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Published on October 27th, 2014 | by lafelow


Beware the Critters

When you’re walking through the woods—once you’ve gotten far enough from the trailhead so that you can’t hear any cars or planes or any rattling of humanity—just stop for a second. You may find yourself immersed in the “wise silence of the forest,” as Emerson so poetically stated. More often than not though, you’ll hear the wise and wild orchestra of the forest. When you stop to listen, the woods are filled with the sound of birds whistling and singing, the sounds of bugs expressing their discontent at your presence, and the scurrying small furry beasts coming close enough to see if you’re going to drop any food, then retreating to a safe distance.

When you’re walking in the woods or climbing a mountain, you’ll inevitably encounter these denizens of the wild. It’s exciting; sometimes a little startling; sometimes a bit terrifying. I was starting off on a hike recently and heard this loud scraping noise. I hunkered down and looked around. Then I saw them. Two bear cubs clinging to the side of a tree about 50 feet off the trail. That scraping was one of them scrambling up to join the other.

It’s true that time seems to slow down in moments of potential peril. I must have marveled at those cute little cubs and their round heads with little round ears turning back and forth for about a tenth of a second. Then I kept on hiking at a seriously brisk pace because I had no interest in meeting their Mom. I neither saw nor heard any sign of her, but I guarantee she knew right where I was the entire time. I had this electric sense of excitement and fear as I boogied up the trail.

Even benign-looking beasts can pack a punch. I recently saw my first Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar (the white and black fuzzy blob in the picture) on Mt. Easter in northwestern Connecticut. I had never seen anything like that and was tempted to move in for a closer look. I’m glad I didn’t. The hairs on these venomous little buggers pack a sting akin to getting stung by a bee. I don’t know who came up with that name, but I think something like Black and White Blob of Pain would be more descriptive.

Anyway, that was an excellent reminder to look but not touch—a good thing to keep in mind. Remember you’re walking through the woodland critters’ neighborhood, so keep a respectful distance and just enjoy the sights and sounds.

About the Author

Lafe Low is a lifelong New Englander. He has spent his life camping, skiing, biking, hiking, and paddling his way throughout the People's Republic of New England. He is the former editor of Explore New England and Outdoor Adventure Magazine and is author of Best Tent Camping: New England (Menasha Ridge Press). He is currently living in Massachusetts, and working as a tech writer and editor to help finance his funhog lifestyle. You can find Lafe's book here.

One Response to Beware the Critters

  1. Stefan Low says:

    Right on!

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