Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Let sleeping snakes lie

I met three frustrated mushroom hunters and one very relaxed northern water snake on the south Red Haw trail late Tuesday, an evening of mixed sun and haze that made photographing the park redbuds, now at their peak, a little frustrating. The photo above was taken along an access road to the park dump when the sun happened to be shining. If you want to see more redbuds, go here --- this photo was taken a couple of years ago when the sun was shining.

That's the snake below, and I apologize for the quality of the photo --- you'll have to click and enlarge to see it. It was a handsome critter, but I don't care for snakes and was not about to get close enough to take a quality portrait with my simple camera. Like most Iowa snakes, the northern is non-venimous, but aggressive if messed with, an enthusiastic biter. Since its saliva contains an anti-coagulant, you'll bleed lavishly if bitten but not die --- unless perhaps a la Indiana Jones you fell into a pit filled with the darned things and managed to bleed to death (or keel over from fright). The northern is a protected species in Iowa, too, so killing one is illegal --- something to keep in mind if you run into one.

The Red Haw woods were full of wildflowers, but the earliest ones are beginning to fade. Plenty of sweet williams (wild phlox), however.

And the red haws were in bloom, too, although there are surprisingly few of those in a park named after them.

According to the folks I met along the lakeside trail, no morels were to be found in that small area of the park although the number of cars and pickups scattered around suggested that plenty of folks were out looking elsewhere, too.

It was good to see so many people using the park, which like most Iowa parks often seems underutilized. Personally, I don't mind --- I like having the place almost to myself. On the other hand, we don't want Iowa lawmakers to get the idea they can save money by closing the gates in these troubled economic times. It's useful to remember that Red Haw was a creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the depression of the 1930s.

Speaking of full use, I Googled "Red Haw State Park" the other day just to see what turned up. A report of a wiccan full moon ritual last August in the old shelter house interrupted by a park ranger was among relatively few results. The sponsoring organization apparently was the South Central Iowa Pagan Alliance. Land sakes alive. What would Granny have had to say about that?

Makes no nevermind to me, actually, and its an interesting addition to the uses that old shelter has been put to over years --- weddings, funerals, family reunions, company picnics --- and now wiccan worship. I've actually met a wiccan or two, nice middle-aged mother earth types who had come by their faiths honestly after a good deal of thought and practiced it in a manner no more threatening than a group of United Methodist Women holding a brief service before lunch and an afternoon of quilting.

Some of the younger ones seem to be a little spooky, however --- too much emphasis on the darker side of things. More than likely their folks didn't take them to church and Sunday school, a practice with no guaranteed results but that does seem to offer a useful frame of reference regardless of the outcome.

No comments: