Monday, July 18, 2005

I apologize for not having posted in a while. I was in San Francisco for a wedding, and the days before that I was busy working to prepare for being out of the office for two days.

Not that I have anything exciting to report. We went out last Saturday to a state park in New Jersey and found nothing but a shed snake skin. I think it was from a water snake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon), but it was hard to tell. I guess I could have taken it home and counted scales to be sure, but that seemed like too much effort.

The herping accounts you read (or at least the ones I read) are about herping successes. People usually don’t take the time to write about how they drove out to a beautiful location, walked around for a few hours, bent over every thirty seconds to look under something, and only found worms and bugs. That, however, is what happens a lot of the time, and a lot of the rest of the time you only catch a glimpse of a snake slipping into a hole or hear a splash of a frog making its getaway. I’m not sure how much worse I am at this than everyone else, but I’m pretty sure that not finding anything is pretty common.

I’m sure people (maybe yourself included) wonder why this nut likes to spend his time catching snakes, turtles, frogs, and other creepy crawlies. I think people should be wondering why this nut chooses to spend so much of his time not finding snakes, turtles, frogs, and other creepy crawlies.

Like the luckless fisherman on a the water, I do try to make it about the beauty of nature and about being outside. Many times I give up after a few hours and turn from herping to just hiking. Being outdoors in a place not made of concrete, asphalt, or mowed grass does make me feel free and content in a way I forget about completely until I feel it. This hedging my bets, however, probably reduces my odds of finding herps, since I often go to beautiful places with the thought of hiking if my luck is bad, and the beautiful places aren’t graced with the illegal dumping sites where it’s so easy to find the herps.

I'd like to say I'm as happy as I could be when I'm out there gasping at the majesty of Appalachian valleys or feeling myself melt into the velvety green of a forest after a rain shower, but then I'd be lying. No matter how awestruck or sublime my mood, it is always improved by the dowdiest garter snake, my ten thousanth redback salamander, or even the splash of a frog I didn't see.

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