In the spring months, the mornings start off cool and windy, and the rocky grey landscape is lonely and silent with the exception of windblown vegetation rustling. Some mornings are even still cool enough that spirals of steam can be seen pouring from the mouth and nose as one exhales, especially during a labored climb to a mountain top study site. The dullness of the winter landscape is slowly transitioning into the vibrant verder glow that is the beauty of an Appalachian forest in full leaf. This is my favorite time of year.
While all the serpents are laying in sluggish rest beneath stones, I make my way on site under the still visible moon and set up my camera to capture their awakening with the morning sun. After setting up my camera, I take a seat many yards away – but close enough so I can manipulate the camera with a remote, and I wait. The climb caused blood to rush and warm my body; however, my metabolic warmth escapes into the ground bellow me and into the air around me, so I shrug on a long sleeve. This is always a good time for writing, it is in these moments when I am alone at some of the loftiest altitudes Georgia has to offer that I find the peace and quite to put a creative pen to paper.
Before I know it, the sun peeks high enough over the mountainous horizon that its photons wash across the landscape like an electromagnetic rain, much to the delight of my ectothermic friends. Once I see their scaly bodies ooze from beneath the stones, I click on the camera and run it until the batteries are dead. Here is a glimpse into a few of those moments. This video is sped up 400% in I-Movie; there are spaces of tens of minutes where the snakes simply do not move at all. The volume is down, and in some cases off because of the wind.