The sun was low in the west as my 17-year-old son and I slid along the cross-country ski trails at Duluth’s Hartley Park Saturday afternoon. The day was cold, but the skiing on these classic-style tracks was superb. Unquestioned kick and decent glide.
My son was leading when he rounded a corner and abruptly stopped in the track. He looked over his shoulder at me and then looked into the woods. Not 15 feet away, a mature doe and two fawns from this past spring were browsing on aspen twigs. We leaned on our ski poles, puffs of our breath condensing in cloudlets before our faces, and watched them.
The deer were unmoved by our presence. Granted, everyone sees deer frequently, even in the city of Duluth with its ample green spaces or — this time of year –white spaces. But we often aren’t afforded the opportunity to watch wild creatures going about their daily lives at such close range. Neither my son nor I spoke. The doe nipped off another twig and chewed it. The fawns milled near her, browsing.
They would watch us, but not even a tail flicked. They must have been looking at us, thinking, "Hey, look. Two more of those upright things with the long sticks on their hooves and those long sticks hanging from their forelegs."
The cold started to seep in, so my son and I finally took off. The deer were still there.