I've often contemplated joining him, but the trip involves driving to a certain point, getting on a bike and riding to another area, then hiking down a steep incline and wading across a creek to retrieve the game camera, collect the SD card to check out the pictures, re-load the camera with a new card, and move it to a new area. I'm not super excited about strenuous exercise, getting muddy and wet, and possibly meeting wildlife, so this trip has been a solo adventure for Jeff, while I usually stay at home and while away the hours on social media.
But not today! Today I decided I was going to come along. At first, I was all in - I was up for the whole adventure. But then I started to second-guess myself in the "strenuous exercise" category, so I suggested perhaps I'd accompany him on the drive, sit in the car and read a book, and keep him company on the way home.
I know I need to challenge myself - what's life about if we're not constantly challenging ourselves and trying new things? So, this morning I decided I'd go all in again. Jeff pumped up the tires on my 25-year-old mountain bike and we were off! We drove to the gate - the beginning of the private property where Jeff hunts. We pushed our bikes under the gate, climbed around the edges, and proceeded to push our bikes up a steep hill that went on for about a quarter mile. Did I mention I'm not a fan of exercise? Especially the first ten minutes of any exercise. I feel like I'm doing to die and I hate everything. So, this was about the same reaction I had today. I pushed my bike, took breaks while sucking air, and wondered when we'd see flat road again. Finally, we were able to start riding and I quickly remembered how hard it is for me to shift gears while riding a bike. My thighs were burning. My camera was hanging off my shoulder and swinging uncomfortably. I stopped several times to adjust things and catch my breath. I had to reacquaint myself with the pain of my ample butt on a bike seat, and the difficulty of riding on a gravel road with potholes.
We finally made it to the game trail just after we spotted "the biggest bear shit I've ever seen" according to Jeff.
The biggest bear shit in the woods. Proof, however, that a bear does, indeed, shit in the woods.
How Jeff knew exactly where to stop along a road in the woods where everything looked the same is beyond me. But he stopped at the game trail and we made our way down the steep incline to the creek bottom. At this point, Jeff warned me not to fall and break my leg, citing the fact that he would have to leave me alone and in pain while he trekked the 3.5 miles back to the car to call for help. After seeing that giant (and seemingly fresh) pile of bear poop, the thought of being left, alone and injured, in the woods while it was raining, was enough to make me be very sure of my footing. We got to the creek and waded across.
Thanks, Aunt Carol, for the cool rain boots!
The game camera was strapped to a tree across the creek where Jeff thought game might travel. Previously, in a different location nearby, the camera took pictures of a large bear, a coyote, and some deer. This time, the camera only caught a couple of deer on two different days. Jeff decided to move the camera to the other side of the creek across from the game trail.
Leaves floating in the creek - it was so cool to stand in the creek in my new rain boots!
I mean, look at that view! Nothing but peaceful creek and birds chirping.
We hiked back up the trail to the new location. Jeff chose the tree, strapped the game camera to it, and adjusted it with the laser so it would catch animals going down to the creek for water. In the meantime, of course, I took some selfies.
Hard to believe I actually put on makeup and straightened my bangs before this trip. Duh.
Look how happy I am to be in nature!
The face of someone who just rode 3.5 miles in the rain. Stunning.
While Jeff worked the camera, I enjoyed the scenery. There really is nothing quite as lovely as a rainy, mossy wood on a fall day.
I poked my finger on a thorn on the way up the trail and so I had a brief "Lord of the Flies" moment where I smeared blood war paint on my face. Sorry.
Mountain Man worked expertly, placing the camera, cutting away branches that were in the way. being careful not to fall in a gaping hole in the earth, and laughing at me when I gasped "Did you hear that?" when a branch snapped nearby.
Choosing the new location.
Mostly, though, he exhibited patience. With me. He's clearly the more experienced one riding a mountain bike. He has way more stamina. But he stopped several times and waited patiently while I adjusted, gasped, and took breaks on the way up the trail. He calmly helped me down the trail to the creek bottom. He held my hand as I waded across the creek. He answered my questions about anything and everything. A trip that could have taken him a couple of hours took much longer with me by his side, But he allowed me to have a fun adventure and do something totally out of my comfort zone without making me feel like I was holding him back. By the time we headed back down the hill, I rode a little faster than I'm comfortable with, down steep hills and over thick piles of leaves, and I loved it.
Not a day goes by that I don't realize how lucky I am to have this Mountain Man. We may be opposites, and I have a hard time understanding his obsession with the woods, hunting and all things primitive, but I can sort of understand the way the woods breathe life into you and the peaceful feeling that comes from being in a quiet place with just the sounds of nature all around. It's pretty cool. He's pretty cool.
I'm still worried about the bear, though.