Trails, like rules, are there for a reason

“Trails are there for a reason,” my husband always told me when we went hiking.  The high grass and wooded areas can be dangerous. His warnings were usually confirmed by the posted signs that instructed people to stay on the trails. The problem was that I had a hard time staying on the trail.  My curiosity of what I couldn't see compelled me to follow sounds that I couldn't identify.  Often I went off the trails to get photos of birds, such as, the Painted Bunting and the Scarlet Tanager soaring out of my camera's view into the thickets of trees and bushes.

"Trails are there for a reason," my husband always told me when we went hiking.  The high grass and wooded areas can be dangerous. His warnings were usually confirmed by the posted signs that instructed people to stay on the trails. The problem was that I had a hard time staying on the trail.  My curiosity of what I couldn’t see...In South Texas where we lived, the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge was home to hundreds of bird species plus ocelots, deer, javelina, squirrels, long-tail weasels, alligators and mountain lions.  We spent a lot of time driving or walking the trails surrounded by thick brush and cactus with Mesquite trees serving as umbrellas against the hot sun.  Sometimes I didn't always look where I was going when aiming my camera.  Once when I started down a hill toward a muddy puddle to get a shot of a Black-Bellied Whistling duck, my husband stopped me and pointed to an Alligator lying in the thick wet sludge watching my every step.

My careless days of going off designated trails changed the day I saw something very big and dangerous that normally lived off the trails.  It was lying about 100 yards ahead of our car.  We were on our way to one of our favorite trails when from the distance I saw what looked like a dip in the road that had been made a little deeper because of the recent heavy rain.  It seemed to reach from one side of the road to the other so I warned my husband to be careful. However, as we got closer we realized that the dark line was not a dip in the road, at all.  In fact, it seemed to be moving. A few moments after we saw it moved we recognized what it was.  It was a seven-foot rattlesnake with a large bulge in its stomach. The sun was warm and bright. The snake had obviously just had a big lunch and seemed to have stretched out across the cool wet road for a siesta. I was so excited.  I grabbed my digital camera from the seat and started to open the door.  Thankfully, my husband grabbed the handle and stopped me from stepping out into danger. He did, however, turn the car sideways so we were parallel with the huge creature and let me roll the window down and take photos.  The big snake laid there while I filled my disc with its image. After awhile he lifted his head and his tail, gave me a look; shook his rattlers and slithered off into the brush?the brush where my husband was always telling me that I should be careful not to wander into.

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When we reported the huge reptile to the park service, the ranger patiently explained to me the reason signs were posted to stay on the trail.  “It isn't just the fact that there are wild animals and poisonous snakes out there, but when people veer off the trails they also trample wildflowers and cause erosion problems.” I got the message loud and clear.  Of course, when I tell this story to my grandchildren, I point out the fact that rules are there for a reason.

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Deana Landers
Author for Morningcoffeebeans.com

Deana Landers has had many roles in life — Pastor’s Wife , Nurse/Health Educator, Writer and Motivational Speaker ... more