Even naturalists make New Year’s resolutions. Inspired by a friend of mine, I decided to run 600 miles in 2020. That means that I had to run 50 miles in January. It might as well have been 10 million.
The problems with running in the High Country are the very mountains its built upon. You cannot get anywhere without a knee-crushing downhill or a heartbreaking uphill. Yes, I meant to write “heartbreaking.” Many tears were shed.
However, the goal has done something for me that my normal wandering has not. It has allowed me to experience dawn or dusk every day of the month.
I have watched deer sleep snugly among fallen leaves. Heard the dawn chorus of birds waking up to greet the day. One warm, wet evening I saw a very confused frog jump slowly across my path.
Each moment invited a welcome respite from all the running.
One evening, just as the sky was really darkening, I heard a new noise intertwined with the usual dog bark in the distance and thud of my sneakers on pavement. I stopped. There it was again — a baby crying, a witch’s laughter, a pterodactyl all mixed into one.
Even though I knew in my naturalist heart that this was the sound of a bobcat, an atavistic fear rolled over and through me. The 30-pound feline had awakened the prey animal inside of me.
She cried again. It is her mating season. I slowly walked away, never turning my back on the sound, feeling very alive and wanting to stay that way.
When I began on this journey, I thought that running would deter me from my naturalist practice. How wrong I was.
If you have a question concerning flora and fauna, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. All of your questions will be answered. One or two will be featured next week. See you on the trails!
Amy Renfranz is a Certified Naturalist through the Yellowstone Association Institute and a Certified Environmental Educator in the state of North Carolina.