Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 22, 2017

On the Ainsworth trail

By David Hotle | Jun 26, 2012

There they were, big as life. Now what?

Of all my virtues, patience is definitely not one of them. To be completely honest, I’ve been hiking on the new trail between Marr Park and Ainsworth for about two weeks now. The first day I went for a hike, I actually had to walk around a barricade that was protecting the last tile of wet cement.

Since I read a book by Tom Brown Jr., I find myself regularly keeping an eye on the ground and looking for footprints. In his book “Way of the Scout,” Brown discusses the tracking ability of Native American scouts. He says that they are about to see a track anywhere and can tell everything about the person or animal that made the track, including what mood they are in. That is an interesting concept, but I tend to think he may be exaggerating a little to enhance the business at his wilderness school.

Going down the trail on that first night, I found myself scanning the ground for tracks. It soon became pretty obvious that I wasn’t the first person to have used the trail. There was plenty of bicycle and sneaker tracks on the pavement, as well as many tracks of what I believe are from a raccoon. I also saw, on the side of the trail, several sets of larger hoofed tracks I guessed came from a deer.

A word here: Sign comes in many different forms. While most people think of a clear footprint in loose ground, other forms of sign can include twigs that have been broken or grass that has been flattened by an animal.

I followed those tracks along the trail as I hiked. No, I didn’t have any special reason for doing it, other than simply for curiosity. I saw the animal had hopped on and off the trail several times and apparently run into brush along the road that I guessed was its den.

After walking the full 1.3 miles into Ainsworth I turned around and started my trek back. The sun was beginning to drop behind the horizon, as I had started my hike in the late evening to enjoy the cooler temperature. It was right at dusk when I rounded the corner that led down to Thomas Marr Park. Then, right in front of me no more than 10 feet, two deer hopped out of the woods — first a doe, then a fawn. They were almost close enough to touch, although that didn’t seem like a good idea.

Let’s face it; deer are cute and cuddly animals — from a distance. Up close and personal, it is a wild animal — albeit somewhat timid — that will protect its young like any other animal. Deer also like to kick and I’m sure the mother deer can run faster than me.

I crouched down by a tree and did my best to send the non-verbal message that I wasn’t a threat to them. It was really cool sitting there for a few seconds and watching them scan the area. Then, they hopped back into the bush on the other side of the trail. I walked over and tried to watch them leave, but they were already gone. They must have been really hauling.

The moral of this story: It is better to have deer jump out in front of you if you are on foot than if you are in a car. The other moral of the story: a grand opening of the trail is being held this Saturday beginning at 5 p.m. It promises to be fun. I can testify that the trail is awesome and well worth a look. They will also give away free T-shirts, which is plenty of reason for me to attend.

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