I am lucky to live in close proximity to Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve. The mountain has miles of trails that go from one end to the other, passing by remnants of the mountain’s iron ore mining history, leading to wetlands, sandstone outcrops, a limestone quarry and glade, and on to peaks with views of Birmingham. The mountain is my re-start button on a stressful day, my exercise gym, my social network, my meditation spot, and my backyard wonderland.
I’ve seen a lot of wonderful things on the mountain. One early summer day, I was taking a hike by myself and happened upon a box turtle laying eggs. She had already dug the hole and was depositing the eggs into the ground. After she laid her eggs, she carefully buried them. This took place right at the edge of the trail, and I worried all summer long about the fate of the eggs. It was fun to imagine what it would be like to see the baby turtles emerge from broken shells, head up the trail, and populate the preserve.
For years, there was a gray rat snake who lived in a tree on top of the mountain. Entering a hole at the base of the tree, it would spiral upward and exit a hole above a dead limb. It would sun itself on the limb all day and then retreat back into the tree in the late afternoon. Naturalists would lead hikes to see this snake, and I’ve seen it myself many times. My husband took pictures of it. The snake either took off for a new home, or it died of old age, but it lives on in photos and in my fabric art.