Beach Rutting

I passed a yawning Minnesota Man with his two leashed huskies. I went to my knees to greet the dogs and they gave me howls and that wild husky look I know so well. They wanted to run through the foam at the ocean’s edge and wreak mischief!

The sun was rising over the Coast Range. It mixed with smoke from somewhere where land was burning from human foolishness—a single act by a kid or a collective policy from a corporation.

I climbed through the crumbling jetty and hit the beach. I turned around and saw the huskies watching me from the dunes. I dearly wanted to borrow them for an hour.

Pelicans undulated over the waves. A few gulls cracked open crabs. Blue mussel shells everywhere.

I headed out to Fort Chivalry to see if anyone had left more poetry behind. Soon, I beheld, a large design in the sand made with feet: a smiling tulip that made me smile. Next to the tulip was a big heart with J + C ’17 written inside. An equation for sweet horny math and evidence of an innocent teenage semi-rutting.

It was a long, long time ago in an America far, far away, but I still remember the equation and I had a semi-rutting or two on an Oregon beach in my youth.

I picked up a log and did my driftwood exercises while on the move. It must look weird from a distance. I’ve seen a lot weirder on the beach. I’ve done a lot weirder.

These driftwood exercises are getting me in the best shape of my life—body and mind. I highly recommend them.

A few minutes later, I approached a strange circular and jagged set of tracks dug fairly deep into the sand. Initially, I thought horses made them, but quickly ruled that out after discovering fresh elk scat and distinctive elk hoof prints. I also noticed, here and there, parallel marks/indentations of twos and threes in the sand, almost as if someone had dragged sticks for very short distances. There were no other animal tracks of any kind.

From what I gathered, doing my best Natty Bumppo, there were two elk on the beach earlier that morning and they had run wild around in circles and were not being chased by coyotes or dogs. Odd. I have seen a herd of elk on the beach a couple times in my Oregon life, but never seen two elk cavorting at the ocean’s edge at dawn.

That is something I would like to see.

The tracks and drag marks made no sense to me. Then they did. It just popped into my mind. I had walked into the sandy choreography of a rutting. What other possible explanation was there?

I kept moving south and found another circular hoof pattern and drag marks. Twenty yards later I found another. Sweet horny elk.

At one point, I noticed the tracks led to the dunes. The elk must have come from there and not the sky or ocean. Follow the elk has been a recent mantra of mine, so I followed the elk. A few minutes later I was in the dunes and into a clump of wind-sheared shore pines. The trail ended there.

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