You know how you always see the best stuff when you don’t have your camera? Well, that just happened to me today in the most epic way.
So, the sun FINALLY came out after its 3 week hiatus from the skies over Nome, warming temperatures to a balmy 56 degrees. Immediately after work I ran home, changed out of my work clothes, and hopped onto a bike for a ride around town, happy to not be weighed down by cameras and a backpack for once.
I started off on a back street that I rightly suspected wouldn’t have too much traffic. It was a good choice; it quietly cut around the back of the eastern side of town and I only passed a couple cars and pedestrians, but for the most part I had big open views of the tundra on one side, and the backs of houses, playgrounds, and sports fields on the other.
When the road finally spit me out on the main street, I continued east away from town, towards the Nome River. Here the riding was a bit harder, as I was faced with a stiff sea breeze and more traffic on the dusty road. I had half a mind to turn around when suddenly I saw the little black tip of a tail darting around between the boulders that separate the road from the beach.
|a rough illustrative rendering|
There’s no way that’s a ground squirrel, I thought. And then there it was. Possibly the most adorable creature I have ever laid eyes on: a tiny ermine! Standing on its hind legs on a rock, it’s little wide, weasel face staring up into mine, huge front paws poised over its yellowish belly, and the dull sunlight glinting off its chestnut colored back.
We regarded each other in shock for a moment, and then, to my wonder, it approached! I was motionless — I don’t think I even breathed. Then a car roared by and the little weasel did a funny bucking/darting motion and was back in the rocks. But a second later, there it was again.
For about the next 15 minutes, the ermine and I had this ridiculous game going on. It would creep up to my bike in funny little bursts of zigzagging speed, and then it seemed to get too excited to handle itself, and it would bounce around and scurry back in the rocks. At one point it came to almost touch my bike tire and then spastically hopped away like a little miniature ferret (it was less than 6″ long). Cutest thing I’ve ever seen.
Well, eventually the ermine seemed to remember whatever it had been doing before and lost interest in me, hurrying down the road as if it were late for an appointment. I figured that was the coolest thing I could possibly see all day, so I turned around and headed back into town. My day has been made.