The first thing that hits you is the gag of perfumed air and you realize this is where the rubber meets the skunk. Sadly, it was one of this years’ litter, the tiny body with bold white stripes is in your lane and easy to avoid. The second most common road kill is the horrific opossum, maybe the babies are cute, most find it hard to mourn the ratish lump on the road. Traveling on the beautiful Green Valley Road there is plenty of wildlife to appreciate, both flat and live. First was an elegant doe and her delicate, spotted fawn watching the traffic go by, hopefully she was instructing her baby to stay clear of the metal beasts and cross the ribbon of dark rock only when there is no sound of oncoming traffic. The near lack of roadkill fawn is a testament to good training by mama. Next on the road side menu that foggy morning was a grey house cat, it shot across the road and under the safety of the parked car in its home driveway. You have to wonder what possesses them to risk running in front of a moving car instead of waiting a few seconds to cross safely.
In a meadow of horses, a flock of turkeys worked the dry grass. I pulled off the road shut down the motor and rolled down the window. At first the hens worried that I might be a threat and clucked nervously. There were two gaggles of young birds one of little new-born with shaggy feathers, one baby turkey would fit easily in the palm of your hand. The second group looked to be a month old, I think the butchers call that size ‘Cornish Game Hens’ they were aggressively scratching and pecking, worried that a sibling might get a bigger bug. I stayed for a few minutes listening to their constant clucks and purring sounds. There were two hens and a young ‘jake’ watching over them. Back on the road near a blackberry jumble, a cottontail darted in front of my tires, perhaps they too have a cat-like compulsion to play dodge-car. The little bunny won that round as I cheered his success. I passed an unlucky snake and another skunk, a fully grown stinker this time.
Last week was my annual camping trip with my oldest granddaughter, Taylor. We both love our time to ourselves at the beautiful Casini Ranch in Duncan’s Mill. This year she was not driven to feed the ducks up by the store as she had been in previous years, a sure sign of impeding prematurity. We did spend time at the river, grandpa on the beach under the shade, Taylor swimming with her newest friends in the bucolic setting. We made s’mores at the campfire, grandpa can gag one down but my favorite recipe is to omit the marshmallow, graham-cracker, foil and heat. ‘But grandpa, that is just the Hershey bar!’ guilty as charged. One morning we drove past Jenner to check out the seal colony at the mouth of the river. Nearly two hundred lazed or played in the water below us, some of the little ones frolicked with a fish they managed to catch. I arf’d loudly at them which got the attention of the others in the pull out, some of the babies looked my way and all of the two-legged watchers. Sadly, many will become shark candy bars before their first birthday. We packed up on the last morning, carefully cleaning and folding our camp gear, on the drive out I told the checkers that this was our families 40th year, Taylors’ dad grew up camping at Casini Ranch and as a tot he loved the ducks and the river. Later he rode his bike around exploring the whole campground. Casini Ranch is one of the few places young can ride solo safely. We will be back next year to meet new friends and wiggle our toes by the fire.
Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Mycological Society. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.