A spring picnic at Tannehill with an unexpected visit from Mr. Triangle Head.

Today took us to Tannehill. The weather veered unexpectedly towards summer, and I reminded myself that once a chigger graveyard does not mean always a chigger graveyard. Fortunately, Amy, her girls, and the young castle crew distracted me from chigger PTSD.

The girls were hungry, but Max and his ponies were itching to hit the trail. So we spread out a blanket and ate as Max wandered up and down the creek reporting back on various twists and turns in the trail. It felt like the beginning of summer- the sweat-sticky hair glued to my nape, the crimson roses on the kids’ cheeks.

I only noticed a sprinkle of violets on the trail, but there were many other spring wildflowers eager to lap up the sun.

We aren’t sure about this plant yet, though I’ve sent it along to a someone who knows all the secrets languages of plants. When we get an ID on it, I’ll probably re-post along with information and a nature notebooking page. Cause I can’t help myself when it comes to mysterious flowers friends.

Amy and I agreed that this was the native azalea, and I made a note to myself to see if Eugene Allen Smith was the person who had originally identified it. Anna and Milla delighted in the lemony, sweet scent of the funnel flowers (which many confuse for honeysuckle unless they’ve been lucky enough to learn the truth from Carol Brooks or Richard and Nancy Cobb).

The Alabama azalea, or Rhododendron alabamense, usually begins blooming towards the end of April and continues its show until the end of May, which worries me because I would hate to miss the beauty of the blooms along Hurricane Creek. Why so early this year?

The thriving shrubs of poison ivy lured us on a trail that turned away from the creek’s edge- a trail that Max believed would “not be as good”. We never really got to test his assertion because, after walking for ten minutes, Amy and I lagging at the rear and Max playing trail leader, we noticed Max and Anna smiling and walking back towards us.

“Hey, there’s a snake in the middle of the trail- come see!”

I decided to hang out with the kids while Amy investigated. All was silent from her end of the trail, though she spent a few minutes snapping photographs. When she strolled back up with a smile, I asked her what kind of snake was sunning. She never stopped smiling as she said, “Oh, I think it’s a copperhead…”

It was time for Mr. Triangle Head and myself to exchange large vocabulary words involving whether or not we two-legged creatures should continue down what apparently was HIS trail. Being a snake works well when it comes to social skills because you don’t have to bother with all that silly human stuff. He stared at me and I stared back at him. He didn’t move one bit. I think I got his message, though.

Max, of course, thought we were being “silly” to listen to a snake. He insisted that it was a nonpoisonous species, but I erred on the side of Amy’s intuition. I explained to Max that the snake probably wouldn’t hurt us, but he definitely wanted that trail and we were just visitors to his home. Bad visitors insist on turning every place they visit into their house. Better to read the writing in leaves and accept it like our Native American friends. Sometimes, after all, being pushy and overly-analytic is equivalent to missing the point.

(Addendum: Mr. Triangle Head was determined to be a cottonmouth by someone who knows such things.)

Fortunately, Max concurred, his attention quickly taken by the sight of a fisherman up the other trail. By the time Amy and I caught up him, he had sweet-talked his way into casting the kind fisherman’s line. The fisherman told us he wasn’t catching anything- “just some time off”- and Amy mused about the rangers possibly stocking the stream with trout. Clearly, there is something fishy in the Tannehill waters that allows them to host an educational program called “The Fishes of Tannehill”.

As Max fished, the girls wandered over to the old grist mill and started playing around the flume, which is the long wooden trough that carries the stream water from the spillway to the water wheel.

After giggles and grunts, Micah hopped over to us to explain all the excitement over at the flume. For Micah, an explanation usually amounts to a “showing”. She said, “Look!”, and quickly dropped a smattering of snail shells into our hands.

Amy recognized one of the shells as the one her husband had used in his graduate research. She also explained how the shells were different species; her eyes picked up those delicate details I am prone to overlooking (not that shells are within my repertoire).

The vast chunk of our remaining time at Tannehill was spent sitting and chatting as the kids took their ponies and fairies for dips in the creek. Of course, Max had to remove shoes and socks and ford the stream at his leisure. And then, of course, others wanted to try as well. And then, of course, I was happy that spring meant wet toes and pant cuffs, pebbles in shoes, and all that other good stuff.

Each spring brings its own particular treasures. This one brings Amy and her family for a lazy day at Tannehill. I am grateful for all of the above and how it fits together in its own special way.

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