I wake up at 5.30 since my body rhythm has not yet adjusted after two days in the US (only two days! Feel like I have been here much longer). I try to rest a little longer, but when I notice that Karl is awake too, I convince him to go outside for an early-morning walk. It is foggy outside and muggy. The noises on the tree leaves sounds like it is raining, but it isn’t. It’s just the collected moisture trickling down the trees. Two deer raise their heads to look at us while we walk by, but remain calm. We marvel at the large, beautiful trees, parts of which are hidden in the mist. We walk through paths in meadows, circling the buildings of the National Conservation Training Center. We are in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, where Karl is attending a meeting. Not far from here lies Antietam National Battlefield, site of one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War.
After being a little reluctant at first to leave my new hometown Annapolis after not even having spent 24 hours there, I decided to keep my husband some company on the two hour drive. I also heard this place was supposed to be awesome (and equipped with wi-fi, so I could work from there too), and I wasn’t disappointed. The first animal I spotted upon our arrival was a skunk (not counting the little fawn and three does we saw on your way here – two alive, one dead). My first skunk! The second close encounter was with a big fat tick in our room. I got up from my desk and found it sitting smack in my chair when I returned. I grabbed a tissue, picked it up and squeezed it to death. Or so I thought. Some sort of premonition led me to check and make sure whether the tick was actually dead in the tissue a minute or so later. Alas, no, it was alive and well, on its way to climbing out of the trash can and attacking again. What followed can only be described as an epic battle. I will spare you the details, but say this much: Even luring it onto a book, dropping another book on top and hammering down on it hard did not kill the little bugger. I was at my wit’s end after ten minutes of attempted animal brutality when it occurred to me to flush it down the toilet. Thus ended this encounter. More peaceful was my run-in with a wild turtle in the woods.
The NCTC, apart from being the home of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is a training facility for people working in environmental conservation. It is situated within forests and meadows by the Potomac river. There are several lodges in the woods, connected by little paths, and an amazing commons building that resembles an old-timey hunting lodge with high ceilings and a cool bar. “Summer camp for adults” was how it was described to me. While Karl spent his day in meetings, I worked from our guest room and got caught up with everything that got slowed down during the moving weekend. Over noon I took a hike down the river path, where I was almost run over by a deer I had disturbed. Revenge of the wilderness? I did not quite make it to the river though. I could see it flowing past not far away, but the path was pretty overgrown, my shoes were not optimal hiking attire (ground was wet too) and after the tick scare in the morning and with high humidity pressing down on my, I didn’t feel up to climb down those past meters. There will be other opportunities.