The words “he didn’t pay me much attention” are not what you usually would expect to hear describing a great date.? This, however, was anything but expected.

I met him a mile and a half from the trailhead, me running back to my newly returned Ellie.? I’d pulled up short to photograph some Butter-N-Eggs and when I stood back up there he was, 100 yards ahead of me emerging from the meadow onto the trail.

Look close at the top of the trail

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He gave me a half a glance, then proceeded to eye the tall grasses across the trail from him, inching forward.? I watched for just a few moments and was treated to the sight of him jumping from an all-fours standstill at least 6 feet in a perfect arc, disappearing into the tall waves of green.? He emerged with a catch in his mouth – way too far away for me to see what it was – and paused, again looking my way.? He sought a bit of privacy.? Walking around a bunch of scrub he settled on the other side and went to work.? I could see his hindquarters but nothing else.? Less than a minute passed and he emerged, giving me again a casual glance, and started lazily swaying his way up the trail in that long limbed walk bobcats have.

I had worked my way closer as he ate. As he walked between tree shadows I saw the slanting sun light up his healthy fur, some russet, some white and brown spots, tawny above.? He’d walk a few yards, listening and eyeing the grasses along the trail, then stop, turn and look over his shoulder at me. As he glanced he’d give me a few swats of that curled short tail of his before resuming his stroll.? As I passed the spot he hunted, I looked and found a neat pile of entrails in the otherwise spotless and undisturbed grasses. They were absolutely beautiful.? The kidneys were feather thin and winglike. They were all still warm.

I was so bummed to find this picture blurry because I was tracking him.
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We continued on that way; his lazy long limbed walk and look backs.? My soft quiet steps following then pausing.? He squatted to mark the trail in a few spots, not shy of me being there.? At the next trail junction he resumed his rapt attention into the meadow and I got a repeat of the same show:? standstill, leap, catch, eat. This time I counted the time:? 29 seconds start to finish.? Predators are brutal, clean.? I wondered how that would feel, imagining a Tyranosaurus Rex leaping from the forest nearby, giving me the same treatment, part of me still alive on his insides, part of me warm in the cool field.

I continued to move closer while he ate and then we picked up the walk-pause-follow dance, him letting me draw slightly nearer all the time.? At the next trail curve he walked downslope into the grass. I thought he had for sure dropped into the scrubby drainage and out of sight, but as I cautiously approached I found he was standing just 20 yards off trail. I paused another dozen yards away, watching his ears work the field, black with their white arrow stripes, his eyes relaxed almost shut as he pulled the dusk air across his tongue and nostrils. He tracked an opportunity and almost jumped twice.? After awhile of no action, he actually settled back on his haunches, not going anywhere. He finally turned full my way and all of a sudden he was an owl’s wide face, surprisingly all grey mottled, the warm tones gone.

I stood. He sat. The fog bank rolled in down the coast, eating up the sun. I shivered, my animal body needing its own dinner, its own winter coat.? I wasn’t sure the next step was, never having had the opportunity to be the first to leave a wild animal date.? I gathered my energy into my bones, quieting myself, and slowly started along the upslope edge of the trail, closing the last gap. I did not making eye contact as I came broadside, within 20 yards.? A quick shot of fear arose as I realized I was not watching this wild thing that could dismember a mouse in 30 seconds. A slow look sideways showed he had not moved.? He tracked me all the way by but did not really pay me much mind.? As I moved out of close zone, my breath let out and my heart broke open into tears: at the beauty of the gift, at the sadness I did not stop at that closest midway point and just settle back, too, on my haunches and smell him, watch the field, sit through the night. I thought to go back, but remembered his wildness, respected his space. I again gathered myself, turned toward him with a deep bow, and moved on into the last of the light.

At the car, I found a little boa (?) snake curled cold in the drive, which I moved out of tire-harms way.

These pictures too from the oh-so-warm evening hike on the Enchanted Loop Trail.

Poppy covered slopes.???????????????????? Trillium.