"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Returning to Waterloo-Pinckney in 2011

My Encounter with a Serpent, but first...

"I always feel like I'm repenting when I go hiking."

--Childe Jake, Oct. 3, 2010
Early spring flowers on the Lowland Trail
The poet in me had fun while taking this shot. These little flowers were positively percolating in the crisp breeze. At first, I saw them as giddy children playing for the camera. A breath later I regarded them as shivering pioneers hunkered down against the chill of a winterish breeze.

This weekend was my first visit to the Waterloo Recreation Area in 2011. I was curious to see how much spring growth had occurred. The above picture sums it up. The woods remain mostly brown and gray following a very mild April. Early spring gives the Waterloo Recreation Area a rustic beauty.

Some Political Harping and then onto Snakes

A raised pathway and skunk cabbage on the Lowland Trail
Sometimes government gets it right. Recently, the state of Michigan overhauled its parks pass system. Not only did they make it easier and more efficient to get a pass--check a box on your car registration renewal form--they made it cheaper. I paid a measly $10 extra as part of my registration renewal. Click here for more information on Michigan's Recreation Passport.

Still, as I traversed the above walkway I worried about the DNR's ability to maintain state parks in the coming year. Especially in Michigan there is a prevalent, and thoroughly overzealous notion, that any discretionary spending constitutes big bad government. Not so. The above image, showing a cherishable interplay between nature and civilization, reminds me that some taxes are worth paying.

A Snake on the Bog Trail

The Bog Trail runs about 1.5 miles round trip. I had forgotten what an enjoyable trail it is, boasting an easy-going assortment of raised walkways, gravel sections and intimate vistas. As I reached the trail's end, I encountered a snake. Can you see him?

A snake slithers away on the Bog Trail.
I suppose I'm like most folks when encountering a snake in the wild. Following an initial burst of primal fear, I find myself beset with curiosity and a keen desire to pick fruit. In any case, it must be underscored that I was not the more nervous soul in this encounter. In fact, the above photo is of the second snake I saw at the Bog Trail's end. A smaller one fled just after I arrived.

A few minutes later, literally as I was writing about the first snake in my notepad, the above fellow slid halfway onto the path. It took at least 10 minutes for the snake to convince itself I wasn't about to attack. Then, slowly and coolly, it brought its full body up onto the walkway. Perhaps 2 feet in length, it always kept an eye on my 6'2" body. When I shifted my stance to pull out my camera phone, the snake cocked its head up accordingly. Nor did it ever move toward me. When he slithered back into the tall grass, I got within five feet for a closer look at his black back and yellow stripes.

My first two visits to the Waterloo Recreation Area in 2011 resulted in hiking about 3 miles of trail. Not a bad opening weekend for a husky guy in his mid-30s. After all, I'm just repenting for too many fair-weather days wasted on the couch. More hikes are planned for May!

For more information about the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail, click here.

5/4/11 UPDATE:
Thanks to some nifty pictures and descriptions from the DNR website, I am pretty sure the second snake I encountered was either a Butler Garter Snake or a Northern Ribbon Snake. My guess would be the Butler. Click here for DNR information on snakes in Michigan.

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