Herping in Hellhole with Holmes - 2004

By Gene Ott

Saturday morning, May 22, 2004

We gathered again at the campground about 8:30 A.M. and divided into two groups for morning herping. As usual, Jeff beat us out of the campground and was calling us to report snake finds.

We stopped to release the Black Swamp Snake and Mud Snake. Then, since Jeff was preceding us along Hellhole Road, we decided to turn our search toward higher ground. Before 9:30, we spotted a large Black Racer on the road. Win leaped from the van and raced to intercept the snake. He jumped in the roadside grass in front of it and grabbed the snake.

After releasing the Racer, we drove a short distance and spotted another Racer crossing the road. This one may have been larger than the first. It never slowed and was in the grass before Win could get out of the van.

Shortly before 10 A.M., we were riding along a highland road with mostly dry ditches along side. The last snake I was expecting to see was a Cottonmouth. From the corner of my eye I recognized the pattern of a Cottonmouth in ditch on my side of the road. I stopped the van and we all walked back to see. To our delight, we found a pair of large, male Cottonmouths in ritual combat for the right to mate with a female. This was indeed a rare sight! We did not see the female, but she must have been close.

About 10:30 A.M., we joined Jeff and his crew at the campground. Jeff suggested that we again divide into two groups and spend some time walking along the lower reach of Hellhole Road. Jeff drove his group to the far end of the road and I drove mine to the Farewell Corners intersection. Instead of parking and everyone in my group walking away from the van, I had come prepared with two sets of keys. Our group leapfrogged down the road. That is, we subdivided into two subgroups. One subgroup was let out to walk, while the other drove a reasonable distance further, parked the van, and began walking. When the first group reached the van, they drove past the other group, parked, and began walking.

The leapfrog approach proved to be a lifesaver. The sun beamed down at full intensity and the temperature increased. The contrast between the white limestone graveled road and the shaded ditch was hurtful to the eye. We were not seeing any wildlife. Even the dipnet came up empty.

Spoken hints about the heat and lack of wildlife coalesced into a decision to seek a more comfortable endeavor. My subgroup and I climbed into the van and turn on the air conditioning. What a relief! We drove to Win's subgroup and they joined us without question. We now had a full van design load of seven people.

We could see Jeff's group in the distance. We reached them and offered our suggestion. Two of the group had already left for the long return trip to retrieve Jeff's SUV. We told Jeff and his crew that we would be glad to pick up the two returnees and deliver them to Jeff's vehicle while the others continued their walk. Instead they climbed into the van. Passengers sat in laps and on the floor. We picked up the last two walkers. I do not know how everyone fit in. We now had 14 or 15 people in the van; I lost count. I felt like I was in college again.

Back at the campground, we very reasonably decided to go to a local BBQ restaurant for lunch and then return to the motel for a siesta.

Continue To Saturday afternoon, May 22, 2004

July 06, 2004
Contact: South Carolina Reptiles and Amphibians