I've been working and traveling in beautiful Tennessee this week. I got to spend several days hopping on and off one of these small four-wheel drive ATV's that has the side by side seating. Normally, I prefer to walk during our field surveys, making sure not to miss anything and preserving the quiet of the forest and increasing my chances of seeing the wildlife and hearing the calls of frogs and birds, but when there are thousands of acres to cover in a matter of days, I'm thankful to be able to zip up and down the mountain trails risking my neck and frightening the forest residents with our dust churning wheels. We must of spooked the mamma deer, but I'm sure she didn't roam far from her new born fawn. The fawn was so still and quiet as it hid from us, that we had to reassure ourselves that it was still alive by watching for it's nostrils to move when it breathed.
We startled a tiny black rat snake baby too, and when it dove into the creek to hide from us, and I reached in to pull it out, the accomplished hunter and outdoorsman guy, touring me around the property, said "you're crazy!" and stepped far away from me. Ha! The snake was barely the size of pencil. I'm sure it's teeth were so small I wouldn't have felt it, even if it did try to bite me. For some reason, when manly-men types show their fear of teeny snakes, I have to suppress an urge to chase them while chanting "it's gonna get ya!"
Parts of the forest were sprinkled with pretty red and yellow flowers called Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica).
We even got to ride a ferry across the Cumberland River. For lunch, we stopped at a local gas station with a sandwich shop. A large grumpy lady was making sandwiches as fast as she could, and expressing how overwhelmed she was by having a line of at least five customers, who all wanted different kinds of sandwiches. Sheesh. When it was my turn to order, she slathered both pieces of my bread with mayo, set them on the counter in front of her, and then reached across the counter for some lettuce, which caused her giant bosoms to press into the mayo on my bread. When she stood up, some of the mayo was now on the front of her shirt, and my bread was slightly flattened. She decided not to notice, and I was to intimidated by her to say anything, so I ate a boob sandwich for lunch. It was a pretty good sandwich, really, but I giggled while I ate.