Outdoors Magazine

Forest Critters

By Hikingwithheather @HikingHeather
Forest Critters
Charlie and I got out in the woods last weekend, visiting one of our favorite hiking trails. There were several horse trailers in the parking lot, so I kept Charlie on-leash today. Luckily, we didn't run into any horseback riders during our hike... just several piles of manure that were so tempting for Charlie to eat! Yuck.
In my alertness to the possibility of other people/dogs/horses using the trail, I happened to see several deer slipping quietly through the trees while Charlie was completely oblivious, too busy enjoying her hike. I also happened to see a bald eagle take off from a nearby tree and watched several cranes standing like statues in the shallows of the lake watching for their next meal.
As we neared the halfway point of the trail, I decided to take a quick break at the ramshackle picnic shelter with the rotting picnic table that no one ever uses, except me. It's on a little side trail toward the water's edge, so I let Charlie off-leash to go swimming while I sat down for a minute.
I took a look at the picnic table and found a spot on the bench that looked like it would hold my weight (as I said, it's rotting). I started to take off my backpack to get my water bottle out, when I heard a rustling of leaves in the back corner. Thinking it was probably just a mouse, I almost didn't turn to look.
Luckily, my curiosity got the best of me and I turned around.
My eyes took in a small mammal, black and white fur, pointy face and beady eyes staring at me. It took a minute for my brain to put all the pieces together, but suddenly I was like, "HOLY SHIT! SKUNK!"
Yeah, I got up pretty quickly and called Charlie back to the main trail, hoping she wouldn't catch its scent and go investigate. We hiked on for a ways down the trail, letting my heartbeat return to normal, and found a sunny spot on the beach to let Charlie swim again.
You never know what you're going to run into when you're out in the wilderness! It always pays to be alert and watch your surroundings... this was a lesson to not let my guard down even in places that I'm familiar with!
Forest Critters

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