Sunday, June 15, 2008

Snakeless in Omaha

With gas prices being so cheap, we decided to drive to Omaha, Nebraska to see my sister. Her husband goes to Creighton University. Also, our favorite college team made it to the college world series (I am from Tallahassee) and we thought it would be cool to see them play in one of the biggest events in college sports. Our team lost badly, but the college world series experience was something that I would recommend to anyone, sports fan or otherwise. It is an incredible event (pageant). When I first walked into Rosenblatt Stadium the evening before the game and saw the field, it looked like an extremely well-cared-for golf green. I could literally feel the history of college baseball all around me.
The stadium shares a parking lot with the Omaha Zoo so we hit the zoo as well. The Omaha Zoo is one of the best zoos we have ever visited. Every exhibit was amazing. Utah's Hogle Zoo just doesn't compare.
The two days before the game, which was on Saturday, we spent hanging out with my sister and her husband. They showed us around Omaha. I did not realize that the Missouri River separated Omaha from Iowa. We spent a lot of time around the river walk area. There had been tornados and severe weather the day before and there was a large amount of debris floating down the river, including whole trees. We looked for snakes (when I say we, I mean mostly me) and found some shedded snake skin, but no snakes. The next morning, my brother-in-law and I went snake hunting. He is not into snakes and may have been asked secretly by my wife to go with me to make sure that I did not get lost. My wife does things like that. I told my brother-in-law that we needed to go to a wooded area that had a stream and he suggested a place that he had been to. When we got there, I could tell that the area was probably too developed for finding snakes, but there was a creek and woods like I had asked for and we had limited time, so off we went. My brother-in-law kept asking questions about what I was doing as I broke apart rotten logs and lifted rocks. I gave him a nature lesson as far as I knew how. He seemed a little concerned when we came to a large tree that had had the bark stripped off it up to about 7 feet. This tree was in the middle of some dense vegetation and it looked like we might have been the first people to have gotten that far into that area of the woods, at least for some time. I told him that I didn't see any bear claw marks on the tree and that seemed to ease his mind. We searched the entire area. I then asked an old man who was trimming some weeds near the beginning of the jog path if he had seen any snakes. He asked if I was really looking for snakes, like I was kidding him or something. It turned out that two women had seen a 6-foot snake (likely a Gopher Snake)near where we were looking the day before. I asked him what time of day they had seen it and he said about 10:30am. It wasn't even 8:00am when we were searching, but that news really gave me some encouragement. We then walked around searching carefully until I could tell that my brother-in-law became certain about my insanity. It would have been so nice to have found a milksnake or something, but in a way I usually hope not to find a snake that is too cool. That is because I will then have to talk my wife into letting me keep it. She has actually tried to get me to sign a contract stating that I will not under any circumstance acquire any more reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, etc., etc. I have refused to sign the contract to this point and have chosen to negotiate in other ways.
On the way back from Omaha I saw a lot of places that would be sure to yield snakes, but I just couldn't bring myself to ask my wife to wait while I disappeared into the woods only to return with the something she hates most in the world. We must have a really good working relationship to put aside differences like we have.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Rattlesnake No-No's in Corner Canyon

So, finally a warm day this month on my day off. Utah is famous for delayed spring or intermittent spring. I got up just after sunrise and started to get ready for the hike. My son woke up and wanted to come with me. He is seven. I usually don't take anyone with me because I can get into some crazy stuff sometimes. Taking one of my kids allows me to spend time with them and that is fun, but it does limit the hike. When my son and I got to the starting point of the hike, we looked around before just taking off. There is a creek that comes cascading out of granite rock formations that is totally awesome. The first part of the hike is through the rock formations. The horizontal morning sunlight was incredible the way it detailed the terrain (this happens nearly every day while I'm stuck at work). No artist could completely capture the way the vegetation just grows off ledges. The grain and angles of the rocks are pure sculpture. Most people that have lived in Utah for a while quit noticing this kind of beauty. I try not to let this happen.

We started up the canyon on the west side of the creek and within 15 minutes we came across a young Rattlesnake. It was about 17 inches long and probably 1.5 years old. This was a pretty little snake, but still a venomous snake. Also, all pit vipers are illegal to collect in Utah. We left it in the same spot and continued up the creek. About five minutes later we found another Great Basin Rattlesnake that was at the base of a huge boulder.

It was about 4 feet long and was thick. Just looking at the snake made us uncomfortable, because we were in an area where we had to place our hands and feet over and around rocks that could easily hide numerous snakes. I wanted to hear the snake's rattle so I got a stick and started to move the snake with it (note: this is stupid-never do it). It took a few minutes to get the snake irritated enough to rattle. When it did begin rattling, it sounded more like a buzz. At this point my son told me he wanted to go home. I told him to never go near a rattle snake. I know that I'm a bad example, but at least I didn't pick the snake up. My son told me that he was really scared and wanted to get out of there and I didn't realize that I was also a little scared until I took a couple steps back from the boulder and a sharp scrub brush stuck the back of my leg. I nearly jumped out of my pants. We left the area. On the way back, I caught a couple of Western Fence Lizards and Side-Blotched Lizards for my son. This made him feel a little better about the outing because he loves to hold lizards (we have had lizards as pets). When you turn the male lizards over on their backs, their bright blue bellies can be seen. I have no idea why so much color is hidden in a spot that is almost never seen. Fence lizards' backs are just gray or brown with arrow shaped patterns. One of the lizards was attempting to catch flies when I caught it, so I thought I would help it out and catch it a fly. It had its mouth open to bite me and I put the fly in it but it spit it out (ungrateful reptile). After messing around by the lower creek area and rolling logs over (my son loves to see the large ants, beetles, etc.) we headed home. While we didn't have the greatest success finding the target snakes this time, the outing was a great success. This was the most that I had talked to my son one-on-one in some time and we will probably remember this for a long while. Time spent with family can be very precious.