Midweek with uncle Avery, and while there were no more pony sightings, today brought quite a bit of fascinating fauna. The day was hot, somewhere in the eighties, and this led to our first introduction to the timber rattler. It was fortuitous that we had recently learned so much about snakes from Wrong Way, as we knew that the timber rattler, while highly venomous, is quite a mild mannered snake (as compared with the copperhead, which–while much less venomous–is much more aggressive).
All-In was bringing up the rear lost in thought, when a loud fast rattle announced that the snake had slithered into the trail since the last hiker passed. It was an impressive length (at least four feet), and its swollen belly suggested a recent meal. After the rattled warning, All-In took a few steps back and called to the others, who all came back to watch excitedly as the gentle (but deadly) snake, slid off the path and coiled by a large log in the sun.
Later in the day we saw several white tail deer (too fast to photograph), including one, startled by Orion, who bolted across the path within five feet of us. We also saw a small rabbit who was content to hop down the path in front of us for several minutes.
We spent much of the hot afternoon traversing scenic cattle fields with mountainous backdrops (but little shade). We watched with amusement as the cows cooled themselves in mud wallows, and watched with less amusement as Orion scented himself with cow patties. We took a welcome break from the heat to have a dip in the North Branch of the Holston river, then made our way back into the woods to camp for the night.