At the moment my days have all run together, but it was sometime last week that I asked the boys if they were interested in a hike and they all said yes. We packed up a picnic together and Rollin and Tucker each made his own sandwich. The hour that it would take us to get to our destination seemed to be the perfect opportunity to polish off the Halloween candy, and they did. We had Koda and Piper with us and it was a beautiful fall day! When we finally got out of the van there were two options for our course. We could head down the big hill towards the lake or down the trail toward the Dismal swamp. We chose the latter. Which I strongly encouraged, due to the fact that when three little boys play near water, someone will surely get wet. So, we headed down the trail and within the first 30 seconds I realized that the peaceful, dreamy, mind clearing hike I had been so longing for was not going to happen on that particular day! The boys were like pups that had been released from a kennel after days of confinement. They ran and jumped and climbed and squealed! They raced and chased and tackled one another. Koda was like a grey Hound running with long strides in giant circles around us. They found a rock and insisted I take their photo. They found a larger rock and climbed it and slid down it and climbed again. Koda and Piper joined in the rock climbing. Then up a hill they spotted a rock that with a little imagination could be a cave and a wonderful place to explore. So we did. Tucker must have been feeling photogenic and kept asking for me take capture his pose. When they tired of that spot we followed the trail around a bend and by the time I completed the turn, Rollin had scaled the tallest steepest hill we had seen. Tucker quickly joined him and Fynn also began to make his way to the top. As Koda continued to run laps around us she slid down a portion of the hill and uncovered a spotted salamander. I quickly scooped him up and called to the boys to come and see. Rollin and Tucker both slid down the hill quickly and eagerly held and inspected the slimy creature. Fynn did not come. I heard him call to me but I just called back "come down Fynn". Then his voice began to sound more and more distressed. I could not see him because of a huge fallen tree. So I began to climb the hill and squeeze under the tree, that was to big to climb over. There was Fynn, laying near some large rocks and for some reason not sliding down this very steep hill. I thought maybe his arm was stuck in the rock. It wasn't, but as I gently pulled him he would not budge! After closer inspection I realized that a very thin root was run under both of his arms and he was sort of hanging there, stuck on the hill. It only took a second to release him but as we walked on from that spot I thought How lucky we were that it hooked under his arms and not his neck. We walked on and the boys found many bugs and plants to discover along the way. Then we stopped for a moment so that I could remind them that how far we hike in to the woods is how far we have to hike back out. An energy check point if you will. As we discussed our options we realized there was a bridge not far from us. It was a boardwalk that wnet out into the swamp. We all really wanted to walk on the bridge so we went on. The puppy was getting tired by now and I carried her some and then put her down on the bridge, Koda however was not tired yet and ran straight toward her and knocked her off the bridge, Probably a 5 ft fall. I quickly handed Tucker the camera and jumped down to save her. Luckily she was okay. I carried her the rest of the time we were on the bridge. The boys loved the bridge and each took a turn with the camera. We had not finished the bridge and the end was not in sight but I had a feeling hunger would be grabbing hold of my little explorers soon and I wanted to beat it to the food. We had just gotten back onto the trail when Rollin, who had run up ahead, found a hole in the ground. I'm not sure why I said it, I suppose because it had been said to me so many times before. Or maybe because the hole did look fresh and probably "in use" or maybe it was just my natural intuition, what ever the reason I said to him "Rollin we shouldn't stick our fingers in holes, something could be living in there". "Like what" He asked "well a snake" I replied. Then I went on to explain that "there are some snakes in Tennessee that are very dangerous. The cotton mouth or water moccasin and the Rattle snake. The cotton mouth is black or very very dark and when it opens it's mouth it is white inside like cotton. And Rattlesnakes are......." and I am here to tell you that as the words rolled or slithered rather off my toungue, I looked down to see the biggest rattle snake I have ever seen! My eyes must have been as big as apples. I instructed the boys to freeze, and I looked closer to be sure it was a rattle snake. It's back seemed to be covered in dirt or dried mud that camouflaged his diamonds but the sound of his rattle was unmistakable. I stood about three feet at most from it and Tucker and Fynn were to my right. Rollin had already past by it as he ran ahead, but he heard the word snake from me and Tucker and was making his way straight toward it on my left. I told him to stop. He did not. I shouted at him to stop. He did not. He continued to come toward the huge snake and as soon as he was an arms length from me I reached over and swatted his bottom! I'm sure it stung a bit but mostly his feelings were hurt and he turned and began to cry and walk away. I had a sleeping puppy in my arms so I could not lift the boys and as I contemplated my next move, which could not include just backing up because of the steep drop off behind us, the next thing happened. Koda who was still not tired, noticed that we had stopped and came running toward us from the other side of the snake. It was down hill toward us and she came closer she stepped, not directly on, but right next to the snake. Causing it to slide toward us! It then became more agitated and it's rattle was shaking loudly and it began to slither away from us. We slowly and respectfully went on our way and caught up to Rollin. I apologized and explained the seriousness of the event. We continued and made it back to our starting point. We ate and drank and then headed for the lake, where we spent about fifteen minutes before all three of the boys had gotten cold and wet. They stripped down and loaded into the van. The hike had not been the lazy, dreamy, mind clearing walk through the woods that I had been longing for but it was an exciting, thought provoking, bonding experience that I couldn't have planned any better than mother nature did for us.