I'm not sure why I am so fascinated by seeing wild animals up close and personal, but I am. This morning as I was walking back from Mass, I noticed a car stopping up in front of me and backing up. It stayed there for a second and appeared to be looking at something before driving off.
When I reached the spot, someone's residence, I heard a rustle in the overgrown lawn. At first I feared it might be a rather vicious dog that lives in the adjacent home that somehow had gotten loose and was about to tear my leg off, but instead I spotted a deer.
What amazed me about this particular deer was the size of its ears. They were huge My previous experience of deer led me to believe that I was witnessing some mutant form, so large were the ears. I later found out that what I was looking at was a "mule deer" so called because of the large mule-like ears.
After mutually staring at each other for awhile, I started to move down the sidewalk away from the deer. It was then that I heard more sounds and looking notice two more deer. Now all three were staring at me and seemed less fearful than deer I've encountered before.
Finally, I walked away. Like the motorist who had gotten his eyeful, the deer no longer seemed an abnormality; in fact I realized they belonged here.
Path Less Traveled
I finally decided to take the path less traveled. I had witnessed a man and his dog taking this detour in the path everyday and decided to have a look at what challenges it provided.
The first challenge was to stay on the trail. At times it seemed that the trail all but disappeared. I had read in a trail book that fording the brook was a necessity on this trail, but I presumed that the trail would be well marked where you had to do that. It probably was at one time, but that now had been washed away. Several times I had to retrace my steps and then looking down the pass find some semblance of footprints so I would know where to cross the brook.
Rising high above me on either side were palisades. It struck me that having a dog would be a good decoy down here if a wild animal were especially hungry, but it also struck me that it would be difficult to manuever a animal over rocks and fallen trees to cross the water.
The thought of wild animals, once it had entered my head, pretty much stayed there. Several times I thought I heard footsteps above me only to realize that it was the sound of the sand falling from the thin trail giving way to my own footsteps.
Finally I reached the "normal" trail and continued down the mile and 1/2 trek. The path less traveled was nice, but defficient precisely because it is less ventured upon.
It still takes me about two hours of the day to complete, and I still spend half of that time listening to Don Imus but the morning commute is just not the same.
For one thing it's not as far, from the house it's only two miles if I travel the shortest route, but it is all uphill and of course two miles back downhill.
Traffic is not a problem; in fact I ignore the traffic reports. I am however on the lookout for people, with bears recently having been sited in town; traffic of the human variety is welcomed.
I am not stressed at the end of the trip, something that the other commute was guaranteed to produce, although if I run into a bear on this one that is sure to change. The only stress on this trip is wearing the right amount of clothing so as not to be too cold or too hot.
I make this commute on foot, and I feel like I've done something at the end of it. I listen to the radio on the way up, and pray the rosary on the way down and I feel like I'm in a different zone by the time it's all over with.
Now I'm ready to get into the car and go somewhere.