Friday, June 04, 2010

The fox and the fawn

Even while most health experts recommend doing your high interval aerobic workout in the morning, due to my schedule it's something that's a rarity for me. Although this morning the opportunity presented itself.

It's a nice trail I take at the city park. It allows me to get my daily dose of the wild, although there are wildernesses all over where I live. There's the Manistee National Forest, and then there's where I grew up which is pretty much in the woods.

During my training sessions through the city park where I walk around a 0.93 mile paved bike path that takes me through the woods, to a lake with a dock, past the city campground, and then back deeper into the woods where the path comes full circle back to the docks again.

It's a city park, so you can hear cars whooshing in the distance. Yet it's still the middle of the woods. There's talk of building a dog campground, which is a fenced in area where people can walk their dogs. I'm hoping this doesn't distract from the outdoorsiness.

I see lots of wild animals, although mainly just the common one's like rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, snakes and the like. It's neat, however, how you can get up to a few feet from a deer, and the deer will stand still and stare at you without taking off -- which is what they normally do. In a sense, all this wildlife is tame to humans.

Today I saw a doe twice, and both times it was scared away. Actually, the first time it I took it as an opportunity to stop, and it stared at me for a few minutes, until it decided it better not take it's chances with me. After completing my workout I decided to walk the 0.93 mile circuit through the park when it started to lightly sprinkle.

So here I was completely alone, never passing a soul. I was thinking how cool it was to be out here by myself, listening to the birds chirping, the constant shuffling of leaves as one squirrel was chasing another, or a raccoon shuffled across the creek to my right. There's always a lot of wildlife activity in the woods, but never as much as there was today.

There are also signs placed here and there with one animal track on each one. When you lift the sign up you can see what animal's tracks is represented. I passed one that said "Cougar" and observed that the top of the sign had been ripped off, probably by vandals. I was thinking how cool it would be to see a cougar. I had never seen a cougar before.

You think about cougars as something you'd see out west in the mountains, but believe it or not they have been spotted up here in northern Michigan. However, I think in the west they are called mountain lions, but the truth is both cougars and mountain lions are one and the same. I think that's true anyway.

So here I'm walking in the rain and there's all this wildlife. You here a lot that wildlife goes into hiding during the rain, and that this is often a sign that it's going to rain. Yet I don't think that's necessarily true either, unless the animals sense a severe storm. Right then it was just lightly sprinkling. It was a cool rain, at the temperature was 65, but it was raining nonetheless.

About half way around the circle I was closing in to the point where there is a pond to my right, and I could hear the croaking of frogs even though I couldn't yet see the pond. On the other side of this pond was a city campground, which gives you an idea how close people are to where I was. Although I was, by all means, in the middle of the woods.

So it was about at this spot that I'm thinking how cool it would be to be one of the few people to see a cougar. There are also bear in the area, but you don't hear about them unless they get into the city and start wandering around. Bears are curious animals. I heard a story recently by one of my patients about a bear coming right up to their house and getting into their trash. When she woke in the morning she could see the tracks. I've also heard of cougars walking right up to screen doors and my friends that happened to be inside the house watched as the cougar ran off.

You hear these stories from time to time, and occasionally there is a story in the paper about a cougar track, although to actually observe one of these critters is a rarity. In fact, it's so rare some people don't even believe these animals exist.

So, I'm thinking about this, and then I hear a scuttling of leaves to my left. I'm thinking it's just a squirrel, or a bird, or a chipmunk, or a snake, or a skunk, or a rabbit, or a deer, or some common animal like that I see often. Yet what I saw was a little red fox, no larger than a rabbit, running through the woods. Then, right behind it, was that same doe that I had scared away twice while running earlier.

The fox and doe both disappeared in the woods, but it was in the direction my path was heading. So, after I passed the pond and a track which lead to the campground, the path turned left. I was on the lookout for the deer or the fox. I saw, standing in the woods, a fawn. I stood there and stared at it for at least five minutes. It moved maybe once or twice, but if you weren't observant you might not even have spotted it. So, now I'm thinking, what I saw must have been this doe, and not a fox.

Yet, at about the five minute mark, a fox sprinted from behind the fawn, and the fawn chased the fox into the bushes right next to the track ahead of me. Now I was reminded of the fox and the hound, only in this case it was the fox and the fawn. I figured I'd certainly see the duo again as I passed the bushes they ran into, yet there wasn't a peep. They had disappeared. If I wanted to I probably could have scared them out, but I continued on my way.

While there's lots of foxes up here, you don't see one very often. I grew up 20 miles from where I do now more in the country, and I only saw a fox once scamper across the yard. I knew of a
few fox dens, yet never actually saw one.

Anyway, it's just neat what you see when you're in the woods. Sometimes I find painters sitting in the woods drawing what they see. Sometimes I stop to talk, although most of the time I decide they don't like to be bothered. Well, actually, most of the time when I'm out there I'm busy doing my workout routine.

It's moments like this I wish I could carry my camera when I'm running. Yet I never do and probably never will.

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