Why did I let myself fall asleep on the couch at six in the evening? Now it’s two in the morning, and I’m wide awake. I forgot how boring it is to be up in the middle of the night without any electricity.
A year ago, I was living in Florida, five blocks from the ocean, with a pretty good job (two of them, actually), and a nice place to live. And the temperature never went below zero. I was on a boat a lot of my work days, and got paid to hang out with my friends while working at the bar on weekends.
Occasionally, I would go hiking with Pico. Our favorite place to go was Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park. There were a few loops of trails out there, and I regularly worked with some of the people there on water quality stuff. Although it wasn’t really hiking. Sure, I was walking outside in the woods, but just kind of strolling along a sandy, single-lane road that was maintained not for recreation, but as a fire break in case of a forest fire.
When Pico and I would go hiking, I always looked for the eagle’s nest. And there was a chance that we’d see deer or wild boar, and we were guaranteed a sight of the enormous gopher tortoise. They can move really fast when they want to.
One time for work, I was driving a truck along the hiking trail, and a big fat black boar popped out of the undergrowth and started running away from the truck. Perhaps instinctively, I started to chase the boar to see how fast it was running. I backed off the gas when I hit 17 miles per hour, and the thing disappeared back into the brush a few seconds later. I could see the tusks on that monster from about fifty feet, and they scared the crap out of me. I just imagined Pico getting impaled by a tusk as he ran up to greet the boar.
Chasing the boar reminded me of a time when I was at Paul Smiths, some friends and I were out on a large, private property. We had permission of course, and since it was fall and the height of berry season, we figured that we could probably find some black bears grazing out in the fields. As we drove around the enormous expanses of blueberry fields, we saw 24 black bears. Only one of them was out on the road, and when it took off running, we chased, just to see how fast it would run. It was a small bear, probably a yearling, and we topped out at about 18 miles per hour. Seeing that many bears was an incredible experience.
I’m glad now that it’s winter, there are not too many living things out in the woods that would pose a real threat to me or Pico. I never take his leash on our outings, and he’s free to run and smell and pee all he likes. The bears are hibernating, and the skunks and porcupines are not moving around much, though I have found some tracks and scat from porcupines. So far, Pico has shown no interest in chasing the rabbits, but the red squirrels out back are now firm enemies. It’s become apparent that he expects me to help him get the squirrels. He trees them, then looks at me and barks. The squirrels laugh and move to adjacent trees. Luckily, they haven’t found the bird feeders, or Pico would probably have dove through the big window trying to get them, expecting me to follow.