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August 23, 2013

You never know what you'll see on a hike

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The Daily Star

---- — Last week, I told you about a little girl who climbed Mt. Washington.

Since then, many people have inquired about Izzy’s age. I didn’t mention it in the story because I had titled the article “A 10 Year Old’s Mt. Washington Climb.” But the headline was changed, so her age never made it to print.

People have asked me, “How old do kids have to be before taking them hiking?”

I guess that depends on your children. I was hiking down from the top of Whiteface Mountain one day and came across a family climbing up. There were two little girls with their mom and dad that I estimate were maybe 7 and 9.

I asked the littlest one if she had hiked all the way from the bottom. With great joy and excitement, she told me she had and a few days before, she completed a goal of climbing to every fire tower on mountain summits in the state. Now that’s quite a feat, and she did it at a very young age.

Anyway, back to where I was initially going.

I’m getting ready for that Mt. Marcy hike that I had planned for last fall — the one that got snowed out. I carry a 25-pound pack up the hill behind my house every day so I’ll be in shape for the climb. I see plenty of wildlife every morning, which makes my hike more interesting.

Two mornings ago, I watched a pair of spike horn bucks. I saw a doe with her fawn and a six-pointer Wednesday, but Thursday morning was even more interesting.

As I quietly walked through the hardwood toward a small, grassy clearing, I saw some movement. There in front of me, about 60 yards away, was a mother coyote and a pair of this year’s pups. They were sniffing and working their way through the grass.

Mom seemed to be quite intent in her search as she walked along, stopping occasionally with her nose to the ground. One of the pups just lay there watching the whole ordeal while the other pup would jump straight up into the air as if pouncing on something. After watching them for a few minutes, I figured out they were feeding on grasshoppers.

The mother coyote was eating as many as she could, but the one pup would stalk and attack them more like a cat than a canine.

This went on for several minutes as I stood motionless in the old roadway. But when mom turned around to check on her pups, she immediately noticed me. I could have been wearing flashing lights and she wouldn’t have seen me any quicker. She barked at her kids and they took off running.

I don’t know how she spotted me so quickly. I never moved and the wind was coming right into my face, but with her high alert status, she immediately knew something was different and she wanted her pups out of there.

Last fall, I saw a coyote a couple of different times and it didn’t act so wary. But I guess the motherly instinct made all the difference.

Anyway I continued my 2-mile hike and thought, as I started down the hill, “I wonder what I’ll see tomorrow?”

What’s happening?

Paula Repka, a world-renowned geocacher, will talk about geocaching at the fire tower at the top of Balsam Lake Mountain at noon Saturday. She will discuss its history and terminology, as well as how GPS technology works. She’ll also give demonstrations while showing several types of containers that are used. Sunday is the rain date.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at robrockway@hotmail.com.