The Three Amigos

As seen during our walk on the C&O canal towpath this morning.  They were paying particular attention to me, the photographer.  They sometimes plunge into the canal when they see me pull out my camera, but they did cooperate this time!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were plenty of turtles in the waters of the canal today.  The water level was also quite high, probably because of the recent rains.

The Alligator And The Turtle

It was a very curious scene indeed!  We came upon it during our vacation down south in  the South Carolina Lowcountry, on Hilton Head Island, along the eastern shore of the US.  It is an area of great natural beauty, of woods and waterways, and of human habitation that tends to blend in with the surroundings.  The thick vegetation, and especially the old oak trees with the Spanish moss hanging off the branches, gives the place a unique look and atmosphere (especially in the fog).  Birds of different kinds, including egrets, herons and cormorants, abound. The squirrels are constantly creating a racket and startle you as you walk through the neighborhood.  It is a good place for a vacation.

Soon after our arrival we learned that alligators were quite common in this area.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving come from parts of the country where alligators are not a common sight, the opportunity to see a real live gator in its natural surroundings was something special to be hoped for and anticipated.  During the early days of our stay we did see a few of them with their heads and noses sticking out the water, but it was only towards the end of the trip that we got a good view of them out of the water.  (There are a couple of related pictures in my earlier blog about our vacation.)    But the big surprise was on the day before we departed the island, when we came upon this large alligator sunning itself on the shore on the other side of a canal.  Perhaps you did not notice it or pay attention to it when you chanced upon the relevant picture in my blog about our vacation, but there was a big turtle sitting next to the head of the alligator.

You have to picture the scene, where these two very dissimilar creatures are next to each other, and nothing is moving except for perhaps the head of the turtle that is turned to look at the disturbance that we are causing from the far shoreline.  The gator can perhaps see what is going on without moving its head.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is this huge gator that in my imagination (and to my limited knowledge) looks like an old male.  Here is this big turtle (which may be a yellow bellied slider) sitting next to it. Nobody is moving.  It is quiet. It is a very peaceful scene.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe human imagination wants to believe that these two creatures are two old and wise friends who are simply hanging out with each other.  But alligators can also eat turtles.  They are capable of cracking the turtle shells.

The experts tell us that these creatures are not capable of thinking the way human beings do.  I am sure people who study these particular creatures more closely have a logical explanation for the scene that was playing out before our eyes.  Indeed, for all we know, such a scene may not be uncommon to the locals. But for those of us who are less informed, we will have to use our imagination. The turtle and the gator must simply be good old friends. It is really a moment of magic that defies our natural instinct based on what we have been taught all our lives. Indeed, for some us, the opportunity to simply see an alligator in its natural surroundings is in itself a magical moment!

In The Still of The Day

I was driving on the road from the parking lot at Pennyfield Lock.  I was driving quite slowly.  It was not just the numerous potholes in the road that were slowing me down.  It was very quiet and relaxing out there and I was in no hurry.  Besides, there was an older gentleman walking briskly in the middle of the road in front of me with headphones covering his ears.

I had observed this older gentleman on the trail at Pennyfield lock a few minutes earlier where I had stopped to check out the fall colors.  The colors in our neighborhoods (except for that red maple that we planted behind our house) seemed to be somewhat muted this year relative to other years, but things seemed to be getting better a the tail end of the falling of the leaves.  I drove to the parks in spite of a weather prediction (that turned out to be accurate) that the sky would become cloudier as the morning passed by and that there was a chance of some rain.

In any case, the gentleman was walking with a purpose.  He looked like he did this kind of stuff regularly.  He was proceeding quite briskly in his yellow coveralls.  He had a backpack and I saw a camera hanging from a strap attached to it.  I did not see his water supply, but I am sure he was carrying some.  He had his music.

As the car got closer to this gentleman, I began to wonder if he realized that I was there.  The combination of the headphones he was wearing and fact that I was driving  a Prius that was in its quiet super-efficient mode because of my speed, could have made me difficult to notice. Since he was in the middle of the road,  I decided to drift off to the side of the road and get closer to him at a slower pace.  I was not about to honk the horn.

I got a response from him.  He shifted the position of his head as if to acknowledge me, and I was not sure if he was irritated by my approach.  All of a sudden he started crossing the road in front of me, to the side I was trying to pass him on.  I had not wanted him to change his position on the road just for me, but I figured out that this was what he was doing.  I reacted by turning the wheel so that the car moved back towards the middle of the road.

The guys raised his hands and signaled, it seemed somewhat aggressively, for me to stop.  As I halted the car, he broke off a stick from a fallen branch beside the road and walked with it across the road right in front of me. Soon he was pushing something that was on the road off of it.  I then saw it.  It was a small turtle and it looked very familiar!  After he had moved the turtle, he signaled for me to proceed. My mind quickly rewound to the incident many years ago when I had also moved a turtle off  a road. That incident had  motivated me to start writing about random stuff, and in some way led to the existence of this blog!  It felt, in a very irrational way, that there was some kind of connection being made across the different times of my life.  Weird!

As I eventually passed the gentleman in my car, I told him that he had done a very nice thing.  He was wearing his headphones, but he nodded to acknowledge me, and continued with his brisk walk.

Here are some pictures from yesterday.  I need to get out today to find out if I will find better conditions for fall photography.  It actually looks much nicer in some spots than I expected, but I also need better lighting to try to bring it all out.

 

Caught my Attention

Was it…

The spring flowers that lined the trail with different colors in different in sections,
Or the light tinge of green beginning to appear among the branches of the trees;

The big fat bird that I sighted in the distance,
That kept running away from me along the trail as I slowly caught up with it,
That eventually managed to lift its huge and somewhat ungainly body off the ground
and disappear into the woods around a corner;

The small turtle crossing the trail oblivious to the dangers posed by folks like me;

The big turtles perched on the logs in the waters of the canal warming themselves,
Or swimming in the clear waters with their backs sticking out above water level;

The incredibly bright red cardinals zipping across the trail in front of me;

The extremely loud pecking of the woodpecker ringing through the woods;

The fox crossing the trail and the canal as I approached;

The barred owl that rose from a tree just beside the trail as I went by,
Flying off to settle on a tree further away from the trail to stare at me;

The vultures that reluctantly rose from the trail as I approached,
Only to land on the trees above the trail to watch me go by;

The appearance of the two dogs that seemed to have no master,
One approaching me with an awkward and sideways gait,
Seemingly looking at me warily out of the corner of one eye,
And the other running away to the berm side of the canal to stare at me from the distance?

But the overall result was a great time riding my bike even though I did not stop to smell the roses, and even as I covered 20 miles in each direction along the towpath in  preparation for the ride from Pittsburgh to the DC area happening later in the year.