The sky was showing the first signs of light as FD headed off to work last Thursday morning. I generally walk him to our metal building where our vehicles are kept, and see him off to work each day. As I walked back through the building towards the house, I stopped by the electric buggy. I unplugged it from the charger and changed my plan for the day. I was going to head to the nearby river. I had not hiked to the river in many months. The heat of summer and emergence of insects made it a miserable walk. I also had to be cautious about snakes and varmints during the warmer months. And skunks were always a risk as well, and I certainly did not wish to have a meeting with one of those! But worst of all, was the almost impenetrable plant life in the area.
Once one crossed our fence at the west end of the pecan orchard property, it was a difficult hike through ten-foot tall weeds, and often a thick carpet of ground cover enmeshed with fallen limbs and branches. On entering the heavily wooded areas surrounding the river, one often had to meander through thickets of cat brier and other thorny brambles. And at that point, I watched closely for scat since I never wanted to meet a wild hog sow with a litter of young. Following the animal trails had always been the clearest route to get to the river bank, but even then, though the path was narrow and clear, overhanging branches meant stooping and sometimes crawling through the snarliest areas. But now that autumn wind and rain had matted down some of the vegetation, a river walk would be much more pleasant.
By the time I changed clothes and toted my camera, cell phone, and a glass jug of water to the buggy, the sky was a soft pink and blue, as the sun had not yet peeped over the horizon. I was glad I had gotten an early start. Perhaps I would see some wildlife before it got too warm where they sought comfort in the shade of the woodlands. More than anything, I was hoping to catch sight of Emma deer on this hike. We had not seen her for more than three weeks now. Spike and Ronnie returned to our property every few days, but Emma was nowhere to be found. The boys now had woolly winter coats, and their necks were thick with bodies that looked much more masculine than just a month ago. The rutting season was full of promise for these two, except maybe for Spike who was at a disadvantage having lost his one good antler. We had game camera video of them engaging in nighttime sparring with other yearling bucks. I was surprised that Spike continued to spar even though he only had a three-inch stub left on his head.
I parked the buggy in a hidden spot in the trees at the west end of our property and took the key with me. It was chilly this morning, so I wore a light weight hunting jacket and pants, and had an ear flap cap on and some warm gloves. I knew later I would be griping about the jacket and having to stuff the cap and gloves in pockets because, inevitably, I would be out several hours and by then the sun would be too warm for me to wear these items. Still, comfort for the moment ruled. I had remembered to wear my blaze orange vest too, as it was the muzzleloader deer hunting season in our area, and I needed to practice safety measures. Even though the area in which I would be hiking is in city limits, I also knew people still hunted illegally near the river. It was not likely, however, that I would encounter any hunting activity on a weekday. Thinking of all this as I combat crawled under barbed wire fencing, I felt that same sense of adventure that I always felt when I headed to the wild of the river.
For more than three hours, I leisurely roamed both the upper plateau from the west end of the pecan orchard to the loamy soil of the river valley below. I traversed soybean fields and ventured into beautiful hidden areas within the woodlands. I crossed barbed wire fences into the river region, following an old animal trail along the river bank. I did not go far back into an area of the river known as “the boot”, because the vegetation was still snarly and thick and I knew that hogs spent summers back in there. I would wait for the winter months to venture that far back into the river. I turned back and I noticed the time. FD would be home for lunch soon and I had quite a hike to make it back to the buggy if I wanted to make it home by noon. Looking down at my clothing, I was covered in various types of stick-tights – sticky burs and seeds that stick like Velcro to animals and clothing. I picked them off as best I could and cut across the soybean field, being careful not to knock down any of the dried plants. A good farm girl is always respectful of the fields and crops.
As I raced home to catch FD for lunch, I knew I would have to have another day of exploring very soon. Though the weather looked to be chilly and overcast for the next week, I was bound and determined to continue my adventure. I knew I was a lucky girl to be doing the outdoor work that I love on our place and in the pecan orchard, but there was something deeply gratifying about taking a day to meander about out in the wild with no purpose at all. I could not blame Emma for taking off into this beautiful wilderness. And I hoped that she was doing well – wherever she was…