I'm always skeptical about those warning signs at nature reserves and the like about bears, mountain lions or escaped T Rexes. Do people ever see these bad creatures I wonder or do the men and women in funny hats just like to scare us?
I have become a bit less skeptical ,though. The first and only time I was in the Everglades at an infernally hot place called Shark something-or-other I asked the warden if we'd see alligators. She shot me one of those "dumb tourist" looks that Brits in London usually reserve for Americans (maybe she had been on the wrong end of this) and informed me it was (obviously) highly unlikely that I'd see one.
We stepped out of the visitor center and peered into a murky pond only to see four reptilian eyes staring at us. Yes there were two gators right there behind the visitor center.
Last week on the day Zara was off school we went to Back Bay in Virginia Beach. It was a gorgeous fall day and the water was glittering a deep azure. The only serpent in our paradise was - well literally that. A prominent sign warned of the presence of deadly cottonmouth snakes. There were also signs about poison ivy, although I was somewhat less concerned about the ivy than the snake and I made sure to watch the path ahead.
The trail led us to a small secluded beach and then back again to the asphalt path, which we set off along. Suddenly Zara drew my attention to something I was about to stand on. I did a double take and thought it was an old tire; then again I started to realise it was a dead snake. Then it moved.
Rather alarmingly the aforementioned deadly snake was right in front of me and it seemed none too happy, opening its white mouth in a menacing way. This was clearly not the time to do a Steve Irwin and wrap the old chap round my neck before heading merrily for the beach.
We beat a retreat but I returned to take a photo of the thing. As you can see I didn't get too close which is why the photo is rather uninspiring. But it was more than close enough for comfort.
We continued to the beach where, Zara did her best to destroy a sensitive coastal ecosystem. I could have yelled at her to get off the dunes but it was such a perfect afternoon I didn't have the heart too. If the truth be told it brought back memories of how much liked to jump around and slither on dunes when I was seven years old or thereabouts.