Slowing Down

bob cat - Jackson Hole wildlife

I’ll admit it: I’m slowing down a bit. I’m well past my youth – so far past it, in fact, that I’m knocking on the door of my 60’s. I occasionally experience some angst when I look in the mirror and struggle to match the middle-aged fellow looking back at me with the image of myself that I have in my head. But every time I head out for a run or a ski, this slower, grayer, heavier self reminds me of the new reality.

All is not lost! The aging process is better than the alternative, and if I had been willing to slow down years ago and really take a look at the world around me, I might have noticed some truly amazing things that I had been rushing past in my hurry to get to who knows where.

I went cross-country skiing at the local Nordic center last weekend. The sunshine and temperature were glorious. (At this time of year, daytime temperatures can dip well below zero, limiting outdoor excursions to the hearty, or those who are in training.) I was happily chugging along when a movement caught my eye: just 50 yards up the trail, away a vibrant sliver gray form was walking towards me with a powerful, steady gait. I was about to yell for this dog’s owner to come fetch the beast when I realized the movement was wrong. It wasn’t a Labrador. It was a Bobcat, boldly striding up the trail, heading up to the mountains to hunt or den or do other Bobcat things. I watched for perhaps 30 seconds before the cat veered off the trail and disappeared into the trees.

I suspect our feline visitor was attracted to the Nordic center because the packed trails make for easy travel. A Bobcat’s feet are not quite as large as a Lynx’s, and so the Bobcat does not float on the snow quite as well. But Bobcats will find and feed on Snowshoe Hares, Squirrels, Grouse, and even winter-weakened White-tail Deer – all of which are in plentiful supply in the vicinity of the ski trails.

The young athlete I used to be would have missed this sighting. Back in the day, I skied with my head down, focused only on extending my stride and improving my time. But the “new” me got to see a Bobcat for just the second time in my life. I spotted its tracks later, as well as a recent trail made by a Moose. And on the drive home I found a bald eagle.

At Barker-Ewing, we have spent more than 60 years perfecting a leisurely approach to river rafting. We take our time as we float down the Snake River, and are constantly looking for wildlife and birds throughout our 10-mile journey. (We’re also keeping a keen eye out for changing river conditions, which can vary widely throughout the season.) We’re often rewarded for our efforts, and understand what a privilege it is to share a few hours with the wild creatures that inhabit our corner of Wyoming.

Eric Barker

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