Another Encounter On the Trail

Hiking along in the mountains above Claremont, California, I got the sense from the side of the road that I should be listening, paying attention. Not three steps later, I heard something big moving fast, towards me in the brush. It frightened me and I guess I frightened it too. Because before I could look up I heard it dart away, moving back down from the trail. When I looked towards the sound I saw a good sized buck moving away, with the brush near me bustling in its wake. I think he would have slammed into me if he hadn't been able to turn so fast. The buck moved along in the brush below me.

Then it circled around and climbed back up, stepping onto the trail six or seven feet before me. He still seemed startled, even a little defensive. I have to admit my heart was pounding pretty fast as we stood there, sizing each other up. For a second or two, I thought he might challenge me. The silence and stillness between us felt like the world had stopped, like everything, even my own breathing and my heart, was moving in that slow motion way you hear about. So we had a moment there. I hope I won't forget it.

I guess he sensed I wasn't a threat (he was bigger than I, after all, and so much faster). He climbed up the hillside across from me, which was probably where he was headed before we surprised each other. He watched me from above, while I watched him. "I love you," I said, softly, in awe and sort of like a prayer. I didn't intend for him to hear, as high up as he was. But he turned his ears towards me.

Then he began grazing, no longer alarmed or concerned that I was there.