Hiking Nature

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Caught in Storm at Ellington Agricultural Center

April 28th, 2010 · 1 Comment · bird identification, ellington agricultural center, flowers, storm

The following occurred on Tuesday, April 27, 2010…

hiking during looming storm at Ellington Agricultural Center, Nashville, Tennessee

I checked the radar for the Ellington Agricultural Center area around 1pm and noticed a significant break in the clouds, so I decided to squeeze in a hike — despite noticing some possible storms on the back end of the rain-free zone. In planning my hikes, I’ve recently gotten into the habit of checking not only the standard radar (which highlights any ongoing precipitation), but also the cloud cover; the radar features at weather.com make this quick appraisal an easy task.

While it’s a given that hikers enjoy trekking in clear weather, I happen to be a quite the storm zealot — the more inclement and threatening the weather, the better! To me, the experience of lightning, thunder, darkening skies, and wind always creates a more exciting and memorable hike. Menacing weather seems to increase my energy level; it’s almost as if I were able to absorb power from a brewing storm. The effect this kind of weather has on my mood is simply electrifying. However, common sense and a healthy fear of frivolous lawsuits demand that I stop short of expressly recommending any purposeful storm hikes.

hiking during looming storm at Ellington Agricultural Center, Nashville, Tennessee

Just ahead (but unbeknownst to me), a brownish, banded water snake was warming itself by catching a few rays in a spot of sunlight; during the day, such cold-blooded reptiles continuously stake out the sun’s rays until they reach the desired body temperature, thereby achieving an energy level that allows them to move about and hunt much more effectively. Upon reaching the creek crossing, I only barely saw the medium-sized Northern Water Snake quietly slip into the water and disappear. Because I had never seen a snake lounging in this area before, I was unprepared and did not even think to give the area a quick visual scan as I approached; and because of that, I missed this snake photo op (only my second serpent sighting this year).

hiking during looming storm at Ellington Agricultural Center, Nashville, Tennessee

Thanks to the major storms that hit Middle Tennessee over the weekend, the creek was high and fast. I decided to traverse the creek anyway, ignoring the fact that my tattered hiking boots — barely recognizable as footwear — are long past the point of being waterproof.

As I hiked through one of the largest fields at Ellington, the clime remained quite pleasant and sunny; however, to the west, the development of tall, puffy, white thunderheads was increasingly apparent. As usual, when I reached the portion of the hiking trail (formally known as “Roger’s Walk”) that most closely follows Seven Mile Creek, I followed a short side trail right down to the water’s edge in my quest to photograph birds, reptiles, or any other water-loving creatures that happen to be lurking about at the time. Given the very existence of this barely-noticeable side trail, I’m apparently not the only hiker seeking a creek-side view on this section of the Ellington trails. On this day I saw no reptiles, but I observed and photographed a killdeer — a long-legged, brown and white bird often seen around water — catching and eating insects from Seven Mile Creek. (The photographs I took of the killdeer were not very clear, but I posted a couple of them anyway.)

bird in Seven Mile Creek at Ellington Agricultural Center, Nashville, Tennessee

At this point, I turned around with the intent of doubling back and hiking out the way I came in. Darker clouds rolled in. More than that, it appeared an organized storm was approaching. Although I did not really want to get wet, I welcomed the increasingly stormy weather. As I hiked back through the field, the sky grew much darker and the wind really picked up. (It was great!) Suddenly, I heard a loud crack followed by the sound of crashing limbs; a sizable portion of a large tree was ripped asunder and fell onto the precise spot I’d crossed only moments before.

By the time I’d returned to the creek crossing, large raindrops were falling and the wind was blowing in steadily increasing gusts. I started to get chilly from the wind-driven soaking. I made it back home a few minutes later, wet but exhilarated — another great hike at Ellington!

trumpet vine at Ellington Agricultural Center, Nashville, Tennessee

water bird at Ellington Agricultural Center, Nashville, Tennessee


One Comment so far ↓

  • Daniel

    Nice story. I attempted to do my first hike there this week but got lost on the campus and couldn’t find the beginning of the trail. I ended up heading to Radnor as my backup and ended up seeing my first woodpecker there and some very close encounters with 2 deer.

    I noticed at the Hogan Rd entrance to Ellington that there was a gate to get in with a lock on it. Do you know what time they shut they gate? I can’t hike due to work until around 6pm and certainly don’t want to get locked in. Keep up the blog posts. Always entertaining and they get me excited to hike.