Mar 30, 2008

An Early Spring Walk in the Woods

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(Toledo, OH) Knowing that I needed to get some exercise after a winter that saw witnessed my weight slowly increase, I headed out to Swan Creek Metropark for a hike in the late March winds. When I came across the sign that said "Fire Lane - Not a designated walking trail," I knew that the less-traveled path might offer me more to see in the way of natural beauty.

Or - more likely - I came to the conclusion that I was not going to let a bunch of outdoor bureaucrats tell me where and when I will walk in the woods.

I could hear Canadian geese honking further down the ravine, and I wanted to get some pictures of these majestic creatures. I tromped through the mud and brush to get closer to the geese, which were swimming in the flooded Swan Creek, when I heard a rustling on the path ahead.

Left: A curious resident of Swan Creek Metropark

Some thirty yards in front of me emerged a doe, which stood perhaps four feet tall at the shoulders. The animal stared in my direction, casting a wary eye at the geek in the red jacket and blue jeans that was intruding in her space. This deer, however, seemed less afraid than it was intrigued at the visitor.

We spent a few minutes in quiet examination of each other; I snapped a few dozen digital images and slowly inched closer, while the doe turned her head from side to side, trying to gauge the relative threat that the human posed to her.

My patience was rewarded, though, in an unusual way.

Left: A pair of doe eyeing me in the woods

A second doe, somewhat smaller, joined the first deer in the path up ahead. Neither animal seemed particularly fearful of me, though twenty yards seemed to be about the closest they would let me approach before moving to maintain an acceptable zone of safety.

We gazed at each other for a few minutes, and this was one of those sublime, Zen-like moments of peace and tranquility that come along once every few years. Birds sang overhead, geese honked in the creek, and it seemed as if I was a million miles from civilization.

Yet Airport Highway was never more than a half-mile to the north of me.

Left: A herd of deer passing through a meadow in Swan Creek Metropark

The pair of deer looked to their left, and out of the woods came another three doe. While others may be more familiar with large groups of deer than I, these five creatures were enough for me to settle on the term "herd" as a description.

The group continued to eye me as they foraged in the meadow for edible plants. I stood entranced, not wanting the moment to end and feeling decidedly blessed that the deer allowed me to stand in their presence for so many minutes.

Unhurried, the deer sauntered at a leisurely pace for higher ground and denser woods. I watched the last of the deer turn and stare at me for a moment, raise its tail, and turn again to join the group. I trudged back down to the river bank, but the geese headed for parts unknown during my 20-minute reverie in the woods.

As someone who has lived almost all of his life in the city, an encounter like this makes me aware of what we lose in an urban setting. For today, though, I am filled with wonder at the natural world, and I consider myself lucky for my opportunity.

5 comments:

MP said...

The whole family passed by? You must be crazy quiet.

Barb said...

These guys were in my back yard Easter morning for several hours. OR their relatives.

OFAC said...

Beautiful.

microdot said...

Toledo is very lucky to have such a great metro park system.
I have seen groups of over 25 deer in Oak Openings.
I really consider Oak Openings to be a very unique place in the eco system of the midwest. The last stands of virgin forest, the fossil dunes of the glacial lakes and the very unique temperate savannah environment that is a remnamt of the systems that once covered much of Ohio and Southern Michigan.

Go there and pick wild asparagus in the dunes and look for morels in just a few weeks! (I know where they are)

steve said...

The deer at Swan Creek are practically tame.

Hey Mike. That trail, the blue trail at Swan Creek, is my favorite trail to explore out of all the metro park trails! The best time to go is during the winter, during deer rutting season on a snowy afternoon or evening. The female deer are usually herded up in the meadow at the bottom of the hill, and the rutting males are out at various parts of the trail marking their territory. The males can be aggressive and will block the trail and snort, which can be sort of intimidating. But my face has never graced an episode of "when animals attack".