03 May 2008

Indiana Dispatch #2

For the better part of 15 years I roamed the woods around the homestead on foot and on atvs, carving out trails of my own, keeping old logging trails open through my daily rides around on the 4-wheeler. I seldom encountered wildlife other than deer that scamperd away as soon as they caught sight of me, or cute squirrels and chipmunks, maybe a possum or two. The only scary moment throughout my entire childhood in the woods was that one time when a coyote stalked me, although at a distance, as I briskly made my way back to the house.

Eleven years have passed since I've ruled the forest around here, my extensive network of trails are mostly gone, overgrown and blocked with fallen trees. It seems the area's wildlife population has made quite the comeback since 80 years ago when even turkeys and whitetail deer were nearly extinct, and the forests had been obliterated. This morning was beautiful and sunny, so after some coffee I ventured out to explore my old stomping grounds.

I had an awesome ride on the 4-wheeler back the old abandoned county roads, the skies were blue, the fields were lush and green, and the dogwoods and redbuds were beautifully in bloom. I spooked a couple of deer who promptly ran away into the brush, I stopped in the middle of the a former cornfield and just took in the sounds of all the birds and the peace and quiet one finds out here atop Haney Ridge.

I made my way back to Mom & Dad's pond, noticing the old boat still looked pretty pond-worthy. It had been turned upside down on the bank for the winter, so I cautiously lifted it up intending to inspect it and then go find the oars for a little paddle around the water. These plans quickly changed as I discovered a cute little skunk who was napping underneath. I dropped the boat and ran like hell towards the 4-wheeler parked nearby and hauled ass away from the pond, in time to remain un-sprayed. I'm pretty sure the boat is going to remain off-limits for the rest of the season though, as when I went back to inspect it a few minutes later, the telltale eau-de-polecat was very apparant. Unfortunately, this was only the first time I'd be running like hell from wildlife this morning...

I ventured out the other direction from the house, down in the valley where there was an abandoned house I used to play around long ago. About ten years ago, a heavy snow finally collapsed the structure, but I still always like to check out that little creek valley when I'm back home. There's a pretty waterfall and interesting landscape. Trees had fallen across the abandoned road leading down the hill, so I parked the atv about a quarter mile above the remnants of the house and hiked on down the hill. The road has become so overgrown that I hardly recognized the area anymore, but after blazing my way through the brush I found the old well, and from there walked up to the pile of rubble that used to be the leaning old four room house that had been abandoned since the Great Depression. As soon as I walked around to where the entry into the front room used to be, I looked down and noticed a couple cute little fuzzy spotted heads looking up at me. My first thought was, "look at the cute little kittens," which quickly changed to "oh shit, mama bobcat can't be far away!"
The bobcats around here are pretty elusive, a few are sighted here and there every now and then, just enough to remind you that they are out there, but they're usually pretty good at avoiding human contact at all cost. I've seen enough nature shows though to know that when one stumbles onto the nest of cute little baby bobcats, mama probably isn't going to avoid human contact...

This is where the adrenaline kicked in as I realized the 4-wheeler was quite a long run up a steep hill through a tangle of greenbriars and I wasn't armed with even a big stick. I ran like hell, not even paying attention to where I was running, through the thick underbrush. I finally made it to a creek in a wide open space where I had a pretty good view around me and saw no large kitties lunging towards me, but I realized I had no idea where I was or where my atv was parked. I was completely disoriented and still in one of the biggest adrenaline rushes of my life, oozing blood from the numerous scratches and thorns that were stuck in my legs and arms. I promptly vomited up all that coffee I had drank before heading out in the woods, and composed myself just enough to get my bearings and find the trail back to my wheels. By the time I made it up the hill, I jumped on the 4-wheeler and rode back to the house as fast as I could.
I've always wanted to spot one of the elusive Indiana Bobcats, but this wasn't quite what I had in mind. Those little guys were incredibly cute though, so was the skunk. Too bad the city life and too much Animal Planet has made me a giant pussy when it comes to woodland creatures...

By the way, none of these pictures of cute critters are mine, just mined from the interweb.

1 comment:

Slammin' Sam said...

man, what an adventure.