Hiker-dog and I scouted a route into the Marinoni Scenic Area on Monday evening. Hiking late in the day offered views in a new light, but my concern was how long that light would last in this deep Ozark hollow. The woods were alive with the sounds of flowing water. Briar Branch and the inlets on each side were flowing nicely. I recorded a few seconds of the waterfall as seen from the trail above.
I caught Hiker-dog in a rare pause at the base of one of my favorite bluffs. She was excited to see this area again and explore the ridges above and creek below the trail.A copperhead was enjoying the warmth next to a tall bluff. I wondered if this snake was alright at first because it was in an awkward pose, almost as if smelling the surroundings. It remained in this position while I took photos and then moved on. I enjoy seeing snakes in their natural environment, but I will admit that I watched my step a little more carefully after meeting my copperhead friend. Hiker-dog never came close to the snake. I’m sure they smelled each other’s presence. I’ve read that snakes will sometimes “dry bite” to defend themselves against mammals that aren’t a food source. Snakes prefer to save their venom for killing things that are good to eat, not dogs or people.I set the camera on a rock in the middle of Briar Branch to record this view upstream as the sun drifted lower in the sky. We then explored the little cave next to the Paul Marinoni sign placed here many years ago by the Ozark Highlands Trail Association. We scrambled uphill to have a close look at the Natural Bridge. During leaf-off, I’ve viewed this rock formation from the trail below, but it wasn’t visible with all of the spring growth. One of my favorite photos from an earlier hike caught the morning sun underneath the bridge. Today I realized the “bridge” was smaller than I thought. A unique little formation at the top of the bluff.
Today’s hike was special because of the cool temperatures, flowing water, evening light, and good company provided by Hiker-dog and my calm copperhead. I didn’t need my headlamp but was glad to have it in my pack. Darkness came as we drove back toward home, thinking about all the beauty we’d seen on this trail.