Tonight was my second hike this year. Our house butts up to open space and rolling Nevada foothills – go outside and head into the hills. But I’ve been out once earlier this week and once a couple months ago for a hike so freezing I’m kind of not counting it. This has been a long, wet winter, with a normal year’s allotment of rain and snow already by the time we got to March if I remember correctly. This is a desert, but spontaneous lakes have been appearing, and ravines are cut into the desert hardpan in unexpectedly deep cuts.
It was 61 degrees when I left a little after 7 p.m., with roughly 30 minutes until sundown for Reno, though in the hills I had about 20 minutes. The sun had already dropped by the time I got back. The dirt gives up the day’s heat and the sage smells strong in the mornings and evenings. I was out for half an hour, leaving later than I meant to because there was a cottontail in the front yard asking for apples. I took to feeding them when it kept snowing later and later into the year, and am trying to convince them now to eat the plentiful weeds in our dirt-filled third of an acre. Still, when wild rabbits come running when you call “Rabbits! Rabbits!” it’s hard to resist.
There were three jackrabbits, two cottontails and one stick I thought might be a snake on my hike. To date I’ve only heard one rattlesnake and I’m coming up on my fifth summer of rambling through the foothills. I thought I’d heard one before but once you hear the real thing, there’s an atavistic response that can’t be mistaken for anything else. I believe I levitated off that part of the trail that day, and remained leery of passing the area for the next many hikes.
Another fake snake alert last summer: I was directly opposite a very large sage, very close, on a slippery, rock-covered, very steep foothill when there was shaking and vibrating of the bush. I was too close and on too uneven of ground to escape well, so I panicked and froze. Seconds later one of the biggest jackrabbits I’ve seen exploded out of the bush and tore off across the foothill. They’re lovely and enormous and for once, one of them scared me more than I scared it.
Not the most dramatic skies, but soft and still. There’s almost always wind in Northern Nevada, especially if you’re a runner (I take this personally – it should be impossible to choose a route that leads in a square and have the wind in my face in every single direction). But tonight it was still and the contrails stayed in the air and frayed, turning fainter colors and dying away.
The blue jays I feed by hand – one sits on my hand, the other makes strange sounds like something out of The Ring and comes close but to me – are nesting. I’m not seeing much of them and when I do, Blue takes the roasted peanuts, cracks them from their shell, and carries off most of it to Scrawny.
The quail are nesting, and a squirrel yelled at me from our side yard, so I assume they’re hatching in burrows, if that’s where they live. It’s spring. Time for light sweetbreads and lemon everything and just over a month away from farmer’s market and chocolate cherry pies and peach pies and berry tarts and apricot cakes and just plain fruit eaten in the backyard while reading a good book.