Explored: May 5, 2007 by Shawn Dunnaway
Our day began with a drive down Silver Trail toward the Nature Station and Hematite Lake in the Land Between the Lakes. It was a beautiful spring day and the first ideal weekend to get out and experience the new season.
We spotted the gravel road to Honker Lake near the Nature Station. It had been awhile since we ventured down this road, so we decided to check it out. Suddenly, a groundhog came running toward us and then dashed underground into an old culvert. I think he was not happy we were there. Continuing down the lane, we saw the end as it gracefully spilled into the large embayment of Honker Lake. We saw a family of mallards, with ducklings in tow, and watched as they scurried along.
After turning around, we drove back toward the main Silver Trail road. On the way, a gigantic Sycamore tree caught our eye. It was the largest Sycamore I had ever seen. My wife, Jennifer, saw something that was even more unique. A nice-sized snake was resting in the fork of the tree. He was dark in nature but had some type of pattern that was hard to distinguish, due to him being up so high. After looking at his head and tail, we concluded he was harmless and watched for a while.
After a few minutes, we trucked about 200 feet down the road, occasionally looking for the groundhog, until we reached the trailhead of Long Creek National Recreation Trail. We wanted a quick walk, and this was the perfect solution.
The Long Creek National Recreation Trail, located very near and in between Honker and Hematite Lakes, is paved and handicapped-accessible. This trail is ideal for individuals who use wheelchairs or have a tough time getting around.
The trail is very scenic. It has a printed guide at the trailhead so users can spot and distinguish different types of habitat along the way. At only two-tenths of a mile and completely flat, anyone can enjoy a taste of this environment.
The back of the trail is a loop that parallels Long Creek, the stream that empties Hematite Lake. The "right-of-way" along the trail is mowed and maintained, so users have an opportunity to explore some of the area around the creek. As we were walking toward the creek, we spotted a gorgeous Green Snake Rough. These insect-eaters are completely harmless and can be handled, but we didn't bother and let him on his way.
Walking further around the loop we saw movement in the grass and heard a "plop" in the water nearby - another snake, but we didn't see what kind it was. At this point, we had seen three snakes in the last 15 minutes, so we decided to be on the lookout. We aren't herpers and have no experience with snakes.
Not 25 feet further, I spotted a five-foot long Black Racer. This one startled me because of his size. He didn't move or seem bothered by us as we walked on with a careful eye on the critter.
After the loop, we headed back down the trail to the car. Sipping on some water while backing out of the parking area, I swear I saw that groundhog waving at me for a split second, and then ducking back underground.
It was a great little hike that netted us some awesome wildlife viewing. However, if you don't like snakes, you probably don't want to take this trail. Chances are you'll spot one or two, or even four!