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Monday, August 27, 2012

Thunder and lightning and rain, oh my!

Tomorrow is my wife's birthday, and while it would be potentially fatal to reveal her age, let's just say she'll pass Jack Benny. As per her request, we had a low-key observance today, consisting of a couple of birthday cards, a gift card from Macy's and dinner this evening at a local Vietnamese restaurant (sorry, Aron, but I think the food at Viet Royale is better than that offered at Huong Viet). To my surprise this morning, Pamela agreed to join Amber and me on a hike (more like a walk, actually). And even though our outing was cut short due to inclement weather, she actually seemed to enjoy being outdoors. No doubt it was the very lack of sun, along with an absence of mosquitoes, that made the day such a pleasant one for her.

Our destination this morning was the Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, located in the scenic countryside of southern Maryland. Here, mother and daughter pose at the site's visitor center:

Setting out from the parking lot, the sky was overcast, but didn't appear very threatening as we passed by scenes of bucolic Americana:

There was even some sunlight as we started out on the Paw Paw Trail:

The woods were starting to get darker, however, as we approached Lookout Creek:

The rain started coming down, lightly at first, but soon in enough intensity to break out the umbrellas. Despite the change in atmospheric conditions, the atmosphere at ground level was pretty interesting. The Mounds Trail was named for...wait for it...mounds, which were created by soldiers as bulwarks during the War of 1812:

This garbage dump in the middle of an otherwise beautiful forest actually served as an important landmark on the trail. Yes, that is a car in the upper left corner:

The rain soon started coming down in torrents, with thunder rumbling above our heads. Still, we pressed on as the trail reached the point where the creek was flowing into the Patuxent River. It was here that we espied something that might've been a beaver swimming in the water, while a couple of ospreys were flying around:

By now the three of us were getting soaked, so we decided to cut short our walk and head back in the direction from whence we had come. At one point I saw two large shapes running through the woods, which I hoped were merely a couple of deer. All that water brought out the local frogs:

My daughter pauses at the remains of a tree that appeared to have been struck by lightning. So far the weather had only thrown rain and thunder at us, but that would soon change:

This turtle turned out to be surprisingly fast as it ran away from us. It paused long enough to snatch up an earthworm (which you can see in its mouth), before resuming its escape:

Ironically, by the time we emerged from the woods, the rain had stopped falling. Just when I was thinking we could go ahead and complete the walk as planned, and just before my wife snapped this photo of Amber and me, there was a flash of lightning:

Pamela looked at the sky and wondered about tornadoes. I told her the lightning was a more pressing concern. It turns out that there was at least one tornado or waterspout in the area this afternoon:

Stopping at a shelter near Stump Pond, there was another flash of lightning, followed almost immediately by a loud clap of thunder. I told Amber and Pamela to start heading toward the car as quickly as possible...

...though I still stopped long enough to take one more shot of the pond before the lightning flashed again:

The rain really began coming down at this point, while the wind starting picking up and lightning continued to flash. Nevertheless, we made it back to the sanctuary of our car safe and sound, and relatively dry, all things considered. It poured as we drove back, not letting up until we reached the outskirts of D.C., but spouse and offspring both pronounced themselves pleased with the day's outing, which made me feel all the better.

Truth be told, had I been out there by myself today, I probably would've donned my rain jacket and pants, and stubbornly pressed on with the hike, climate be damned. I'm stupid like that, having done just so on far too many occasions. Like the time in Yokkaichi 四日市 in Japan's Mie Prefecture 三重県, when I got caught up in a torrent of muddy water while descending Gozaisho 御在所 in a nasty thunderstorm (not to mention picking up a leech while fording a rapidly flowing creek). Or those times (note the plural) on the top of Dakeng  大坑 in Taichung 台中, Taiwan, when lightning bolts were striking uncomfortably close by. 

Some idiots never learn.

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