The trails of the Bay Area offer a real treat in Winter. As storm systems pass, there are often a few days of clear weather that provide the freshest air one can breathe as one walks the coastal hills.I led a group of hikers at Big Basin State Park for a 6-mile hike through stately redwoods to a ridgetop. Upon our descent, we beheld Nature’s finest shades of blue — the brilliant clear sky, the ridges of the coast, and the deepest blue of them all — the Pacific Ocean. From our vantage point, the view to its horizon appeared as an optical illusion, as if it were above our heads.
It was a view worth savoring. Nearer to us, however, one of our sharp-eyed crew spied the tracks of a bobcat, which had worked its way downtrail ahead of us. It might have been searching for rabbits or rodents, but quite possibly it was after deer, which they’ll hunt in winter months when other food is scarce. The tracks I had seen moments earlier, being small-hooved and traveling in the same direction, suggested a young Black-Tail — easy to spot in the trail mud after the recent rains, and easy prey for a hungry bobcat.
In my trail haunts over the years, I’ve sometimes encountered wild cats. It can feel as if you’re whistling past the graveyard when a predator makes eye contact with you. But it’s a safe bet that a bobcat will turn and run, leaving you with nothing but a fleeting dash of yellow-brown fur, a blip of a tail, and a story to tell. What I find interesting about bobcats is that they’re highly adaptable to changes in environmental conditions. Some biologists even believe that there are more bobcats in the United States today than there were in colonial times. Despite their rare and elusive nature, that could be reason alone why I’ve seen them at all.
I like to stop and admire the comings and goings of Nature. If I loiter long enough, there’s often a story hidden there, waiting to be unveiled. These simple natural phenomena are my connection to the real adventure that so many of us seem blind to. I’m rewarded then, when my fellow hikers take the cue and, before we know it, we’ve gained honest memories — memories that make us want to don our boots and return to savor them anew.