Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hiking at Clinton Lake in Lawrence

   Today Charley and I had planned to head out to Lawrence early, get in a good hike around Clinton Lake and enjoy the 60+ degree temperatures and sunny skies, and then grab a bite and a pint at Free State. (It had been WAY too long since I'd been out to Free State!)
   Many of the colorful leaves had fallen and turned to brown, but there was still plenty of color to see and appreciate...
   Brains! Or hedge apples, as it were. These things were EVERYWHERE! And huge! And apparently they're fruit! After years of pondering, I finally looked them up.
 Aki sails right through the teepee (or should I say "tree-pee"):
 Charley was a bit tall for it. I think Taylor dragged him through.
 The lake:
 A break:
A lil' mistake:
    I let Aki take an off-trail excursion, which led to her being being peppered with burrs. But the dogs seem to think that the number of burrs in your fur is directly proportional to the amount of fun you had on the hike! (Guess which doggies are getting a bath tonight?)
    As we walked around Lake Henry, our turn-back point, we spotted a small, gracefully thin snake who was sunning itself on the path. It took off swiftly and silently toward the bank, through the rocks and into the leaf litter, and despite my best attempt, I was unable to chase it down and catch it before it disappeared. I was disappointed. I wasn't 100% sure what it was, but I guessed a ribbon snake (lucky guess!), which was right on: a Western ribbon snake, to be exact! If memory serves, this was the first snake I've seen in the wild since I moved to KC... 14.5 years ago!
   We sat at a picnic table for a few minutes, enjoyed the view and some apples, then headed back. Suddenly, Aki hopped into the grass excitedly, then froze. "What's she after?" I asked. Then we saw it: a much larger red-sided garter snake!
   It's a darn good thing it is harmless; I was excited and all too willing to get a closer look. After Aki scared it, the snake took off down the bank to hide and embedded itself in a thick clump of grasses. Fortunately, the tip of its tail was visible, so I nabbed it, then lifted the grass firmly, and voila: a snake! 

   The snake was a little agitated about being held—mostly because it thought it was in danger, I'm sure. It lashed out at the camera repeatedly, but fortunately calmed down after a while. (But not before releasing its gross, musky warning signal all over my hands... ick. I smelled like a big smelly snake for the rest of the hike. Rinsing my hands in lake water hardly helped at all.)
    The dogs were SUPER curious and all too ready to lunge at the creature. Even Charley had a tough time restraining them. "Small but mighty" runs in the family!
   (I love this photo because it looks so much like the Taylor vs. Baby Possum photo from earlier this year!)
    I finally quit harassing the poor snake and let it get away, but not before I got a few more nice photos of it. Snakes have a bad rap, but they're fascinating creatures. Their scales on their belly are sleek and smooth, and their coloration and pattern are remarkable. They have a very intense look on their faces... maybe that's what scares people. Most are harmless to people, and they control pests like mice, rats, frogs and insects. What's not to like?*
    We finished the hike and returned to the car to head to a late lunch. Taylor looked very happy:
 Aki looked a lil' sleepy:
 Okay, maybe a LOT sleepy! Zzzzzzzz
  "Dog is my copilot." Or backseat driver, as it were. Taylor says, "Drive towards those trees; I think I smell squirrels!" (This was shortly before he returned to the back seat and crashed next to Aki.)
   And finally, Free State Brewing Company! A Cyclist (wheat beer + lemonade) and a burger never tasted so good.
This puts my pumpkin carving prowess to shame! Nice buffalo!
   Here are a few pics from my last Clinton Lake hike... more recent than I had remembered, on a similarly perfect November afternoon!