Hello, My Dappled Darling: Fawn in Quehanna

My husband and I were backpacking in the Quehanna Wild Area, and it was a cold night with a low of 32 degrees F in the pine stand where we camp. I had hoped there might be morning frost mist in the valley, a natural phenomenon that occurs sometimes when the temperatures drop way down low.

But when I awoke at first light and looked out the front of my tent, I didn't see any mist. So I rolled over and went back to sleep. Morning is one of my favorite times to be a tent dweller. And so while my husband took his tent down, I sat in my own tent and played house, listening to some of my favorite tunes on my little pink iPod shuffle.

We wanted to be leaving our campsite by around noon. And so by 10:30 or so, I got out of my tent and started taking everything out of it and airing out my gear. It was surprising the amount of progress I made pretty quickly. And by a few minutes after noon, we were indeed packed up and on our way back to our car.

We were not far from the parking lot when we spotted an animal next to the trail. "ELK!" I said excitedly. But I couldn't tell if it was an elk or a white-tailed deer. I needed a closer look. So while my husband walked straight up the main trail to our car, I took a side trail into the woods where the animal had gone.

In just a few minutes, I saw the flip of a white tail in the near distance, as the Mama deer ran away from me. But in the foreground, I spotted a tiny creature hobbling along. I couldn't for the life of me imagine what it was. It seemed spotty and almost pig-like. A tapir? But we don't HAVE those in Pennsylvania.

But as soon as I took another dozen steps, I suddenly understood what was going on. The tiny creature I saw trying to walk, and not making it far, was a fresh fawn. It had toppled over and was now lying in a pile of spots not far from the trail.

Now, I have lived in Pennsylvania my entire life. And I have spent many, many hours in the woods, both as a child and as an adult. And I have never seen a fawn up close before. Never! So this was my big chance! I tried to contain my excitement.

I was astonished at how small the fawn was. How perfectly beautiful. And how completely helpless it was. In fact, the whole thing almost scared me, to think of something so little all by itself in the woods where other, much larger, wild animals roam.

I was also cognizant of the fact that I was bigger than it; in fact, MUCH bigger than it, with my full frame pack on. And I did not want to stress it out by getting too close, or staying too long. So I silently snapped off about a half-dozen photos, and I left quickly. I checked my time stamps later: I spent just 37 seconds with this dappled darling.

So here, let me present the absolute treasure of my adventures in the Quehanna wilderness: my first and only fawn, observed from about three feet away. Its eyes were clear and bright. Every spot looked fresh and new.

Welcome, welcome, little one, to this big, bright, beautiful world!

The soundtrack song is from the St. Elmo's Fire movie soundtrack: Elefante, with Young & Innocent.

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