One could go on and on forever talking about anything, but I'll just touch on it here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Buntings, Butterflies, and Bull Snakes

My husband, a friend, and I took a hikeabout Friday morning in the foothills near home. Though excited to get out and have a good time, I had visions of the weary travelers along the Oregon Trail and wished instead for mountain forests and waterfalls to walk beside. Nevertheless, the day promised to be cooler than the heat wave of the first two days of summer, so we filled up our water bags, smeared on the sunscreen, and left.

We met our friend where the road taken turns to gravel and then carpooled with him up the rough remainder until we hit trail. Once on foot, I happily crossed the conveniently placed rocks over a creek between the low trees and realized that we weren't going to hike only in dirt and sagebrush. The fact is that this particular location is not only lush (I use that term loosely) but also full of birds. We were scouting for birds—a favorite pastime of our friend.            
At first the birds eluded us. Their intermittent songs came from the trees and bushes, but they hid their bodies well. Then one would flit by, land, say a few words, and zip away again. Our friend, Amit, told us that many of the birds were Lazuli Buntings—small birds with bright blue heads and a touch of orange rust on their chests (Boise State colors of course, he laughed). As we hiked on into late morning, we started getting glimpses of blue. One of the birds even lit near us and sat, looking around a bit, but then got into an argument, or maybe something more playful, with another bunting and left before I could even think about taking a picture.

Our hike continued along the sandy, narrow trail until we decided to sit among the grasses and watch and listen. Maybe the birds would come out if we were quiet and still. I looked up the hill and spotted two gophers standing on their hind legs and reminding me of the meerkat Timon. Surely they, motionless, would let me take a photo. I guess I got just a little too close.
Sitting, waiting, camera beginning to dance around in my unsteady hands, I surrendered, took a snapshot of the naked hole, and left their place alone. What I imagined was two meerkat impersonators spying on me from another hole, laughing and pointing.

Another creature, however—whether vain, oblivious, or bold—gave my camera what it wanted. Butterflies flew all around us during our climb and descent. Of course I had to keep snapping my mouth closed and pressing my lips tightly together whenever they flew too close—it's this bizarre phobia I have that a butterfly will fly into my mouth—but Luke captured some beautiful pictures.

Now all we had to see was a snake.

My husband has a few similarities to Indiana Jones: he's adventurous, clever, adamant that artifacts belong in museums, and hates snakes—okay I'm not certain about the museum part. Snakes don't exactly bring smiles and warm fuzzy feelings to me, but I have touched and held snakes and do find them cool to see in the wild. After our day's adventure, however, I will stop teasing Luke about them. Amit had said something about snakes and I had started filling him in on how much Luke detests them, when not long after we all came face to forked tongue with one. I confessed that had I been in front, as Luke was, I would have jumped a mile high too. But then Amit and I started taking pictures.

This snake stayed still for a few minutes, flicking his tongue, and then with our movements toward him he started retracting his body into the bush. An invisible hand seemed to pull him straight back inside. He wasn't about to turn his head away from us. We politely walked on by, eyes more glued to the ground than ever as we expected another snake to appear.

No more surprises or animal sightings greeted us for the rest of the hike. We took our hungry selves back to the city for food and began feeling the soreness in our legs and feet that would accompany us for a few days. That is to say Luke and I are sore; Amit probably isn't at all and that's good because his next hike will be in the Himalayas. I'll have to work up to that.

No comments:

Post a Comment