Unlike the Wicked Witch of the West, I won’t melt in the rain. I do draw the line at dodging lightning strikes, and the ones we get around here are killer. I never thought much about them, until seeing the horrified looks on visiting Californian’s faces, once, as lightning struck a highway light pole across the street from where we were having lunch outdoors. Apparently, even that was too close for comfort. I figure if it doesn’t raise the hackles on my neck or set my house on fire, it’s fine. So, I was looking forward to walking the Kickerillo-Misher Preserve in the rain. It’s been hot; even 84 degrees felt like 172–surface of the sun, if the sun were drowning in sweat and salty tears. A cool rain would be a welcome relief. Refreshing! Thunderstorms, though, not so much. When we get lightning, we get all the lightning. It loves our seven-story-tall pine trees. I drove into the park, full of hope–after all, the Weather Channel told me I had almost an hour till the thunderstorms were certain to hit– got out of my car, and nearly jumped out of my skin as lightning struck just on the other side of the trees while I was chatting with the park ranger. Sanity prevailed; I decided the gym was a better idea. Boring, but safe. It was – I walked three miles on the treadmill and lifted weights to tone my arms and upper body. While I did that, the storm raged outside – thunder shook the windows. It suddenly felt “daring” just to be walking a treadmill so close to the glass.
The rain stopped. I drank water from the fountain and splashed some on my face. I decided to reward myself by finishing up my 10K step goal outside, and drove back to Kickerillo-Misher. I asked the ranger what odds he’d give me on making a full 1.7 mile loop before the next squall hit. That got a chuckle and a raised eyebrow that suggested maybe 50:50. Good enough! “I’m okay if it rains, but if the lightning picks up, come rescue me?” He nodded agreement, and off I went, realizing I hadn’t really had a good long walk in the rain since I was a little kid. Not on purpose, anyway. Not the kind where you turn your face up, open your mouth, and catch raindrops on your tongue. Not the kind where you don’t have to worry about showing up wet and bedraggled for something where “wet and bedraggled” is not the fashion, like a fancy dinner or a business meeting. I breathed in scents that hadn’t been there, the day before, and wondered what fragrant blossoms opened up and exhaled as it rained. The blacktop was steamy and wet.
I kicked a little puddle,
In a steamy summer rain
that whispered poetry.
My only excuse for that is that it seemed pretty freaking brilliant after the fourth mile, while my heart rate was still up around 120. Forget the “talk test.” I could still talk and even sing (though at that point, I start making up all the lyrics). Trainers take note: The Vogon Poetry test may be the most accurate indicator of the need for hydration and a cool-down.
But I did kick the puddles. I even jumped from one to another. And then I saw the park ranger rounding the next curve in his golf cart, and waved. He asked if I needed a ride back to the far side of the lake, where my car was. “I’m fine! As long as there’s no lightning, the rain is glorious! Thanks, anyway!” and off we went in opposite directions. Remember my sunflower landmarks?
J.J. asked me, later, if I ran into any mosquitoes. I never even thought about mosquitoes. I wonder why they’re not there? Do gators eat mosquitoes?
Oh, yes, that question was answered, once and for all. When I got back to the parking lot, D (the park ranger) was there, looking down the path where the boats are launched. “Okay, tell me the truth – I’ve been coming out here for twenty years, since back when all this was owned by Compaq. I remember getting pamphlets about the gators,to hiding them from my daughter when we went out in the paddle boats. But I’ve never seen a gator in Cypress Creek. Are there any, really? Or is that just a…suburban legend?”
“Ohhh, yeah, there are lots of gators.” He whipped out his phone and showed me a grainy pick of an eleven-foot, prehistoric monster. It looked like a malevolent version of the Loch Ness Monster. “Took that one down there by the old Compaq dock.”
“I guess there really are gators.” Holy crap. Big ones.
“There’s a five foot one, and a little three foot one that hang out around there. And if you go over to the creek, there are a few more you can usually spot from the bridge. If you see a whole lot of people stopped in the middle of the bridge, looking down into the water, they’re probably watching the gators.” Huh. Who knew? He said he doesn’t like to point them out and scare off the visitors to the park. I asked him to quietly draw my attention to them if I’m around and he spots one while I’m there, promising not to scream like a sissy and make a fuss. The last thing some poor alligator needs is tourists lobbing trash at his nose. I decide I’m never going canoeing or kayaking in the lake, though.
It pays to remember that gators aren’t the scariest creatures in the park. They’re outnumbered by us. I frightened off this poor bird–twice–just by stopping to take a photo. I’ll confess: the second time was on purpose, so that I could capture it in flight:
I know how to take movies in landscape orientation, by the way; I was just too focused on not missing the flight. But for all the grief Mitch Mitchell has given me over it, I now know how those poor, landscape-challenged iPhone videographers must feel.
Oh – if you look real close in the featured image, you may spot the vulture. Supposedly, there’s a deer carcass back there somewhere. I just assumed he was watching for leftover hikers–gifts from the gators.