Trip Details

Location: Jackson County, IA

Weather: Sunny with a high of 74 degrees.

Time: 1:30 p.m.

Herpers: Mike Pingleton, Jeff LeClere, Austin Scharosch, Jim Scharosch & Matt Ricklefs

Account by: Matt Ricklefs

Photos by: Austin Scharosch, Jim Scharosch & Matt Ricklefs

Thought of the Day: A long way to our usual spot…

After an excellent night of camping and a good nights rest from hiking we awoke to “full frying pan” Blueberry pancakes that Mike was preparing. They were delicious. We packed up and headed for our old Timber spots in Iowa. As we had changed gears to get to this point from our initial North Dakota trip I couldn’t help but think that we had driven a thousand miles over a few days to get to our “normal” spots. Funny…and a tad depressing. :) You do what you can do with what ya got.

At our first location Jim and I know the area well and noticed that we tend to focus on where we usually see the snakes. As we did that Jeff pointed out a 3 foot Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) on TOP of the rock outcrops we were looking around.

Photos by Austin Scharosch

Photos by Matt Rickelfs

D’OH! It was funny. We were glad to see this though. We took time to get a few shots but this one did not want to sit still any more than the ones in Minnesota did.

One thing about Iowa is we have had an extremely dry spring. It continues to be very dry. One interesting find I did make was a Cicada under a rock that had not yet emerged and shed its skin.

Photo by Matt Rickelfs

I think this is the first one I have not seen that had not metamorphosed into an adult flying Cicada.

We knew the dryness would not bode well for finding Milk Snakes even though they have a high concentration here. We did find one Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum) that was about 6 inches long and was blue eyed.

Photo by Austin Scharosch

Photo by Matt Rickelfs

Soon Austin found a small but very light colored Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi).

Photo by Austin Scharosch

We also turned up a Ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus)

Photos by Austin Scharosch

Soon we moved on, and move on we did as that was all we found at this location.

Our next stop was another spot Jim and I frequent and with the dryness, the early spring we had and the overgrowth we were skeptical at finding much here. Jeff did want to check out an area we have seen Black Rats over wintering so we wanted to go here for that as well as to see what we could find. We walked the whole area and did find another Milk Snake about 9 inches and also blue eyed before moving on.

Photo by Austin Scharosch

Jim and Austin had to retrace some steps to find a snake hook that was left where we found the Milk so Mike, Jeff and I waited where we were. Soon Jeff was like, “What the heck?!” Mike and I just looked at him and asked what the dealeo was. He paused grabbed at his lower leg and smiled and laughed a little, “I think I have a skink in my pants.” All puns aside that were thought of and some spoken, it was rather hilarious. Jeff had flipped a rock a little ways back and allowed the skink to scoot off before placing the rock back. He had seen the skink run off but did not see exactly where it went. Now we knew. He had his hiking pants on and they have a zipper to convert to shorts so we were able to unzip that and Jeff grabbed the juvenile Five-lined Skink (Eumeces fasciatus).

Photos by Matt Rickelfs

When we got back to the vehicle and Jim and Austin meet back up with us after successfully recovering the snake hook, they asked if we found anything and we all laughed and Jeff relayed his story. That’s another one for the books.

Near the car there was a butterfly and a dragonfly sitting on a fence post. It made for a nice photo op.

Photo by Jim Scharosch

Mike and Austin decided to stay at the vehicles as Jeff, Jim and I went to the Black Rat snake den as this was just a trip to show Jeff the location and allow him to see the habitat, emergence sites we have observed, etc. One thing we did not calculate was that with this much growth (this is an early to mid spring location that is fairly open then) is that it is harder to find with a complete canopy and vegetation all filled in. We went at it from the top (usually we go from the bottom up) as we were closer to the top at this point. We went down and over, and over and over… Finally Jim hiked all the way down and Jeff and I stuck where we were and Jim was able to find where we normally go up. Then we played Marco Polo until we had eyes on Jim and all arrived at the location. Wow. Another hike that was a good one…and somewhat unexpected. We found the site, Jeff gather his intel and we met back up with Mike and Austin. Both wondering what took so long and glad they stayed back.

So there you have it. The wandering, merry band of herpers that vowed never again to take a herp trip on Memorial weekend as it seems to curse us. We knew going in it might be dodgy, but it ended up worse than expected. Of course a week later it was nice. Go figure.

The main part of these trips is allowing us to all get together and hang out and that we did. The very close second is finding herps and we did, just not quite as planned. We saw a lot of cool scenery and non-herp things. We got to introduce Mike and Jeff to the wonders of Archer, one of the best shows on TV. We got to initiate Austin to the “crazy old herpers” club and that was fun. But most importantly is we got to add to our experiences and create memories that we will relive at countless campfires and gatherings both together and with others for the rest of our lives and that is a very cool thing.

Bob Dole says keep it real until next trip…Bob Doooole. Sorry folks, that’s an inside joke that only a few of us get to share. Perhaps, if you’re lucky enough to get out with us, you too may be Bob Dole’ed.

A very huge thanks for all the herping, fun, conversation, knowledge sharing, crazy hijinx and tomfoolery and camaraderie to:

Camp Master Mike who always kept the fires burning and the food more than just tasty (and for all the driving), Herp Master Jeff for getting us some herps in Minnesota and helping salvage the trip (and for hiking our butz off), Jam Master Austin who kept the music flowin’ and made the campfire extra glowin’ and to Web Master Jim who at the end of it all gets to spend ALL the time reviewing, editing, compiling, preparing, uploading and making all this possible to share. I can’t wait until we can all get together again.

As for me…well, I get to tell the story…I hope all you visitors had a good time spending some time in our world.

But seriously, hanging with us is like a rampage in the danger zone. Which is just…I had something for this…LOOSE CANNON!

And the other thing is –

Happy Herpin! BOOYAKASHA!

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