How far would you go to get to your favorite place?

This week’s photo challenge is to show a favorite place … a happy place, a secret spot. In the first half of my life, I had many favorite hideaways, almost all of them outdoors.  As I begin the second half of my life in a new part of the country, though, I have to find my new happy places.

This is a shot of my local park, taken back in October, 2017. The foliage has already started to die down for the autumn, but the grass you see here would have been up to my knees. In the foreground of the photograph, you can see a bit of railing. When I took the picture, I was standing on a bridge-like path that runs through the park. The walkway is designed this way to keep folks safe from the wildlife, not to protect the habitat from traffic. This is a common arrangement, here in North Carolina, and it’s a wise precaution. One that I’ve taken seriously because I know just enough to know that there are some dangerous critters hiding in all that grass and in the underbrush.

As a native of Minnesota, I was comfortable with my biome. I knew which plants to avoid. I knew how to stay clear of the icky but harmless creepy-crawlies that inhabited the areas I prowled. I knew where the dangerous critters might be, and what to do in the (unlikely) event that I encountered one. In most cases, I had a good chance of seeing the trouble coming. (‘Pretty hard to miss a bear or a temperamental deer, if you’re paying attention.)

In Minnesota, there were two (rare) species of venomous snakes, and both were polite enough to stay within a confined, easily identifiable, ecosystem and come equipped with a rattle, in order to warn an unwary trespasser.

One other significant, hard to detect, threat came in the form of the Northern black widow spider (L. variolus) — the least aggressive of all the widows.

As a transplant to North Carolina, I’m less confident. Here, instead of staying alert for big stuff, I have to watch for sneaky dangers. Here, the Northern widow is joined by both Southern (L. mactans) and brown (L. geometricus)  widows. Here there is also the brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa) which creeps me out more than the widow sisters. Probably because the bite of a recluse causes something called “external tissue necrosis.”

On the non-venomous front, we have a whole host of spiders that I’d rather not surprise, including the Carolina wolf spider, the largest wolf spider in the US. (It can be as big as the palm of your hand.) And let’s not forget the possibility of running into the uncommon but not-unheard of fire ants that are trying to expand their territory up from the deeper south.

The biggest difference between my old stomping grounds and my new home, though, lies in its venomous snakes. Here, they are not exactly rare. And there are SIX of them — three rattlesnakes, and three silent snakes: the copperhead, the cottonmouth, and the coral snake. (Which is both the rarest and the deadliest of the bunch.)

Being the cautious sort, I’ve pretty much stayed on the paths and boardwalks as I’ve been exploring my new state.

Today, though, I realized that the season has opened up more options for a just a little while. Right now, the undergrowth is mostly still dormant, so I can see what is underfoot much better than I will be able to once the verdant growth begins. The bugs aren’t yet active. The snakes will most likely be slow and dimwitted from the cold, if they are out at all.

Today, I stepped off the path. I followed the little stream that runs through the park instead. It was a joy to be able to get close to some of the details that have been hard to see from the approved walkways.

(Can you tell I was closely watching the ground?)

Then I came to this, one of Mother Nature’s little personality tests.

Which led me to a question — a kind of poll, if you like — that I want to ask you:

If a new favorite place might be on the other side, would you cross by walking over the fallen tree (spiders) or or by wading through the water (snakes)?


Here are some of my favorite ‘FAVORITE PLACE‘ responses from others:

(I’ll add more as I have time to browse, so feel free to check back.)

amongst the elephantsunchangeddownfalllook for the “bathing hut”the spider web video at the bottom seems aptrugged beachlost in the pines

click her for more on the Weekly Photo Challenge

Find all my photographic projects at Haunting Photos (there’s also a link in the blog header.)

Fair warning: I’m returning to regular blogging after a long hiatus. I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet. My posting schedule is off, and things might be a little messy if you wander around long enough.