addenda: wildlife and driving

My bad: I left some things out of the posts of the last few days.

I wanted to also tell you all that when Hops and I hiked up above the lodge in Davis Mountains, and back down via Montezuma Quail Trail, we saw a trio of mountain goats. Hops was so stimulated that he nearly pulled me off the mountain, at a steep and loose-rock part of the trail. I was thrilled, too, too thrilled to think of my camera til they were gone.

The next morning, stumbling out of the van so that we could both pee, we were startled by a pair of mule deer standing within a dozen feet. One of them retreated to a safe distance, but the other was so enamored of Hops that she did not leave. In fact she was approaching, head stretched to meet him, with such enthusiasm that it made me nervous. I didn’t quite want to break up the party, but every time she got close–mere feet!–I spoke to her, and she remembered me, and backed up a step or two. This went on for minutes, until another human happened along and she finally ran away. I still don’t understand what this deer wanted so much with my little dog. To snuggle him? To eat him? Whoever heard of such a thing?

Days later, I would stop the van on a state park road to admire wild turkeys: a dozen or so that ran off into the bushes, but a group of four who stuck around, pecking gravel and looking back at me. Big, fat, stately birds, they are. And such strange appendages, these “beards” hanging off their chests.

I am disappointed that while in the Big Bend region I saw no big predators living–coyotes, bobcats, black bear–though all are present. I did see several roadkilled coyotes, and a stuffed bear in the Museum of the Big Bend who was hit by a car and killed two miles from that site, in 2009. At the time (I was told by the museum man) he was the largest bear on record in the state of Texas. That wording implies that a larger one has turned up since.

I am reminded by all of this of my lifetime’s two bobcat sightings: one on the mountain in Bellingham, Washington where I used to mountain bike, and the other just weeks ago, in West Virginia, while driving in the mountains at night. I had my brights on and it dashed across the highway in front of me, and I got a good look.

I also wanted to remark on the drive north from Ft. Davis to Monahans. The first leg, from Ft. Davis to Balmorhea, was gloriously beautiful. Fortunately, there wasn’t much traffic headed my way, so I took it as slow as I pleased, and looked around and enjoyed the multicolored mountains, a fresh vista around every turn. I stopped at Balmorhea State Park, where the famous pool is closed indefinitely for renovations, but I’d never seen it before and wanted to look around. Hops and I walked up to the chained-link to see the pool from a little ways off; it looks like a lot of fun. We spotted several black-and-white water birds enjoying it, which might have been bufflehead, but it’s hard to say from that distance and without my spectacles.

The drive from Balmorhea to Monahans, however, was a great change. From little-trafficked, rolling, multicolored, wild beauty, the transition was quick to oil pumps, flat expanses, and roaring traffic of big trucks (big pickups as well as big rigs), all of them in a great hurry and very suddenly none of them returning my steering-wheel-wave. High winds and the smell of oil towns (sulfuric and chemical) completed the experience: no fun. For that matter, Monahans on to Odessa and beyond continued in the same spirit; not until getting outside of Amarillo did things turn pretty again, but that’s a story for another blog post.

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