After a month of camping in the desert, camping in the forest has us on our toes. Sounds make us jump, shadows make us look twice, every tan colored rock looks like a crouching cougar. You know that feeling you have when you sense someones watching you? You know that feeling when you’re on a long drop toilet and you feel vunerable? Imagine that in rattlesnake country.
Walking at night your head is on a swivel, looking around you, expecting to catch 2 staring eyes in your headlamp at any moment.
We are the only people here. There are a lot of empty campsites, empty roads and paths. We all got up this morning at first light. I instantly scanned the horizon looking for movement. Nothing. I relaxed, the birdlife is beautiful, woodpeckers tapping trunks, bluebirds, bluejays.
We wandered down to the creek and it was gushing after the rain.
We returned at midday and took of our shoes, crossed the golden water full of sparkling pyrite and followed the path up the hill. There were cougar tracks, clear as day, going to and from the creek. Its one thing to know you’re in cougar country and see the posted signs. Its another thing to find fresh tracks not 100m from your campsite, and know that you probably disturbed that cougar from its morning drink from the creek and it was probably watching you and your children. Its enough to make your hair stand on end. Then it dawned on me that mountain lion would have seen me instagramming that morning, how embarrassing.
After 3 days here I now prefer sleeping in the tent than the bus. You can hear more, the owls calling to each other, toads croaking.
Hearing the coyotes at night is not a big deal anymore, there were packs in the desert as well. Then the thought occurred to me that most people at home in New Zealand have never heard that sound. Do you know how to tell its coyotes? It sounds like they’re having a party. A good one. Little tipsy dogs, having a hootenanny of a time. Maybe I’ll come and join you.