POV: Grandma (me) telling a story to the grandkids. This is in response to two things: the Daily Post photo challenge: Solitude: This week, show us what being alone means to you, and the Daily Prompt: Overwhelming.
And so we set out upon the trail, climbing, always climbing.
It did not take long before Uncle Tom began to chide how many times I had to stop to catch my breath and stretch my legs. This was, after all, my first truly physical hike of the season.
After a half an hour, I lost sight of Uncle Tom. It seemed as if he was in a race to the top. I slowed my pace and began to take in the scenery, enjoying my surroundings. Eventually, I would reach the trails end, but I was determined to enjoy myself along the way.
I rounded a bend and morning sun rays beamed down upon a stretch of the trail where the trees were spread out. Breathing deep from the climb, the gamey scent of elk was not hard to detect.
Eyes and ears alert to spot them, I continued around the bend. Coming up the slope on my left were fresh elk tracks. They pocked the trail, crossing it a few yards in front of me, and then they disappeared through a section of, as yet, leafless salmon berry bushes. Although the berry bushes were twiggy this time of year, they were thick. I had to back up, close to the edge of the trail where the cliff was, to see beyond the twigs into the woods.
I searched the forest up the hillside on my right, hoping to see some movement. Judging by the tracks, there had to be at least three good-sized elk. It seemed impossible to not be able to see anything. The forest floor was relatively clean of undergrowth and the trees were all man-planted second-growth, their branches all uniformly high, and I could see quite a lot. I kept searching, wondering how far up the trail Uncle Tom was, wondering if the elk were crossing his path.
After what seemed a very long time, I reluctantly gave up and turned away from the hillside—it was then something caught my eye. A flicker of white. It came from within the Salmon berry bushes. I thought perhaps a bird hid within them, but instead of continuing on, I stopped and studied those bare twigs of tiny thorns.
It flicked again. I watched and waited for it to move. One time, a bird had traveled in the thick underbrush beside a trail alongside me for at least two miles. I wouldn’t have minded a companion—beings Uncle Tom was nowhere around.
I backed up and studied the brambles from a further angle and then I saw it. A cow elk stood very still, camouflaged within the center of the tangled berry bushes, and stared at me with her big brown eyes. Some sort of bee or fly or mosquito was harassing her around her ear and she flicked it reflexively to get it to stop and go away. That was the white I saw, the inside fur of her ear as it flicked.
I was in awe, overwhelmed; she stood so still and quiet, blending in like the painted Indian pony in Bev Doolittle‘s painting.
After a few minutes of a sort of communion with her, I left , continuing up the hill. I didn’t meet up with Uncle Tom till I was at the top by the lake. It was snowing lightly and very cold up here. I was thankful for the fire he built. We pulled out something to snack on as we sat by the fire.
I asked him if he saw the elk—any elk on his way up here and he said, “What elk? Here?”
He, in fact, had not seen any wildlife, nor any sign of wildlife. He’d been skunked.
Walk slow. Pay attention to what is around you. Be patient. The rewards are so special and fill the beholder with such delight. Those who merely scurry from place to place rarely glimpse the wonders that surround them.