Everyone expects the beautiful views enjoyed while traveling in the mountains. But how many of us discipline ourselves to focus on the tiny details along the trail? Daughter and I were challenged to search for Nature’s Hearts on our recent backpacking adventure on the Appalachian Trail. (You can see a blog post with photos of our finds HERE.) In that quest for small treasures, we discovered many other camouflaged creatures. Here are a few of our best tips for playing hide and seek with nature:
Look for Movement. The shapes and colors of critters often blend in with the background. Flutters and flickers are an invitation to look closer. More than once we found groups of butterflies gathered in a heap on the ground. Sometimes there will be a burst of movement, then the creature freezes. Patience will pay off when the critter eventually moves again. Or perhaps you will notice the tiny quiver of a lizard breathing.
Listen for Sounds. Trills and songs might help you find a bird in the underbrush or in the treetops. (These are usually hard to photograph…unless you are carrying a heavy telephoto lens.) Dry leaves crackling or rustling might eventually reveal a snake, or a chipmunk, or a BUG!
Look for the Wrong Shape or a Different Color. Snails are the same color as the leaves or rocks they hide among. However, their rounded shells stand out against angular backgrounds. There were many times we noticed bright colored fungus or lichen on trees and rocks. Often, if we looked closer, we would find drab slugs. This is one of my favorite photos from the entire trip. We actually saw a group of deer wandering across the campsite, nibbling at bits of grass. When I walked closer to get a better photo, this young deer put the trees between us, and then froze, hoping I wouldn’t notice him…
Walk in Silence. I’m sure some of you wonder if we encountered bears. Not this time, although other hikers had problems with Yogi trying to steal food sacks at some of the shelters we had stayed at earlier in our trip. We tend to make noise when we hike: laughing, singing, talking, telling stories. Most animals, including bears, will move away if they realize a human is nearby. So, if you WANT to encounter more critters, move silently through the woods.
I’m curious. What’s your favorite critter sighting? We would love to hear your hints for finding more tiny treasures in Nature’s game of Hide and Seek.