Spring in Shevlin Park

 Shevlin Park in fall. Photo: Mike Putnam

Shevlin Park in fall. Photo: Mike Putnam

My dog used to drag me around to different trails all over Central Oregon so she could smell new things while I plodded along on my weekly runs. But my pup passed away last year, so this spring I've been running in one place over and over: Shevlin Park.

I think of Shevlin as Bend's version of Portland's Forest Park. It's nowhere near as large as FP, but for a close-in natural area with lots of trails, gorgeous views, and diverse flora and fauna, it's tough to beat.

On one run early this spring, I heard a branch break up on the eastern ridge and spied a female elk. I held still and she gave me maybe 10 seconds of her time before returning to her climb. What a beauty she was!

In early May I was jogging along thinking of my mom (gone, like my dog) when I stumbled across a couple does. One stotted off, but the other stopped not 20 feet from the trail, looking at me with her mule-like ears raised. When I started walking, assuming she'd do the same in the other direction, she instead held still and swiveled her head to watch me with those big doe eyes. No, I don't think she was my mom reincarnate, but a few tears fell anyway.

On my most recent run at Shevlin, I heard my first Olive-sided Flycatcher of the season ("Quick, three beers!"), which made me laugh as it always does. (And, no, I do not know how a bird forms the "th" sound. It just does.) I also heard the sweet song of a Black-headed Grosbeak right beside the trail and saw a Lewis's Woodpecker, which is sadly in danger of extinction.

If you've read this far, let me tell you one more thing about those experiences at Shevlin. Right after I spied that elk, I saw a runner coming toward me, and I was going to tell her about the beauty right across the creek from us. Only she (the runner, not the elk) had headphones in and didn't even look at me. Same thing happened when I saw those does.

On another run, someone was playing their music out loud (not on headphones), so I couldn't hear nature at all.

I've run with headphones in too, and I've been on my cellphone while hiking many times, so I'm not casting aspersions ... much. What I can tell you is that I do those sorts of things far, far less often now because I know more about the plants and animals around me (I didn't even get to tell you about the sand lilies, penstemons, paintbrush, phacelia, and more I've already seen in bloom this spring).

Believe me, the songs, conversations, and connections you can experience with nature are far more varied and exciting than the ones you're likely to experience on your digital devices. Especially in spring and especially at Shevlin.