Skeeters, Rain, and Closed Bathrooms

GTM Reserve officially re-opens tomorrow (June 6, 2020), and visitors will once again pay a small fee to access the park. The web site says that the bathrooms at the park’s entrance will remain closed for renovations, but visitors can use the Port-o-let in the interim. Maybe. Last week it was gross. This week, I stepped inside and quickly retreated. You get the idea. There are additional restrooms at the trailhead, but today these were locked as well.

This morning was cool and overcast, with a gentle breeze. Perfect weather for birding. After walking the perimeter of the paved parking lot and spotting two new-to-me birds, I trekked the dirt road leading to the trailheads.

Halfway there, sprinkles of rain moistened my skin. Ahead, a black cloud trailed columns of rain. I stopped and debated. Turn back? Keep going? But the cool air was too inviting; the rain refreshing. Instead, I pulled a disposable raincoat from my backpack. I pulled it over my head and probed for the arm holes, and then rolled the edges over belly and backpack.

Fresh hoofprints snaked through the mud. The young boar I saw last week? It foraged among the grasses as I parked my car. We exchanged furtive glances as I donned backpack and belly bag.

I slipped my camera from its case.

The pig stopped abruptly. Twitched an ear. Took a step toward the brush and gave a stand-in-place hop.

Standing near the car door, I snapped a few pictures.

Seeing I meant no harm, the boar swished its tail and resumed its search for breakfast.

As I started down the trail, the trees formed towering silhouettes. It was impossible to spot birds in the darkness; and my binoculars were beneath my plastic sheeting. Frogs serenaded me as I watched for snakes. Last week I nearly tromped a beautiful Bluestripe Garter.

Gradually, the rain dissipated and my plastic wrapper grew warm and sticky. But now it protected me from a different hazard – relentless flies and mosquitos.

I spotted a mosquito on my wrist. I slapped and it smeared red.

I sprayed myself with citronella, then removed the plastic and donned a baseball cap, which I draped with netting. I could see the mosquitos testing the barrier and something gold landed just beneath the hat brim. A fly or a yellow-jacket? I flicked the mesh with my fingers and it disappeared.

Slowly the clouds passed and the world brightened. Birds chirped and flitted. I could press the binoculars to my eyes and see through the netting, but the moment I loitered the insects swarmed.

Instead, I walked at a steady pace and birded by ear. There were Northern Parulas, Pileated Woodpeckers, Carolina Chickadees, and White-eyed Vireos. Previously, I had spotted a Yellow-throated Warbler singing. I now identified those as well.  

Walking without pause, the trail seemed shorter than usual. Before I knew it, I was back at my car.

As I returned my backpack to the trunk, a fisherman suited-up in waders. “Get rained on?” He asked.

“Yeah,” I smiled. “It was wet. And buggy. Citronella worked last year, but this year it doesn’t phase ‘em.”

He suggested using Cutter brand repellent or Bounty dryer sheets. Next time I’ll try those.

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Published by cafsamsel

Carol Fullerton-Samsel is a nearly-native Floridian who lives with her husband of 25 years and three rescue animals. She has a passion for day-hiking and nature, and also enjoys writing. Be sure to visit the TenPaths YouTube channel, which is still in its infancy.

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