The year we found bobcat prints in the backyard, I spent a summer getting up at dawn and hiking in the 20 minutes before the sun came up. The only time I ever saw the illusive cat was the very first morning I went out. Just clearing the last steep hill that overlooks the cul-de-sac backyards in the pre-sunrise twilight, I saw about 5 houses away what looked like someone’s dog entering the open desert that runs behind the house. Stray dogs never, ever come helpfully to me so I can check tags and call owners. Stray dogs instead seem to think this is play time and I’m there so they can give me spitty kisses and jump up with their paws on my shoulders.

We’re in disagreement about that.

But another look to see if there were any humans near the putative dog made me do a double take.  Long, lanky legs and a curious gate.  That was my bobcat, jogging confidently up the trail toward me.  I held my breath but the cat disappeared into the tiny ditch behind the houses and from there, probably into the culvert. I’ve never seen him or her again.

Sometime last summer I got out of the habit of doing more than looking for tracks.  There are plenty.  Rabbits, kangaroo rats, quail, dogs people are walking. 

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What I haven’t gotten out of the habit of is the early morning hike, the earlier the better.  This morning I got out at 10 after 6, which was the same time the sun comes up.  I’ll have to leave earlier to catch the really lovely time, the purple time when the desert air is actually wet and all the animals are still out. 

This morning was just over 40 degrees, and turning back toward home and into the breeze was – let’s call it bracing.  During the walk I encountered three jackrabbits, two cottontails, one fat quail and one lone bird who sat and watched me and made disconsolate beeping noises.  My reassurances that I didn’t wish to eat it or its brood, incipient or otherwise, didn’t comfort it.  My leaving did.

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