A few years ago I spent time at Mono Hot Springs located within the Ansel Adams Wilderness. One particular morning I left my cabin and took a cross-country adventure to Doris Lake. The morning was clear with the sun just peaking over the eastern mountains. The shadows were starting their morning dance and gracefully disappearing behind those large rocks and trees.
The only sounds at this twilight hour were native birds, chipmunks and squirrels. Little did I know what a surprise was waiting for me along this sloping canyon? After maneuvering through a narrow slot, I climbed to a large plateau. As I turned, standing on a huge boulder was a large Gray Fox just 12 feet from me.
I expected to see him scurry off and disappear behind one of the larger boulders. But I was wrong -- He seemed to be as curious about me as I was of him. What a moment. Face to face with one of the shyest animals in the wilderness.
I figured no one would believe this moment unless I came home with a photograph of the beautiful fox. I figured by walking in the opposite direction and carefully removing my camera from its case, I may get a shot. This action crated an unusual response from the fox.
He started following me, staying on the high ground above me. Now I'm confused -- he should be escaping but the distance between us has not changed. I stopped and tried communicating with him. His response was a repeating low growling sound. This has to be the time for that photo opportunity. With the morning sun not quite bright enough, I may have to use a flash. Hopefully the bright light will not scare him off. Click -- success -- I got his picture before he jumped behind the rocks.
When I reached the top of the next plateau, guess who reappeared? Following behind me was the same Gray Fox. He was jumping from one boulder to another above me.
During my hike back to my cabin, I thought to myself -- would anyone believe this story? My proof will be the photo I've taken.
A few mornings later I decided to hike into that same canyon. Upon arrival at the elevated plateau I started whistling. On the eastern wall a small figure was bouncing from ledge to ledge. With each movement he descended closer to my location. It is the same Gray Fox that greeted me three days earlier. He growled and I responded with a few words of kindness.
There was a secondary movement on that same ridge. Now I know he has a mate. His partner was very shy and kept out of sight during our meetings. This relationship lasted for over three weeks. As unexpected as everything started, it stopped. Sad to say it has been over a month and I haven't seen my wilderness friend.
The Gray Fox is territorial and they very seldom, if ever, leave their marked territory. Next year I'll have to wonder back through that canyon and see if my wilderness buddy will be there waiting for me.