Encounters Along a Mojave Cliff

Spread-eagled and flattened against a vertical, crumbling, abrasive sandstone wall about 150 meters above the canyon floor, I inched left on a narrow, unstable ledge.  Fingertips seeking and finding tenuous holds, I pushed very carefully around a gravelly bend. 

A gray missile exploded like a rifle shot past my right ear.  Startling - but to let go of the rock would mean death.  Heart pounding, I slowly glanced right to see a desert kit fox, all ears and tail, bounding away.  After regaining my balance,  composure, and more secure foot and handholds, I crept further around the bend.  Soon I encountered at eye level the narrow entrance to a shallow wind cave.  Not entering but peering in, I discerned four tiny wet newborn kits, their eyes not yet open, resting on a soft bed of juniper, leaves and desert grasses.  They were snuggling together in a neat line, as though their mother had been nursing them seconds ago. 

After conspicuously looking away I continued along the ledge, hoping their mother would soon rejoin them.  To my dying day I will feel ashamed for disrupting their lives.

-Will Walsh