Beating the heat

Sweltering hot weather leads to other ways to still enjoy the great outdoors.

A family of racoons crosses the path along Mill Creek.

A family of racoons crosses the path along Mill Creek. Don Davis

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A deer crosses a fence near Walla Walla Community College

Nora the Schnauzer and I may be weenies.

If so, we blame the swelter of the hottest July in 118 years.

And of early August, too.

Sure, we’ve felt guilt (if not remorse) for couch hugging on steamy, somnolent days.

Then, one morning with dawn breaking, I followed Nora into the cooler backyard, yawned and waited for her to go. I looked up, toward a cooing in the trees leaning over the fence.

An owl, round-eyed and round-headed, bent to watch Nora make her rounds.

And it wasn’t alone.

“Yoicks,” I mumbled and scurried inside for the camera.

I returned to find three owls watching Nora.

They shifted harsh gazes to me when, after fumbling with camera settings for the low light, I pointed the lens at them.

That became a “Eureka!” moment.

Oh, we still lay about for most of the day, of course. Yet, by resuming our daily prowls in the relative coolness of early mornings and evenings, we don’t feel guilty about it.

That has also led to surprising encounters.

When we visited Mill Creek between the Army Corps of Engineers’ project office and Rooks Park the next morning, we saw a family of raccoons, whitetail bucks, does and fawns, frolicking kingfishers and cavorting mink.

After one young mink crossed on a weir toward me, I caught a fleeting glimpse of it jogging calmly upstream on the riprap. I rushed past two weirs and slipped through 6-foot-tall reed canary grass onto the rocks.

The mink saw me and stopped. It sat in my shadow, cast by the rising sun, as I snapped photos.

We made a few similar early morning treks.

A very few.

We preferred breakfast by Darlene.

And a morning nap with back-to-back “Matlock” reruns.

So, we skulked until long shadows fell across the paved trail from the project office to Rooks, when the sun spread a glowing gold light across the fields north of Mill Creek and on the water.

Many possible weenies shared the evening’s cool, including waders, strollers, power walkers, dog walkers, runners, bike riders, herons, raccoons, deer, mink, bats, sandpipers, lesser yellowlegs and wild turkeys.

To name a few.

Once shadowy turkeys flew to roost in the tall cottonwoods along the stream. I counted 15. One motherly type spread a comforting wing over little ones.

Eventually, for variety, we dawdled along the dark and lonely South Fork Walla Walla River, with more deep shadows than glow.

I used a flash for bumble bees, spiders, flowers and the river currents (smoothed with a slow shutter speed).

So I’ve concluded, dozing all day in an artificially cooled room instead of walking in a sun-blasted swelter doesn’t make us weenies.

It makes us know when to stay in, out of the heat.

Contact Don Davis at dondavis@wwub.com. More of Don’s photos can be found online at www.tripper.smugmug.com

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