Wildlife Trekker
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Wildlife Trekker

The Wild Turkeys of Big Sur

I took off on a trip to Big Sur a few days before Thanksgiving one year. We had an audiobook of Jack Kerouac’s “Big Sur” playing on the car stereo. . In the book, fame appeared to have gotten to Kerouac, his drinking seemed to be worse, and the quality of the writing was up and down. Parts of the book were very funny but mostly Kerouac complained about the rain.

We stopped the first night and pitched a tent in the Mojave National Preserve. Listening to Kerouac moan about the rain while we were sitting in the middle of all that desert and cactus was ironic. Our drive the next day took us through the hardscrabble flatlands of the Owens Valley. At this point the ocean seemed very far away. Only on the ridgetops where the giant wind turbines turned slowly was there the slightest hint of a sea breeze.

When we reached the rugged beautiful coastlines of Big Sur we also discovered Kerouac’s rain. Wet cold wind was accompanied by low lying clouds which smothered the horizon.

We pulled into our reserved camping spot only to find it inhabited by turkeys. I pulled the car gently into the parking spot and the turkeys only hopped away but once the car doors opened the turkeys panicked. The large pudgy birds flew across the creek, flapping their tiny little wings furiously.

Our campsite was in the middle of a redwood forest bordered on one side by a small creek. Everything was beautifuI, green, and wet. I set up our tent as fast as I could in the rain before crossing the creek and attempting to find the turkeys.

I discovered the turkeys in a meadow framed by redwoods. I snapped a couple photos and attempted to get closer. The turkeys were very wary and as I attempted to get closer they began wandering to the far side of the meadow.

I paused.

They paused.

I moved. They moved. We played a couple rounds of this game before the turkeys disappeared into the forest.

I followed the turkeys into the forest. At least the tall trees provided some shelter from the rain. There was a quiet cathedral feel to the light drifting in between clouds and treetops. I could hear the turkeys gobbling but I could not find them. I circled and circled the redwoods, continuing to listen to the gobbling calls. I was dumbfounded as to why I could not see them.

Then I looked up. The turkeys were all roosting in the lower branched of the redwoods, twenty, thirty and forty feet into the air. To this day I do not know if the turkeys flew or climbed that tree. They were a lot higher up than I was expecting.

On the far side of the forest was an old path, barely discernible, covered in autumn leaves. Curious, I followed the path until I came upon a small, abandoned cabin. There were other cabins. I had stumbled upon some sort of forgotten resort or retreat. Gobbling calls still haunting me, I explored the place and unexpectedly came upon an old amphitheater. Here the trees have been sacrificed, sawed and planed to make boards, then nailed into benches and arranged in rows like church pews. The little stage is made of stone, old geological bones covered with moss and lichen, a few rocks tumbled out of place.

How strange to stumble upon this location while I am lost in the woods. I consider myself a storyteller, and stand on the stage, words falling from my tongue like newborn rain. Gradually, ghosts fill the pews, a thousand faceless warriors whispering dialogue of yesteryore echoes of my hero’s tale, while ahead and behind me the river continuously flows.

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Stories and photos of wildlife from around the world. Articles also cover gear, travel, and other topics related to wildlife watching and photography.

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Gary Every

Gary Every is the author severl books including “The Saint and the Robot” “Inca Butterflies” and has been nominated for the Rhysling Award 7 times