By Michael Suchorsky
On April 1st I was walking through the forest hoping to find vernal pools with salamander eggs (interest, not forage) on my way to a place I like to dwell in the macro/micro moment. Here a rushing stream, running over bedrock, curves around a tall rock outcrop while dropping 30—40’ in a series of waterfalls. It feels ancient, magical. Access is by dropping 200′ down (and then up) a very steep slope that can only be negotiated by holding on to trees and saplings.
Approaching from upstream for the first time, I saw a large section of the rock had split and moved outward. The interior was dimly lit by light from a small split on the far side as well as the large opening on my side.
I was moving very slowly, quietly observing everything, feeling a primordial essence and expecting to see some exotic wildlife, or otherworldly presence— it is easy for me to go there :-). On cue, I notice something (large) move in the crevice directly in front of me. I thought maybe there was a large porcupine or fisher, or bobcat in there. . . But the movement was high up in the space—which was maybe 12’ long, 5’ high. I was confused by the slow movement, and that it was near the ceiling of the “cave.” So I moved right to the entrance and looked through my binoculars. I watched the profile of a large bear head softly and gently nodding in and out of view. I realized it must have been sitting on its hindquarters, probably with its back (out of view) against one wall. In the mysterious light I thought it looked like a magician slowly performing an ancient ritual in this remote cave.
I realized it was probably a female tending cubs between its outstretched hind legs— possibly nursing.
I was 7’ away from a sow with cubs in a den and standing in the only exit it could take. . . Luckily, the roar of the waterfalls blocked out any sound I was making, and there was a strong wind blowing in my direction. I slowly back away.
But the engaging day continued to unfold. While at the stream the sun had disappeared and a strong wind had picked up. Back at the top of the steep slope I noticed the sky had turned purple black from the south to the west. I thought this was a huge storm coming, and I should start walking back. But I was only 1/4 mile from the water, it was basically a warm day, and I had been caught in storms in the past, so I continued on down to the reservoir and the approaching storm. After enjoying the dramatic views, watching through my billowing hair the wind-tossed waters, I headed back up through the woods. Walked around a mile when I heard the storm front— still miles away— approaching in earnest. I picked up my pace. Ten minutes later I was being buffeted by strong gusts. As soon as I reached the edge of the large open field, it hit. I started running—which if anybody saw me would have thought I was trying out for the Monty Python Ministry of Funny Walks. Out of breath I returned to walking while branches ripped from trees flew through the air. I saw a solid wall of rain enter the bottom portion of the field coming in from the south, as I was, and quickly passing me. But even stronger winds coming in from the west kept the rain a few hundred yards away from me. I walked the final 1/4 mile to my car as lightning and thunder joined the fray.
It was such a wonderful walk, I decided to share it.~