__________ September 02, 2015 __________

Our Pickerel Adventure!

I told my kids a week ago that when I was a little girl, I remembered my birthday by calling it ‘Teptember Two’, and have actually said it like that in my head all my life, just because.  Makes me smile.  Of course, admitting that made ALL of them want to say it, so everyone’s been geeked that we’ve FINALLY reached ‘Teptember Two’.

But boy-howdy, did the month start off with a bang!  Yesterday I got it in my head that we should get out and enjoy the weather, now that it’s warming back up and drying out.  Two years ago, there was a lady from Alaska who’d been in a family hiking group up there, and she was moving to Grand Rapids, so she wanted to form a similar group here.  She advertised on a HUGE mommy site, and something like eighty people showed interest, so she put together a hiking itinerary.  My kids and I were the *only* family to show.  But we fell in love with hiking.  She moved to Maine shortly after that, but we still hike quite a bit, just us.  I miss meeting her at the trail-heads, though.

Anyhow, yesterday I took the kids up to Pickerel Lake Preserve, to hike the trail.  It has three boardwalks that cut thru parts of the lake, too, so it’s a pretty fun place.  We started off, and snagged up right away, because there were a TON of fish, just off the boardwalk, and the kids loved finding the bigger ones.  As we were looking, an older man (65-ish?) came, and hung back… probably giving us our space, but listening to the kids.  Then I saw a bunch of stumps off the other way that were COVERED with turtles, and they were so geeked about that.  We moved on, and further down the boardwalk, in the lily pads, were *dozens* of frogs – I’ve never seen so many at once in my life!  We were ecstatic.

And the man was starting to get a little into it, too… he joined us, and spotted a big ol’ frog, and then a beautiful painter turtle.  He was a nice guy – and he was really good with the kids (but then, I have really good kids.  And yes, I’m biased, but they really *are* good.)  “If you stop just at the end of the boardwalk, there’s usually a snake in the reeds, over there,” he told us.  Now turtles?  Awesome.  Fish?  I’m fine – I bait my hooks, take fish off, filet them.  Frogs?  We catch ’em, along with toads.  But I. Do. NOT. Do. Snakes.  *EVER.*  So I gave a nervous laugh, said, “Um, no, but thank you.”, and we kind of skittered past THAT spot.  He laughed, shook his head, and waved us on our way.

I was leading the group, and we left the boardwalk for the trail, took a corner, and I looked down and FIVE INCHES from my foot was a two and a half foot snake.  I screamed – it’s supersonic, I promise.  My kids screamed.  Six people, screaming.  The man behind us jogged up around the corner, and is giggling like crazy.  Of COURSE he heard us – how could he not?!

“You saw a snake, didn’t you?”  He grinned.  I was too busy simultaneously having a heart attack and hyperventilating to answer, but the boys’ eyes were big, and they were nodding and pointing.  I wasn’t close enough to point, I can promise you that!  The man laughed.  And he laughed.  And laughed.  Homigosh, I swear he was going to pee himself, but I couldn’t think about it, I was *traumatized*.

I think he wanted to hike with us, but we didn’t know him, and… awkward + stranger = bummer …so he strolled while we said our goodbyes (and thank yous for helping spot turtles and frogs), and we went on our way.  The kids elected for the forest branches of the trail, FAR from the marshy water, after that.  I didn’t complain about it!  But about halfway around the lake, Boy12 stops stock still in the trail in front of us (he’s always in front, eventually).  “Snake?”  Daughter15 asked, dreading the answer.  He nodded.  “It went into the bushes.”  We scurried past THAT place, too.

Then we were nearly at the end, on another boardwalk, and the kids were peering over the side, looking for turtles and frogs, and this water snake surfaced.  And surfaced.  And SURFACED.  It just kept rising and rising… and it was LONG.  And it was *HUGE*.  I’ve never… okay boa constrictors from a DISTANCE with glass between and nobody touching me at the zoo, but… this thing was five foot from us!  I ran.  I’ll admit it.  There are two things I’m irrationally terrified of: snakes and bathrooms.  Mostly snakes.  I was DONE hiking, about then!

We got home to find another duckling hatched out in the incubator – a boy.  My guy later named it ‘Nake’… short for you-know-what.  And he laughed pretty hard about our adventure.  Mostly because he knows about me and snakes.  If I’m on the mower and I see one?  My line goes immediately wonky as I chase them, screaming.  It’s… kind of a thing.  The one prerequisite for marriage with me was the ability to kill snakes.  (Okay, there might’ve been a couple others, but that one’s IMPORTANT.)

So there’s my story for you, today.

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