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Wild Plums, Skunks and Sandhill Cranes

Deer by Deer Creek Red leaves of the maples fill the hill around Heber Valley. On my way to walk I passed a family of deer. I strolled along the paths at Soldier Hollow, the Olympic Venue in 2002 for Nordic Skiing. Maggie and I were headed for a wild plum tree that has sweet tiny plums that burst with juice when you pop them in your mouth. I tried to grow some a few years ago, but found out they have to be scarified by fire to germinate. So, I will try again, they are worth it.

wild plums in MidwayAs we rounded the corner, apparently we were not the only ones that know about this wild tree of delight. Maggie came nose to nose with a skunk and I was only a few feet behind. I screamed “Maggie, no!” and bolted the other way. Maggie must have vaguely remembered her first and last skunk encounter, she was right behind me. The skunk just stood there, not sure what had just happened. Needless to say, I did not linger to take his photo. He was a very handsome skunk, take my word for it.

red hills above Midway Red maples against silver sage When I was a kid I worked at a nature center. We raised orphaned wild animals, skunks included. Young skunks don’t spray. They are very interesting little creatures, smart, sociable and would follow us anywhere. I would take the first grade class out for nature walks, half the kids wouldn’t go without the skunks following us, the other half were terrified and wouldn’t go on the walk with the skunks. We finally had to divide the class, half sans skunk, half with skunk.

Sandhill Cranes in grass Janet Johnson painting of sandhill craneFurther down the trail, we spotted a number of Sand Hill cranes in the field. See if you can see them in this photo? Each spring they migrate into the valley to nest. Their song is the first sign on spring for our family. Soon they will be flying south as fall gets closer to winter. Here is a watercolor painting of a nesting Sandhill Crane I painted a few years ago.

see my work at

BY JANET JOHNSON   10/18/2010

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