To take a hike every morning -on the clock – and be compensated by a roof over my head. What more could an outdoor loving woman want? Perhaps food? Food is a good idea. At some point – and soon- that will need to be addressed.
But savor with me for a moment an early morning rove through a pristine campground. First a half-mile walk through a piñon-juniper woodland, then a quarter mile trek around a lightly paved loop passing 13 campsites.
No one has been here in the past 24 hours. How do I know? Six inches of new fallen snow blankets everything. Mine are the only tracks. Wait a minute, what is that miniature train track, that zipper imprint in the snow crossing my path? Kangaroo rat? Deer mouse? I see the tail drag. Deer mouse, I conclude. I fill in the campground report.
The next day more new snow has fallen. Once again I am the only creature stirring on two legs. On the paved loop a cottontail found my trail and joined it for 20 yards. Day three I tramp through knee deep snow A jackrabbit has crossed my path of yesterday in bounding strides. On day four I am off work so I don’t have to rove the loop, but how can I resist? I borrow a pair of snowshoes twice my size and decide to break a path in 18 inches of snow. Day five I follow my snowshoe path in my hiking boots. Five days and still no tire tracks in the campground or human prints save mine. On impulse I fall on the undisturbed snow and make a snow angel right in the middle of the less travelled road, laughing to think how this will look from the elevated perspective of a Mini Wini driver. Day six, a mule deer has joined my path through the piñon-juniper woodland, leaving cloven tracks inside mine and a pile of deer scat to the left of the trail and then another to the right.
The sun has been shining these past few days, the snow steadily shrinking and melting. Each day there are new signs in the campground. A tent space cleared of snow and the footprints of a hardy camper. Tire tracks indicating arrival and early departure of a camper truck. And still, my boots make the only stride on the woodland path. And this morning? Blue and gray scrub jays scold and a juniper tit-mouse taps out a question and response to its mate. The sunshine is glorious. Clear and fresh inside my boot print, continuing for 15 feet I see them: Bobcat.