Instead of our normal run I opted for waking up a little earlier than usual and went for a hike. The woods were dark when I entered but quickly started to lighten up. The weather was just about perfect and there was no one else on the trail when I started.
Just a little ways into the hike I encountered something I have never experienced. An owl started hooting loudly and almost immediately there was a response from another owl. The hooting then got more intense, more rapid, and higher pitched. There was just enough light that I could make out the shape of one owl flying towards another on a branch. Both owls spread their wings to increase the size and they were so close together I could not make out where one stopped and the other started. Within a second the one on the branch took off like a shot and the other took its place. The one that had flown was easily trackable against the dark blue pre-dawn sky and I watched as it settled into a new location. It was awesome!!! I could not believe the luck I had to see such an event.
I then walked up and down the valleys while listening to both the bird songs and their echoes. The sound bounced and resonated through the coulees and added a little extra beauty to the music. I was surprised to hear the changes in the types of birds as the minutes ticked by, it was almost like each species had their own alarms set.
Along the path I scared up a deer. He was well off the trail by the time I saw him. I slowed my pace and was rewarded with an encounter with two more deer, neither or which were startled. It seems as if they know there was no threat to them from me and we spent a few seconds just enjoying the sight of each other before I got back to my trail and they slowly walked and ate.
The woodpeckers all kicked in at about 5:35 and were going hardcore for a good 10-15 minutes. There were at least three different types based on what I saw and observed with their pecking patterns and sounds. A few times I just paused and watched them go to town on top of a dead tree, so entranced by watching them do what woodpeckers were made to do. I was lost in a state of awe watching their heads pile drive into the tree over and over again in rapid succession while also remembering that their tongues wrap around their brains to provide extra cushion. That’s legit, look it up 🙂
By the time I’d reached the top of the bluff and started heading down the sun was up and the woods were as light as ever. Thinking I had enjoyed pretty much all I would see I was left in quite the state of shock when I came across three different deer. They were also not at all spooked by me and took their time crossing the trail. We slowly watched each other as we went our separate ways, me descending, they heading up the bluff. In many ways it felt like going to church, seeing and acknowledging the people you know by sight and haven’t had a conversation with, but you’ve always both smiled at each other. We shared what seemed to be an acknowledgement of each others company, four beings enjoying the wonder of the woods.
My morning was so enriched by the time in the woods. The sights, the sounds, the smells, all of my senses except taste enjoyed the journey. Throughout the day there was a different level of calm I carried with me, a peace which can only be found by spending time in the woods.
I was so struck by it that I used my lunch time as an opportunity to hike a very short distance into the bluffs near my office, put up my hammock, relax and eat lunch, enjoy more of the woods, and then head back to the office in almost exactly 60 minutes. That extra dose of the outdoors time only enhanced my day further.
Late in the morning some friends were texting about current affairs and all I could do was laugh. I responded with a text sharing that I feel like I’m living in a different world and shared all I had seen in my morning hike. I can only imagine so many of the ills of our world would be slowly solved over generations if we all paused to get outside and experience a sense of awe in the outdoors. I know, I’m totally biased on this one, but there are so many wonderful benefits to being outside more often. This was proven to me multiple times today.
So many incredible experiences seemingly in my own backyard on an early morning hike. What a perfect way to start the day!