Yesterday, I took the day off to make up for the fact that I worked an 8-hour Sunday (Snowflake Festival!!). It was a super-naturific day.
Chapter 1 – Coyote
On my way to my friend Terry’s house, I saw a coyote! This is only the second time I have seen one. I’ve seen tracks and scat, and even heard them while hiking at night… But I never seem to see them. Today, while driving west along Route 86 – just past the left turn that takes you over the Chautauqua Lake bridge, here comes a big, healthy looking coyote. I stopped the car to watch him for a bit. I considered getting out of the car to get my camera from the trunk… but he was gone. Thank goodness my Flickr friend Hard-Rain has excellent coyote pictures. Click on this one (his) and you will go to his photostream to see more!
Chapter 2 – Birdies
Before leaving for some Chautauqua Gorge explorations, I put a pound of birdseed in the feeder and we watched chickadees, a red-breasted nuthatch, tree sparrows, mourning doves, juncos, and blue jays. Oh, and 2 fat gray squirrels.
I’ve written about Chautauqua Gorge adventures before. Today Terry took me to two parts of “the gorge” I had never visited before: The Mouth (where Chautauqua Creek empties into Lake Erie) and The Steps.
There is a footpath from the road along the creek to the lake. We have had a lot of rain the last few days and the creek was quite high and rushing fast. The wind off the lake was very cold. It made my ears ache, even though I was wearing a hat. In fact, they ached for quite a long time after we left the beach!
The ice was absolutely amazing. So much of it… piled so high… textured with ice chunks, driftwood, rocks, and more… Look at the cliff to the right – three times taller than Terry. It’s all ice. He’s standing on ice. Did I mention it was cold?
On the way back to the car, I notice something in the creek on the opposite side, of course, well out of the range of my lens… It was a steelhead! The first I’ve ever seen. It was nearly 3 feet long. The only reason I could see it in the muddy water is that it was in such shallow water that most of the body was above water! Man that was a big fish.
I had heard people talk about “The Steps” before. No one explained what it was. I had the totally wrong image in my mind. For some reason, I was envisioning steps built right in the water, somehow forming a cascading waterfall effect… No. The real thing is even better. Look at the little red crosshatch in the topo above. See how it is right by several brown lines that are VERY close together. That means it is VERY steep right there. Now, who, in his right mind, would decide… “Gee, this looks like a good place to build stairs.”???
The picture at left was taken from the very bottom of the stairs. You can’t even see the first flight of stairs that comes down and takes a turn to join up with this flight.
Apparently, a lot of people feel proud of their accomplishment at climbing the stairs, so they carve their names in the tree that is at the top of this flight – and at the bottom of the first flight of stairs. I did not feel compelled to add my initials to the tree. I just can’t do that sort of thing.
We paused on the steps on the way back up; I could hear chickadees and kinglets… When they went suddenly silent, movement in the sky showed me why: a Red-tailed hawk was circling above.
It was a great day. Days like this relax and restore me.