Sunday, May 17, 2009

Oh Deer (Hiking in Duluth IV)

I've been spending far too much time indoors lately, wrapping things up on the computer and sorting through possessions. That's winding down now, and because I've got a few 10-15 mile hikes planned before leaving town, I decided to stretch my legs a bit this morning when I went out to play the lottery. The short stretch I had in mind turned into a five hour loop--luckily I'd brought my water bottle.

I entered the Lakewalk at 12th Avenue and followed it to its end at 36th, then circled back and headed up Tischer Creek. Amid its canyons and bridges, I stood and counted a dozen locations of water overflowing rock within sight. After eight years here, I still can't believe I can walk to places like this, and as often as not have them to myself.

After reaching the top of this trail, I continued to a grocery store to visit their bathroom and olive bar, and picked up a bottle of juice and a loaf of seedy multigrain bread as well. Then on to the university's nature area where as I sat on a bench dipping my bread in oil and wishing I'd bought more olives, I saw four deer near a pond where I was heading next. I had a moment of regret because I'd have gotten a better view if I hadn't stopped to eat.

After repacking, I continued on and soon realized there were actually five deer when I found them in the next section of woods I entered. I leaned against a tree to watch them and it soon became clear how little fear they had of me. When they came closer, I was able to see antler spikes on three of them and none on the other two leading me to think I was looking at two moms and three male yearlings. At one point the spikiest (about two inches) and spunkiest seemed about to walk directly up to me. I took a step back, waved an arm, and said, "Shoo, you don't approach humans. It's bad for your health." After they'd spent about 15 minutes browsing all around me, they moved on.

No, I don't care if they're eating your shrubbery. Yes, the effect they're having on some plants and areas is unfortunate. I'd still be much more likely to shoot a human than any non-human (penalties be damned), believing that the human would be more deserving of the bullet. This would have the added benefit of actually dealing with the cause of the problem instead of just one of its symptoms.

As I sat on another bench writing deer notes, I heard a thump behind me and turned to see a pileated woodpecker twenty feet up a dead birch tree about thirty feet away. She worked up and down and around for about twenty minutes before flying and stopping ten feet up a tree only five feet from where I sat. She didn't stay there long nor at her next stop before flying farther into the forest.

I continued up to the top of a hill where the view was absofuckinlutely amazing. A sea of young yellow-green leaves enfolded the darker conifers, and beyond, the placid Lake in various shades of blue below the cumulus-spotted sky. Not for the first time today did I regret not having my binoculars with me. Coming down the hill, another deer, this one apparently solo and limping when he ran.

And then over to descend by Chester Creek. Hundreds more examples of white water rushing and falling. Ho hum. Oh, here's something interesting--a few square yards of icy snow remaining tucked into the shaded side of the ravine. Don't always look on the sunny side.

And there was much more along the miles. Marsh marigold, a plant even I can identify. Ferns stretching upward, striving to unroll the last of their fiddleheads. Birds and a bumblebee and butterflies (sold those field guides already--oops.) A rabbit on the trail. The horizontal rows of holes of the yellow-bellied sapsucker (I think; not sure if any other species does that.) Some very lovely tinder polypores (Didja hear the one about the mushroom who went into a bar but the bartender wouldn't serve him? The mushroom said, "Why not? I'm a fun guy.")

If only the old coop had still been waiting for me at the end of the trail with its no longer existing vegetarian deli. Instead I went home and reheated the pot of soup I'd made yesterday which made a nice companion to the rest of my bread. As I rubbed my tired feet while waiting for the soup to warm, the cat looked up at me with what I like to think of as love but might really have meant, "My midday snack is very late!"

Like many of the other hikes I'll be doing in the next few weeks, much of my hike today is now part of the Superior Hiking Trail, although I was hiking the trails long before they got that title. If you want to follow along or are looking for a hike in town, you can check out that website or the city's list of trails.


Woodswalker said...

Thanks for taking us along on that splendid hike. And for shooing those deer. But try to feel a little more love toward your fellow humans. I sympathize, though, with your contempt. If I could catch the a**holes that leave their beer cans and bait boxes all over the woods, I'd like to make them chew and swallow their own crap. But I wouldn't shoot them.

greentangle said...

I'm not sure your example makes me feel any more loving. ;-) No, as a species, I gave up on humans long ago.

I don't mind people protecting animals from other people by any means necessary but the shooting line, while accurately reflecting my own opinion, was mostly a Robinson Jeffers' "Hurt Hawks" reference.

Allan Stellar said...

I think Ed Abbey made references that he'd do the same sa R. Jeffers. Seems to me you are in fine company there.