Sunday, April 13, 2008

Friends of Doris

This weekend found me back at the Wichita Wildlife Refuge in spite of overnight temperatures down into the 30's. As we get into the spring and summer the cycling events become closer together, I'll take a trip to Florida, and time for camping will become harder to arrange. Any weekend not otherwise spoken for or when actual tornadoes are not forecast becomes a camping weekend. Back at the turn of the century Camp Doris was a mining camp. Now it's a small campground. At one time there were several campgrounds in the refuge, but now Doris is the only one. It's worth the effort to arrive early enough to get my favorite campsite. The facilities are more than adequate and because the campground is quite small, it's very quiet at night. My favorite site is at the end of a loop so there is almost no car traffic after about 8 pm, and little foot traffic in spite of the fact that we are at very comfortable walking distance from the "flush-o-rama" and the bath house. There is a ravine behind, so no noise or light comes from that direction (although raccoons do). We frequently have deer passing through. Best of all, the best tent site is screened from the road by trees so it feels very private.

The more I see of the refuge the more I love it. Shana and I hiked up Elk Mountain again this time. The weather was perfect, cool and bright. There was a lot of wind, but until we got to the top we were not affected by it. As before, the beauty of the views more than made up for the strenuous walk. When we came down, we headed back to the campsite for a delicious steak dinner, featuring potatoes perfectly baked in the coals.

Dinner preparations were closely supervised by a posse of turkey vultures. I had noticed them cruising above the campsite the night before. This night they cruised around until sunset, then settled in to roost in a tree a few yards from our tent. All the jostling, pushing, and shoving in the tree sounded like someone bumping big cardboard boxes together as they silently shoved at each other with their powerful wings. Upon securing a perch the victor then had to rearrange his wings and get comfortable again while the loser took off and circled in to land on another perch. Once everyone was settled into a comfy perch they were silent until they took off first thing in the morning.

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