Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Poking monsters with a stick

"You know you just stepped over a snake?" said Clark from several feet behind me.

"Huh? A snake? Where?" Was my response. I thought maybe he just saw a snake-ish stick or something.

"Right there on the path. You missed him by six inches."

I looked and didn't see anything. It was just at dawn in the woods along Spring Creek and many things which wandered there at night had yet to retreat. We had entered into the borderlands several hours ago in hopes of spotting some of its rarer, night-active creatures. Twice this morning unknown beasts had burst from the undergrowth as we passed. In both cases the things were gone before our startlement passed.

After a moment I spotted the snake, a 18-20" copperhead stretched out motionless on the path between Clark and me. His coloring was a perfect camouflage against the brown leaves and dirt. This was my first encounter with venomous Texas snake in the wild. As I stared down at him only one thought was in my head, "How close can I get and still be out of striking distance?

Turned out, less than a yard.
Copperhead1 Copperhead2

Two pictures later and a new thought crossed my mind, "What'll he do if I poke him with my walking stick?". My stick is a 6' pole of bamboo wrapped in rope and I wasn't sure if the snake could climb it. I figured if he did I could probably fling it off before it got to me. Note to self, don't fling it towards Clark. Adventurers should never endanger their fellow explorers (unless it'd be really funny).


Damn, copperheads move really, really fast.

Turns out so do Clark and I, though he does it with much more grace than me.

It was a great walk in the borderlands of Spring Creek. I was up at 4:30am and met up with Clark a bit after 5am, ten minutes later we were walking in the woods along the river in the dark. We could just barely make out the white sand of the path but it was enough to go forward. Being an adventurer means sometimes sight is optional. Things were splashing in the river and occasionally a splash was followed by the frogs going silent. I'm not sure why some splashes would silence the frogs and others they'd ignore. I'm not sure I want to know... Sometimes being an adventurer means going, "Dute-a-dute-adoo, nothing out there is going to eat me."

As the sun came up the birds began to sing and we could make them out in the trees and along the streambanks. I don't know all the birds we saw, that's Clark's specialty. He seemed pretty excited about one or two of them, including a funny pink one. I think birds are pretty, but my my idea about learning about birds involves recipes rather than ID's. Mmmm, birds.

One of the problems with exploring the woods are spider webs. You don't see them and suddenly for face is wrapped in sticky gossamer threads. That happens a lot in the borderlands, especially when you're 6'5". It had been happening all morning long but once the sun came up enough I could start seeing the webs. This was a good thing because otherwise I would have been eaten by friggin Shelob!

The web of this spider stretched more than ten feet across between the trees. In the center sat a yellow and black monstrosity almost three inches across. Yowza!
Shelob2 Shelob

I didn't bring it home to eat.

We carefully crawled under the web, the last thing I wanted was for this thing to leap down on my neck. Once Clark and I were past it, well...


Damn, giant monster spiders can move fast!

By then the sun was up and the temperature was begining to climb. That seems to happen a lot in Texas. We turned around and headed back along a different path. This way led under some giant (non-monsterous) powerlines. Here we had our last encounter with a borderland beast. Just before we entered the clearing under the powerlines we spotted a nice buck grazing on the grass. He realized something was up and looked our way, but he didn't run. Unfortunately he was too far away to poke with my stick. I was able to snap one picture, but that was enough to send him bounding away. He was fast, but I think the copperhead could have caught him.




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