Once More Into The Bluffs (continued)
out from under the hill
I took a peek up into a narrow crack that seemed to go back twenty or thirty feet. Off to one side a small moccasin was crawling out towards me. I set up my camera for a flash shot, and when I looked up again, a large adult moccasin had appeared out of nowhere, heading for daylight. Snakes were boiling out of the bluffs now, it seemed, and we were lucky enough to witness it.
Coming up on the edge of an outcrop, Jeff sang out and we all stopped and looked at a moccasin head poking around the corner, watching us. This was a large snake, just emerging from a fair-sized crevice, and as we approached it quickly backed into the hole from whence it came.
The next snake to show up was another Black Rat Snake, stretched out along the line where leaf litter meets vertical stone. What a beauty! It was a large one, perhaps four and a half feet in length. We got too close while photographing and disturbed it, so I picked it up. The snake was very cool to the touch, and it made no attempt to bite. We took a few more pictures and returned the snake to its basking spot. I hadn't seen all that many Black Rats this year and none were as impressive as this one.
We had reached the far end of our hike, and it was time to turn around - the sun was falling fast towards the horizon. Our first snake on the way back was an adult Yellowbellied Water Snake, which allowed us a moment for a quick look and a picture before slithering off.
Another Black Rat Snake , a small adult, was crawling along the leaf line, at a spot we had passed going the other way not so long before. Going out or coming in? Hard to say, but the day was waning, and fast. We reached the spot where Jeff found his big Rough Green, and the snake was still there, although it had moved a bit. Again it seemed to be waiting for a meal to happen by.
One more Black Rat in the same position. It was now four thirty, the sun was dropping over the edge of the world, and night was coming on. We still had quite a ways to travel, and we had to be pick our way along carefully. There was no getting around it - the last leg would be walked in complete darkness.
I had my flashlight out now, and we were almost back to where we saw our Timber rattler, when I heard a thrashing sound in the leaves to my immediate right. Steve was right behind me and sang out - 'Copperhead!' I could barely make out where he was pointing at, but holy cow! I could still tell it was a big one. It was agitated, perhaps in part from being out on a dusty rock face instead of in the leaf litter.
If this wasn't the biggest Copperhead I ever saw, it was close! And I wished we had another hour of daylight, because this was one gorgeous Copperhead, with some vivid orange-red saddles. I took some pictures, aided by a pre-flash, but I don't think they did the snake justice. We were all happy for Jeff, since this was another life-lister for him.
We missed our marked tree in the dark, the one where we would turn away from the bluff and walk towards the river. After some walking back and forth and guessing, we picked a spot and picked our way downhill by flashlight. It was too bad we missed out on what turned out to be the only Timber rattler of the day, but we did see a lot of snakes. Not bad for a November afternoon, and probably the last trip of the year.
Although there's always a chance for one more...
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