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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Just once in a while you plan something and it all comes out the way you hoped it would. It’s a good feeling.

Yesterday looked as though it was going to be a complete wash-out. Wind, rain and a temperature hovering around the mid-50s: it wasn’t very encouraging. But then we got into the afternoon, and there was this hint of an improvement, an odd patch of brightness over the bluffs to the west. By three thirty we’d made up our minds to go out, and I had just the ideal walk in mind – east of the ranch house, and down the steep draw that leads to the waterfalls. It’s the place where Phil the Chainsaw and I found that massive fossilised bone a few weeks ago.
There were no relics this time, but there was an extraordinary little plant – several, in fact. Tiny flowers, but enormous seed-pods – and once more I have failed to locate it in either of the reference books. Must try harder.

We followed the little creek. It’s rarely more than a few inches deep, so if you have a decent pair of boots on you can walk along the bed without getting wet feet. Despite the fallen trees and rotting limbs, the occasional slippery rock, it’s easier than the alternative, which involves scrambling up and down steep embankments and dodging the poison ivy which seems to be everywhere.  

We hadn’t gone very far at all when we stopped to look at something or other. It may have been a plant, or a rock, perhaps just the light coming through the birch leaves. The point is that we were standing quite still when we spotted a doe, thirty or forty yards away, browsing on a clump of currant bushes.  Beside it was a very young fawn. Out came our cameras, of course; and the two animals obligingly moved a little closer.

I don’t know how long we’d been there, standing in the running water, motionless and silent, when there was a movement in the underbrush just on front of us. There, less than fifteen yards away, was another deer. I’m tempted to say a buck, but it had no antlers or horns, so maybe it was another female. I know nothing  about them. Where it had come from we weren’t sure, but it was settling down under the pine trees, apparently for a rest. There was no question that it had spotted us, but it seemed quite untroubled and just sat there chewing, occasionally casting an eye over towards the mother and fawn who were still browsing, working their way slowly towards it.

We were expecting the threesome to take off at any moment. They didn’t, although after a few minutes the buck (if that’s what it was) got to his feet in a resigned, languid sort of way and came to have a closer look at us.

By this time the other two were almost as close, and still unperturbed – although the mother was starting to stare in our direction too.

Finally, some fifteen or twenty minutes after we’d first spotted them, they decided we weren’t to be trusted, and took off, swiftly and silently.

We splashed our way downstream until we came to the first of the cascades. You can’t get down to that from the top. You have to go around it and maybe a hundred yards downstream, then walk back up, which is what we did. As we approached it, A. peered into the hollowed out rock face behind the falling water and said, ‘What’s that black thing?’

Bingo. As I said earlier, sometimes your plans work out just right. I’d missed her birthday last month, and the flowers I sent via the Net simply failed to arrive, so I’d stashed a bottle of champagne at the bottom of the falls for future reference. How lucky can you get? As we climbed up the bank clutching the bottle, the sun came out and we were able to sit on the grass above the creek and savour the chilled contents.

We completed our walk to the river-bank, and came back up the easy way, via a steep trail that gets you through the woods and out onto the open grass within minutes. There was a still quite a bit of cloud about, but there were enough breaks to allow the sunshine through. We were now at that time of day when the low light starts to emphasise the slopes and dips of the hills, and illuminate the flowering grasses. I’m not sure which one of us snapped this picture, but it’ll be on my desk-top for the next few days.

Following up something I mentioned the other day about the Old Jules orchard place, I have to report that the hunting lodge down there that appears to be for rent is not available after all. I spoke to the guy who manages it and he told me that he has had to  sign a contract permitting him to rent out to hunters only, not literary pilgrims or other ne’er-do-wells. However, he said that plenty of people come to visit Mari’s grave and pitch a tent overnight, and nobody ever objects. So… maybe that’s what we’ll do in a day or two.

Today we’re off adventuring – after I’ve had my hair cut down in Merriman at 0815h. I booked that slot last week, forgetting that I need about thirty minutes to get down there in Mercy, so I’d better get my skates on.

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