There are days I want to get into the minivan and drive, drive, drive. And then there are days I just don’t want to stray too far from my coffeemaker. Know what I mean?
I stumbled upon the Winfield Creek Habitat Preserve one day last summer and promised myself I would return. So many birds! Given the proximity to my coffee machine, it seemed like a good day to go.
My plan was to take my coffee and my beach blanket, find a spot in the park to set up with my camera and journal, and wait for the birds to come to me. I remembered there was a small clearing that seemed perfect. But by the time I got to Winfield, I was having second thoughts. I couldn’t remember exactly where the clearing was. It occurred to me that by the time I put my camera in my purse with my keys and my journal, hauled out the big lens (in it’s own case; it’s rather heavy), grabbed the blanket and my coffee – that was a lot of luggage to be hauling around on a trail, especially with my limitations.
I draped the camera around my neck, threw the big lens over my shoulder, and tucked my keys in a hiding spot. No journal, no blanket, no coffee. Oh, the things we’re willing to sacrifice…
The parking area was occupied by a number of California Quail families, all of which scurried off into the undergrowth before I could get my act together. It was a promising sign. There were sure to be a lot of birds.
I made my way slowly down the trail. I could hear a number of different birds, but the leafy canopy overhead prevented me from seeing any of them.
I wasn’t worried though. I knew once I got to the clearing, I would see plenty. And the trail was lovely, winding its way through the mixed forest. Breathing deeply, I let the fragrance of the trees fill me. That scent is like a drug and I’m an addict.
Early signs of autumn were visible – leaves beginning to turn, bushes heavy with rosehips – but for the most part, it was still green.
As near as I can tell, there are three separate ponds connected by the creek. The first pond was empty. The second pond was covered with bright green algae. The third pond was full of ducks.
Where the heck was that clearing? My legs and lungs were both feeling the burn. It felt like I’d been walking for a long time. It had to be close!
I wandered through a stand of Ponderosa Pine and Red Cedar, turned a corner and there it was. The tall grass sparkled in the sun. Sparkled. Because it was wet. Nope. I’m not wading my way into tall, wet grass. I probably shouldn’t be disturbing the native plants, anyway. This was a nature preserve, not a park. I plopped myself down on the dirt path next to the clearing. I desperately needed to rest. I could probably still see the birds from here. The strange thing was, I couldn’t hear any birds. Well. This didn’t work out at all.
I sat there for a while, resting my legs and wondering where the birds had gone. Birds tend to get quieter as the day gets longer, but surely, I hadn’t been out here that long. Awkwardly, I got to my feet, thinking about the coffee I’d left in the van. That’s when I saw him.
No wonder the birds were quiet!
Just ahead of where I had been sitting on the path, I saw what I thought was a pile of deer droppings. Drawing closer I realized that the poop was made up of partially digested cherries. That wasn’t deer. That was bear.
I made it back to the minivan in no time. Not because I might be sharing the park with a bear, but because the path is a loop. Had I gone the other direction when I started, I would have arrived at the clearing before my legs had a chance to say anything. Live and learn.