Three days of drizzly weather in late fall was producing snow-capped mountains in the Spring Creek Range. The peaks were enticing me to try fishing Cold Creek in the snow, although I wasn’t sure how low the snow got down. Studying Red Rock Canyon and La Madre Mountain from town indicated the snow level was about 5,000 feet. Since Cold Creek Pond was at 5,900 feet I knew I would be driving in the snow. Still, it was worth an early morning adventure.
When I left the house at 6:30 AM the temperature was about 40 degrees. By the time I got near Cold Creek, around 7:15 AM, my truck thermometer reported a frosty 31 degrees. There was a light but steady rain on the drive up, but as expected it turned into light snow at 5,000 feet.
I stopped near Indian Ridge to take some snow pictures. The ridge was providing some contrast in the white of the snowfall. About another half-mile up the road I came upon a jackrabbit that ran into the road and stopped. He just sat in the middle of the road for a few seconds. Since my camera was already on I decided to snap a picture. The jackrabbit then took off up the road, and I followed slowly in the truck.
As I followed the jackrabbit, a coyote suddenly emerged from the snow on the left side of the road and gave chase. At first they ran straight up the road, then the jackrabbit zigged and zagged back and forth, sometimes jumping into the snow-covered high desert scrub, but the coyote never let up.
At times I was 50 to 75 yards away, but even from that distance it seemed the coyote was gaining on the jackrabbit. At one point the jackrabbit stopped on the right side just off what should have been the pavement (it was covered in snow). I thought he was done for as the coyote caught up, but his speed and agility allowed him to dodge the coyote’s teeth as it pounced at the jackrabbit. Not sure if I or the coyote was more surprised.
To my surprise, the jackrabbit reversed direction and began to run back down the road toward my truck, eventually passing just to the left of the driver’s side. I’m sure the jackrabbit thought he could use my truck to somehow shield him from the coyote, or even perhaps frighten the coyote away. The coyote did seem more wary of the truck as he passed about 50 yards off to the right of the passenger side. I marveled at how he bounded and bounced through the snow. If you didn’t know better you might have thought he was playing… but he wasn’t. And while he stayed farther away from the truck than did the jackrabbit, he wasn’t giving up the chase. It was a mesmerizing display of reality in the life of the jackrabbit and coyote.
As they passed by on opposite sides of the truck I looked out my rear window only to see the coyote again chasing the jackrabbit. The coyote switched back from the passenger side to the driver side where he and the jackrabbit seemed to disappear into the snow-covered bushes on the east side of the road. I never saw them again. I do not know what became of the life-and-death chase. Secretly, I was pulling for the jackrabbit although I understand completely about the laws of nature.
After the “nature show” I proceeded up the road, getting as far as the large BLM sign. That elevation was 5,700 feet and the snow was now about 6-inches deep. There was another 300 feet in elevation to gain, not to mention the rocky dirt road down to the pond that harbored one or two small boulders that I might not miss due to the snow. So, I decided to abort the fishing and return home. After all, the fishing plans were but a side bar; it was adventure that I was seeking this morning. The coyote and jackrabbit provided plenty of that for me, and the fishing wasn’t going to add anything to that experience. I felt honored to have witnessed a tiny part of God’s natural world that few have ever seen.