The Spring Birthday 2021 Trip, Part 1 of 8: The Animal Refugees

Turtle in a pond.

It’s TGIF every day when you’re a turtle.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

For the past several years my wife Anne and I have made a tradition of going somewhere — anywhere but home — for each of our birthdays. Last year my birthday trip was among the billions of traditions ruined by the pandemic, all of which paled in significance to the millions of lives lost (and still counting). This year is a different story. Anne and I have each received our pairs of Pfizer shots and reached full efficacy as of April 24th. This past Friday and Saturday the two of us drove out of Indianapolis and found a few places to visit in our eminently imitable road-trip fashion…

…beginning Friday the 14th, when we headed southeast of Indianapolis for some sun, nature, fresh air, nature, and walking space. Over the past year all our favorite physical activities were shut down one by one, from the miles-long marches through and around convention centers to my brisk lunchtime strolls around our once-bustling, once-safe downtown. We have out-of-state vacation plans coming up soon and we really need the walking practice. We figured, why not do it somewhere pretty.

Near the city of Seymour lies Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, the oldest of Indiana’s three federal wildlife refuges. 7800 acres were set aside for the honor in 1966 and given a name that means “land of winding waters” — am accurate label given the number of ponds and streams we walked next to and around. The visitor center remains shut down during pandemic season, and it offers none of the amenities we’re accustomed to in state and national parks. It’s not a setting that invites family reunions or corporate picnics, but visitors are welcome anyway. We nearly had the grounds to ourselves and came within twenty feet of five other humans at most — a family of four birdwatchers and a guy ready for some fishing.

We assumed it would be like most of our other nature experiences, by which I mean we thought all the animals would run and hide, probably sleep the day away rather than share moments with us. As it happens, several modestly sized critters paused near us and gave us fleeting seconds of their time. We wish we could say we spotted any of the bald eagles that live in the area, but we were happy to greet any signs of life that didn’t threaten us.

zebra swallowtail butterfly!

Zebra swallowtail butterfly!

red-winged blackbird.

The red-winged blackbird is known to attack interlopers during mating season. We were a little early.

Turtle on a pond.

The front of that same turtle from our lead photo, in the middle of a pond with no easy access to it. It slid into the water to evade us paparazzi.

Indiana snake.

As we passed one pond, Anne stopped at the sounds of slithering and rattling. She checked the nearby brush and sure enough, three feet away, a snake definitely not asleep.

Muscatatuck northern copperbelly water snake.

Our best guess is it’s a northern copperbelly water snake, one of many nonvenomous rattling snakes in the area. Lucky us.

Canadian Geese.

Our old nemeses the Canadian geese, stopping at a sign to read what everyone’s saying about them since they don’t have internet access.

Canadian geese and goslings.

We live by a retention pond. We have geese back home. They’re not special except in their own minds and maybe in God’s eyes or whatever.

Canadian goslings.

Goslings are cuter when they’re not befouling our sidewalks or walking in the middle of rush-hour traffic.

My wife at the lake.

Also very much alive in the area: Anne, enjoying the sights and soaking in Vitamin D in old-fashioned non-pill form.

portait of the author as a napper.

The birthday guy, getting away from it all and greying more by the minute.

To be continued! Other chapters in this very special MCC miniseries:

Part 2: Muscatatuck Everlasting
Part 3: Had Myself a Ball in a Small Town
Part 4: Donut Turn Your Back on Family
Part 5: Maximum Bob Ross
Part 6: Tangents from the Joy of Painting
Part 7: Nature and Other Valuables
Part 8: Mondo Muncie Miscellany

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