Slithering along the trails

(A version of this little ramble appears in May 11 Sault Star)

My first spring hike on a bush trail was no walk in the park.

Remnants of snowshoe trails might cover a bear trap for all you know

Some stretches still had remnants of once-packed-down snow, because we snowshoe on those trails in winter.

Rather than encounter whatever slippery surprises those drifts might hide, I straddled or skirted them, which made me look like a rickety version of my grandkids playing floor lava.

It’s harder to find the trail in spring, too.

In winter, even after a snowfall, you just follow the indentation made by those who shoed before you and hope they didn’t take a wrong turn over a cliff, like lemmings in long-johns.

But there are wrong turns to be taken when the snow melts. And some of the blazes on our sparsely marked trail have lost their youthful glow.

I missed one turn and had to backtrack when I realized that the maples, birches, oaks, pines and hemlocks through which I trekked were definitely not the correct maples, birches, oaks, pines and hemlocks.

It’s there, right before your eyes. How could you miss it?

I hadn’t noticed a faded yellow tape flapping in the breeze among strands of tattered bark on a paper birch that were also flapping in the breeze. How could I have been so blind.

Then there was the snake that I almost stepped on.

It was a garter, about two feet long. Possibly having just emerged from its hibernacula, it was as lazy as most of us are first thing in the morning.

That snake might have been randy as well, since in spring male garters hit the ground sniffing, looking for a slithery young thing to court and spark.

Even if I knew what signs of carnality to look for, I wouldn’t have gotten close enough to find out, because I’m considerably less than fond of snakes.

In my youth, while canoe-tripping through massasauga rattler country, I stepped barefoot onto a fairly large snake. (We had been swimming; even as a goofy teen I didn’t canoe-trip barefoot.)

Harmless, right? Tell that to Eve

Thankfully, it was not a massasauga and did no rattling. Parts of my anatomy rattled quite loudly, however.

This time I was booted, but the thought of treading on this garter had me imagining it slithering up my body and going straight for the adam’s apple. Even a serpent might talk itself into tasting some forbidden fruit.

I did what anyone would do: I poked it with a stick.

Don’t have a hissy fit, reptile-lovers. I didn’t club it to death. On the contrary, I was curious if someone or something or the Grim Reaper had beaten me to it.

The poked snake sidled lethargically, perhaps unwilling to expend much energy on anything less than a female snake. So I gave it a wide berth.

Speaking of birth, throughout history snakes have been symbols of fertility.

Fertility is about the last thing a man of my age would hope for, having discovered that grandchildren require far less maintenance than children. Old people call that diminished responsibility.

But snakes are also considered symbols of creative rebirth and transformation.

Some cultures believe snakes appear in your life if you are entering a highly creative phase and need to make improvements.

Good news for a scribbler such as myself, you say?

Sure, a personal creative renaissance sounds appealing. Some of you might think it’s long overdue.

But that sort of reboot would require me to get off my asp and put in a lot of time. Time I’d rather spend in my hiking boots.

So hiss off, snake.