Face off in the woods

I am well past the temptation to inflict my journal entries on the public (which public was that, exactly?), but this little nature vignette seems justified in light of the name of this blog.  Thoreau puts me to shame as a woodsman and naturalist, but I share his devotion to our New England woods.

7-9-18:  When I went out for a walk from home in the evening, the sun was warmer and starker than I expected, so rather than hike uphill, which I didn’t feel up to anyway, I decided to motor into Mt. Greylock Reservation, to our private little parking spot where the Northup trail crosses the road, a seven-minute drive (2.9 miles) that is as pleasant as the walk.

The hour was good to see beavers, my last two evening walks to the pond featuring close encounters, but I didn’t think I had the energy to make it that far.  Level and shady was the hike I was looking for, but as happens with encouraging regularity, once I got going, I kept going.  A bit buggier than the previous cool morning, with a different cast of light, Northrup remains my current signature walk.

I approached the planking over the main beaver dam stealthily, hoping to come upon the animal where I’d walked right past last time, until it swam by placidly with a large green-leaved tree limb in its mouth.  No, not this time – no mammals in the area, just water-skimming insects.  As I went to step onto the split log, a cannonball landed in the middle of the pond, sending out waves of sound and water.

No, not really of course, but the shock was similar.  From out of the concentric ripples, I saw the head of a beaver floating in my direction.  Had it seen me?  Oh yes, it had seen me.  But it wasn’t scared away.  Instead it arrowed across the water in my direction.  About twenty yards away, it stopped and eyed me, then executed another flip to slap its broad, flat tail on the water.

beaver-swimmingNot content to issue the warning, it halved the distance between us, staring me down.  Meanwhile, first one and then another beaver came swimming from the reaches of the pond for back-up.  The leader came even closer, less than five yards from where I stood still with one foot on the log, as the other two assumed position just behind, like a pair of thugs at the shoulders of an enforcer.  I could almost hear him (or was it a her?) saying, “Stay right there, or I’ll take you down like a tall tree.”

It was strange to come face to face with such aggression (or defensiveness) in a wild animal.  I wasn’t afraid exactly, but it was definitely unsettling.  I was reminded of my stand-off on the Bradley Farm trail not long ago, with an antlered young buck who was not about to bound off into the woods, like most deer.

beaverAs I scurried away, presuming it was time for a pack of young kits to take their evening swim, I was further rattled by rustlings in the woods on either side of the trail, with snorts of the sort that a bear might make.  (Perhaps the beavers thought I was a hairless bear.)  Or maybe it was a moose making the noise, since it was near where I once crossed paths with a pair of them.  Anyway, it was clear that I had stepped into the middle of a woodland drama that I could little ken.  But I got the message that there were things in the deep woods that didn’t take kindly to my presence, and high-tailed it out of there, white flag flying.


Author: Steve

Steve Satullo grew up in Cleveland OH, attended Williams College, and has spent the rest of his life in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Ran Either/Or Bookstore for 17 years, and has been affiliated with Clark Art Institute ever since, so definitely qualifies as a book (plus film and museum) person, but has always self-identified primarily as a writer and editor, now with four blogs active.

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