Guten Tag! I ended up doing a quick German lesson before going to bed yesterday. It wasn’t long, lasting only fifteen minutes, but it was a lesson. I wish I had some insight to plug, but today my mind was entirely in the moment.
The sandhills started their arrival squawk at seven-thirty. Today I arose half an hour before they would start. It is unique, as their departure date looms ever closer I am finding their early hour squaks more pleasant. The call, one I once felt I had to endure like the trumpeting of a football team on an early Saturday morning when all I wanted to do was sleep in, has become a symphony of musical marvel. I throw some breakfast burritos in the oven I made earlier in the week and take my perch at the window, watching the cranes as they dance and fiddle in a restlessness that doesn’t lack display. The grey and rust colored plumage dancing on the wind as wings are stretched and retracted. I enjoy this marvel until the timer on the oven alerts me to a more pressing issue. Food!. I quickly inhale a couple burritos, pack a lunch for the hunting, fishing, and berry picking day planned and gather up the last remaining items before I leave. I have a blowgun I am hoping to be successful with. I glance at the cranes one final time in the misty morning fog and silently thank them for the joy they have given freely. They may not be here when I return.
I head in town, it’s a twenty minute drive, and find Jeff sitting outside waiting. We decided to grab some coffee at a local shop before heading to the hunting grounds. I have a dirty chai with a double shot. Yummy!! I justify it by stating it’s not coffee. It’s a Latte. My volition to avoid caffine was a double shot of weak sauce. I’m so far removed from perfect. With coffee, a tea, and a latte we head towards the head of the bay where we will be hunting. When we get close my brother asks if we think his front wheel drive car will make it down and back up. I’ve never seen or driven the road before, but that didn’t stop me from giving encouraging advice and ensuring beyond doubt it was doable. The road itself was steep, had five switchacks or u bends, and was a little muddy. As we headed down I thought, “I’m not sure we can make it back up”, but I kept that negativity to myself. Once at the bottom it opened up to the beach. It was currently at low tide and far from our location. We parked the car here and walked the short quarter mile to our starting point. When we arrived My brother started picking raspberries, Jeff took the twenty two and headed somewhere, while I took my blowgun and headed in the opposite direction. Within 5 minutes I knew I made a mistake not wearing my rain pants right away. The dew on the knee high grass quickly saturated the upper half of my boots. Yup, the part that isn’t waterproof. I realized quickly and tried to abate the damage by dawning said rainpants, but it was already too late. Undeterred I moved on. I walked through a small wooded area before it opened to a meadow where rose hips were as abundant as the grass. I enjoyed their color for a moment before moving on and concluded I would pick some on the way back. For the next two hours I walked and waited but saw nothing. Then I noticed something high in a tree. An Eagle. Wait…. Two eagles….. OH, and a nest. There, perched majestically beside each other was a pair of bald eagles. The eaglet, that looked bigger than an eaglet should to me, gave a quick look in my direction then laid back down. I walked directly by them with little more than a quick glance from each. I also concluded at this poin I probably wasn’t going to be seeing much in the area and decided to head back, but first the rosehips.
As I picked rose hips a man, Mark, approached on a four wheeler and asked how I was doing. I introduced myself, gave a brief explanation, and then found joy as he informed me he liked to pick rosehips after the first frost, which should be anytime now. He also mentioned he was there to look at the round bales and make sure no mold was taking root. I asked him a couple more questions before he set off to look at the hay. At that point I decided he seemed knowledgable enough that I would take his indirect advice and wait to pick rosehips until after the first frost and started my walk back to our starting location. Jeff came back empty handed as well. As he started picking raspberries I decided I needed to read. I brought a book I have been enjoying and was eager to return to the African Saffari. About an hour later we all decided we should go fish so we set off back to the car to return to a local spot. By this time the fog had lifted and rays of sunshine sprinkled down with a warmth I did not dislike. Before we would leave though I made a quick lunch on the beach and watched the late salmon arrivals jump in the distance.
Remember that hill my brother asked if I thought he could make it up? Well it looked a little more daunting on the way back. The dirt that had seemed compact on the way down was loose and thick, sticking to the tires like the Carolina clay does to a boot. My brother shoots up the hill with nervous trepidation as Jeff and I casually encourage him. When I felt the tires spin and the car stop I thought, “Wow, we made it seventy yards”. Luckily we were just past the first switchback where there was enough space to pull off to the side. My brother, obviously flustered by the situation, hopped out and asked Jeff if he would drive. Jeff is a motocross and off road enthusiast who has driven in many different terrains. With him behind the wheel I feel confident we would make it to the top. As he sets off I give encouragement as we pass the second switch back and head up what looks to be the steepest part of the climb. Then…. We stop. The car just wont go any further no matter how many attempts. Jeff decides he wants to try from the bottom and see if he can carry the momentum up past the point he keeps getting thwarted. When we get to the bottom I inform him I’m going to get out and read. If he makes it up he can send my brother down and I’ll walk back up with him. I’ve got a nice spot picked out; the tide is coming in, I can hear the splash of jumping fish, and the two glaciers across the bay shimmer with aquatic color while the salty air fills my senses with lively joy. I stare for a moment, giving thanks for being able to experience such a beautiful sight and then jump into my book. A little while later a young gentleman on a four wheeler pulls up beside me and says, “you Alan”. I reply “indeed” and he informs me the other members of my party have made it to the top. Thankful they made it and dind’t have to get a tow, I start my walk up the steep mile long road. When I reach the top Jeff and Andrew inform me they made it out by driving the car in reverse. A couple locals had suggested it. And although Jeff and my brother were apprehensive at first they gave it a shot. Turns out the advice was solid. Once back on a more firm road we proceed towards the fishing hole. Before we even arrive I indicate my intention to read and enjoy the scenery while they both fish. I find no contestation and feel happy that things are swell. No pun intended. They spend the rest of he evening fishing as I enjoy my book and the scenery. I watch a sea otter nonchalantly swim on his back, then belly, then back to his back only to dive under and pop up twenty feet away. This amused me for a good amount of time. Then with the sun setting in the distance we called it a day.
No keepers were caught, no successful hunt was achieved, but we did get raspberries, wonderful memories, and grew ever closer in our friendship. A beautiful reward.