We stumbled on several blog posts by Jonathan Schechter on his Earth’s Almanac blog. Below is his second in a series of winter hikes through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Reprinted by permission.
The moment was primordial and unscripted and occured about one-hour, cross-country ski time long the Alligator Hill Trail, a meandering trail that crosses some of the wilder sections of Sleeping Bear Dunes and affords excellent views of Lake Michigan. I had just descended a long down hill section and stopped to pause and take in the sights of the deep woods in an area of windfalls. Steep hills were on both sides. Large trees, snapped near their bases told me storms command this land. And then just when I dropped my ski poles to the ground, and unzipped my coat (exposing my camera in the process) and was about to stuff my mittens within the coat before answering my call of nature’s need, I detected movement 30 yards away. I was not alone.
An adult coyote stood and stared. I know he saw me, but he would not look directly at me. I suspect he had been cat napping in the snow and perhaps my falling poles, or descending zipper noise told him he had company. He appeared startled. But he did not bolt. I quickly yipped twice hoping to hold his attention: His glance at me could have been amusement or perhaps it was a look of disgust, “Hey stupid, I know you are not a coyote.” But for the next 30 seconds we watched each other. He kept glancing around for reasons I do not know, and that encouraged me to do the same. I turned back around and with out even a goodbye, old yellow eyes melted magically back into the forest. Note my use of “melted magically”. If I was not a fan of wild things I would have said, “slinked sullenly”. But it will be a long time before I forgot our shared dance of observation, in a peaceful and raw moment of interactions.
Jonathan Schechter, a naturalist and resident of Brandon Township with a passion for outdoor adventure and severe weather events writes a weekly hiking column for the Oakland Press. He lives on 11 acres with a rich mix of wildlife, meadows, woods and wetlands. He has a Master of Science Degree in Forest Resources from the U. of Washington and is an active member of the Wilderness Medical Society certified in Advanced Wilderness Life Support. His writings and nature photos reveal ways humans are subtly yet dynamically altering the behavior of wildlife leading to a corruption of nature’s way and wildlife behavior. Join his Earth Almanac blog as Jonathan shares thoughts on our natural world in Oakland County and beyond. Visit his blog, Earth’s Almanac.