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A Sudden Craving For Porridge

July 22, 2009

(Originally Published 19/08/2007)

As I am preparing to depart for Japan, I am struck by how amazingly beautiful my current place of residence really is. Sure, the climate’s a little harsh – blistering summers and frigid winters – but the surrounding scenery and wildlife are incredible.

Last night, for the first time in my life, I saw a black bear in the wild. My mom, sister, and I were pulling into the parking lot near the trail along the Powder River and my sister said, “Hey! There’s a bear over there!” Sure enough, a black bear was rumbling along next to the water. We got out of the car and watched it for a moment and then it disappeared up the hill. If only my camera wasn’t in the shop right now! We decided to give it some time to leave if it so desired and we walked along the side of the river that was apparently bearless for the moment. Not far down the trail we ran into a doe and her fawn in a meadow. Nighthawks circled overhead in the gathering dusk and a kingfisher fired off his machine gun call as he skimmed along the river. We quickly ran out of trail and decided to return and do our normal loop. We had barely crossed the bridge when there was the bear again! It crashed off through some thick brush by the river and we decided to continue on, making as much noise as we could so we wouldn’t surprise it. We found proof of life (AKA “scat”) not far along the trail and noticed a burly black ball gamboling farther along the trail. Imperturbed (mostly) we continued down the trail with me in the lead and my sister taking up the rear guard position. I did pick up a hefty stick just in case. We came upon the bear one more time and this time it was stuck partway up a tree, watching us closely. It was so cute and cuddly looking with it’s short, tan snout and it’s deep brown eyes and I really wanted to give it a hug. Somehow managing to curb my desire for a bear hug, we passed by within fifteen feet of the tree. The bear watched us, we watched the bear, and everyone was happy. Later, I’m pretty sure I saw a marmot in the rocks too!

Just when I thought I’d had my crazy wildlife experience for the week, we ran into four deer on our walk through Baker City tonight! They were running down the road and across front yards. We saw them about half a block from my mom’s house. One had only one antler but another one had a very impressive rack. They bounded along and disappeared around the corner by the high school. An earlier time, I walked with my father along the Leo Adler trail in Baker City and we saw three deer. One of them was so calm I was able to spend a long time photographing it from very close range.

Deer on Elkhorn Crest Trail

Deer on Elkhorn Crest Trail

I cannot believe how many ungulates there are around here. We usually see several deer on our drive out to the Powder River and back and the Elkhorn Mountains are full of them. I was driving the Elkhorn Loop with my dad and sister one time and we saw over eighty elk in one clearing near Sumpter! The previous day we had seen twenty-two mountain goats up on the Elkhorn Crest trail.

Mountain Goats on Elkhorn Crest Trail

Mountain Goats on Elkhorn Crest Trail

I wonder what kind of animals I will see when I am in Japan! I remember the last time I was there I was surprised by how different the animals sounded from their North American counterparts. The crows, cats, and dogs all had distinctly Japanese accents! I really hope I can see some monkeys and tanukis!

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