness and the challenge of being brave each time I choose this path.

After the trail junction by the creeks, I began jogging again. Something made me stop suddenly a ways up the trail. I slowly turned and looked to my left into the woods. About ten feet away from me stood a short, stocky doe staring at me. I don't know why I stopped. I don't know why I looked to the left. I just know that her absolute silence and stillness made me wonder how many other deer I've passed while hiking.

A few minutes beyond her, I saw two large, white. fluffy tails heading deeper into the woods on the right. When the deer noticed me, they stopped moving and all but disappeared. Even when I was looking where I knew a tail had been a second ago, I could not easily see them. One of the deer followed along behind me next to the trail at a safe distance for a few feet.

Close encounters with six deer and no camera! I've had incredible deer encounters like this before when I didn't have a camera. Maybe I should lose mine more often ...

(I found it in the closet after I returned home. Why did I put it in the closet?)