Before I saw a live armadillo in the wild at Huntsville State
Park last December, I don't think I've ever seen one other than
in a zoo or squashed along the side of the road! Getting to see
several of them in their natural setting the past month has been
a pleasure. I've got photos and stories about Cody's reaction to
them in this entry. You can read more about armadillos at the
website above. There's a good picture of the face, which I
rarely saw -- their noses were usually rooting around in the
leaves and difficult for me to photograph.
Tomorrow we'll be leaving Huntsville State Park and we have
mixed feelings about that.
It's been nice to spend four whole
weeks in the same campground. The longer we stay in one place,
the easier it is to establish a routine
and become familiar with places to run and do business. It's
also much less hassle
than picking up and moving to another location every few days. The weather's been mostly
sunny and in the 70s, the new spring leaves and flowers are very pretty, the trails are great
to run and ride, and it's been mostly quite peaceful. We had
some fun times here with friends at Rocky and met some very
interesting people -- great memories to savor.
We especially love the weekdays at the park when we have the entire
campground and park pretty much to ourselves. One or two other couples may bring their RVs
for a day or two, but most don't stay for even a week. A few
local folks come in during the day to fish or bike or run;
they are friendly but otherwise we
hardly notice them because they are quiet and considerate.
View from our campsite five days a week
Weekends are another story entirely.
By Friday evening
the campground fills up to capacity with younger couples and
families. I love to see all the kids out fishing, hiking, and
playing in the woods instead of cooped up inside on their
computers but by Sunday I'm wishing they'd go back home!
There's a pattern: younger and older alike are so happy to be here on Friday nights
(no work!! no school!!) that they stay up
late around their campfires. They are up early Saturday morning
to maximize their fun all day. Then they're tuckered out and go to bed
early Saturday night, sleep late Sunday morning, and go home by
mid-afternoon. It's been the same thing all four weekends we've
And then we have the place all to ourselves again -- yea!!!
Same view on weekends (or filled with
By the second weekend Jim started razzing me about being
happy to see so many kids out enjoying nature. Despite my
grumpiness when they'd traipse too close to our camper or squeal
and yell too loudly (for people like us who aren't used to being
around kids much), I was still glad they have parents who take
them camping. Neither Jim nor I camped when we were kids and we both
wish we'd had that opportunity. We're making up for lost time
now in our second childhood.
Jim had fun taking his boys back-packing, camping, and fishing
when they were growing up and I'm guessing they'll continue the
tradition with their kids.
CODY & THE ARMADILLOS
It's been fun to explore some trails in the park that we haven't
run previously, such as Coloneh, Loblolly, and the Triple C
Cutoff. We both ran the longer Chinquapin and CCC loops enough
times that we needed some variety. All the trails are
fun to run and ride.
We found some entertainment along the way, too. Cody makes sure
of that! Running with him is like having a two-year-old around
-- everything is new and exciting.
He was especially amusing whenever we'd run into an armadillo.
Until this month, he'd never seen one before. Armadillos are
funny-looking creatures, and probably emit a completely
different odor than he's used to. I think they're cute in a
weird sort of way. They aren't that afraid of people (or dogs),
they have unexpected little furry ears poking out from all their
hard body armor, and they move along
quite comically, nose usually in the leaves as in the photo
"See my cute little furry ears?"
Cody spotted his first armadillo on the Chinquapin Trail before
I did. We'd just arrived at the park two days earlier. I run
off-leash with him on trails when no one's around and put him
back on when I see someone coming. He's friendly, but large
enough to intimidate some people and/or get in their way. He
doesn't chase animals so I don't worry about him traumatizing
Well, an armadillo sighting was just too intriguing for him to
remain on the trail! He darted toward the odd creature and
pulled up about two feet short of it, curious but cautious at
the same time. He didn't bark or charge it. He wagged his tail,
looked back at me with an expression that exuded pride in his
fine catch, and awaited my approval (or instructions?).
"I have a cute pink nose, too, but it's
most often rooting around in the dirt."
This Duck Dog has not been trained to hunt -- anything.
He just has a strong retrieval instinct. I wondered if he'd try
to pick it up! If he'd made any move closer to the armadillo I
would have given a stern "Leave it!" command and he would have
That wasn't necessary. He has good sense, as shown
by the distance he kept from this strange, hard-shelled critter.
They were in kind of a Mexican stand-off for about thirty
seconds, then the armadillo slowly shuffled off through the deep
leaves. Cody looked quizzical (but didn't follow it) and I was
still chuckling at his reaction as we moved on down the trail.
The last two weeks of February we had more frequent armadillo
sightings, particularly near the lake. Several
intermittent rain showers left the soil softer and brought up tasty worms
and grubs for the armadillos to eat. You can see in this picture
of Prairie Branch Trail where they've been rooting around:
Cody: "I know there's an armadillo around
One day I had Cody leashed as we walked over a lengthy section
of bridging at the northeast end of the lake (marsh area) between
the lake inlet and the Prairie Branch Trail. A hiker had just
passed us in the opposite direction when I spotted an armadillo
quite close to the walkway. I hadn't been able to get decent
photos of any of the other ones, so I made Cody sit while I took
a series of photos of the armadillo slowly rooting around in the
I got more tail-end views of armadillos
than heads-up views!
Cody was quivering with excitement but sat there obediently as I
held the leash and took pictures of the armadillo. I had to put
the camera away as soon as the armadillo scampered under the
boardwalk, however. Even if I hadn't been holding Cody's leash
tight, I wouldn't have been able to take pictures because I was
laughing so hard at both animals! I couldn't believe what
The boardwalk in that section was not much more than a
foot off the ground:
The armadillo apparently thought it would be fun to follow right under our
feet for about twenty yards as we continued walking along the boardwalk. Cody could see
it through the spaces between the boards but couldn't reach it
with his nose. He was going nuts trying to figure out how to get
to that armadillo. (He would have crawled under the bridging if
he hadn't been on the leash.)
It was too funny! I think the armadillo was deliberately teasing
him. It finally gave it up and moved out into the woods again.
After we were a safe distance beyond, I told Cody to sit and
took off his leash. He craned his head back toward the armadillo
(he doesn't forget things easily!) but was a good boy and heeled
forward with me.
SPOOKY FACES & A NICE NEW BRIDGE
There was another funny incident with Cody when a large group of
AmeriCorps volunteers was building some new bridging across the
lake inlet the last couple weeks of our stay. The bridging being
replaced was rotting because it was positioned too low above the water and
sometimes flooded (below, on February 9):
The new section was relocated a few feet away and built higher
above the water.
This is one of my favorite parts of the park. It's a great place
to see waterfowl and just plain fun to run or ride over the
water. I've shown several pictures of it in the last couple of
entries. Runners crossed this long bridging in the Sunmart races
but not in the Rocky Raccoon races.
The day we saw a 4-wheel drive vehicle carting posts and planks
out the Dogwood and Upper Prairie Branch trails toward the marsh
area we knew we'd get to see some construction going on. It took
several days and a lot of trips to haul all of the concrete
supports, metal posts, wooden bridging, equipment, and tools a
couple miles to the site. Since we were camped fairly close I
walked or ran out to the site almost every day to see what was
going on. I love building projects!
A few days before the actual construction began Cody and I reached the spot
where most of the materials would later be stored (above). That
day, however, the only materials were about three dozen strange concrete forms strewn about. I hadn't seen
the workers take those out there and didn't know exactly how they'd be
used. I later learned they are the supports that are lowered
into the water to hold the metal posts under the wooden
But neither Cody nor I knew that at the time (grin). And he must
have thought they were skulls or something, because he raised
the biggest racket I've ever heard him make! He looked like he
was barking at some strange person or animal in the woods behind
the concrete forms but I couldn't see anything.
Then I realized he must be barking at the forms themselves:
Bingo! He would not go anywhere near them until I went over, sat
on one, and coaxed him to come to me. As we crossed the bridging
he kept looking back at the forms, either afraid they were
coming to get him or just trying to protect me. (I really
think he was more fearful than protective.) He was a bit
skittish on the way back past them later in that run, but on all
subsequent walks and runs out that way he just ignored the
They do look a little spooky, don't they?
Compare my close-up above with the daguerrotype below by Binh
Danh entitled "Human Skulls on Display in the Memorial Stupa
of Choeung Ek, 2008," which was shown in the April, 2009
issue of City Magazine,
p. 40 (Roanoke, VA):
Once all the materials were in place, it was interesting to
watch the progress of the volunteers and park personnel as they
relocated about 200 feet of the bridge. Most of the construction
was completed in about a week with a force of about 8-10
people each day:
Views of early support work from either end
of the new section (2-22-09)
AmeriCorps volunteers and park personnel
work on the bridging on 2-23-09 (fast progress!).
They kept the old bridge open every day until the new part was
done, although it was
interesting when Cody and I had to hop over this gap where the bridge
sections merged (2-24-09):
Jim and I got to see the finished bridging this weekend. It
looks like they plan to keep this part of the old boardwalk (L) that ends
abruptly over the water:
That would be a good vantage point to safely watch all the
waterfowl that like to congregate at this end of the lake (and
not worry about cyclists racing across the bridge).
enough materials left that we think they're probably going to
repair or rebuild another section of the bridge -- maybe they
intend to extend the old part? They also need
to drag out all the old bridging, including this really old
that's been sitting in the swamp for several years:
Or maybe not.
I think it's scenic and should remain.
We've also had some frustrations during our stay in the park. I've
already mentioned two of them: the major expense and
inconvenience of the truck transmission repair, and my new
allergy to something sprouting in the woods. (That was solved by
finally getting the correct diagnosis and meds. I've been able
to run, walk, and ride our bike with abandon since.) There were other
frustrations like working on taxes (can you say FairTax??) and
conducting other personal business. Long story short, it's
easier to do that kind of stuff at home with a faster internet
connection and all the records we need. We learn something new
each trip about the things we need to take with us the next time.
I'll close with some more dramatic sunset photos over Lake Raven.
I wasn't usually up early enough for sunrises!
All in all, we've had a busy, productive, and mostly enjoyable
month at Huntsville State Park. Like many places we camp, it's a
nice area to visit but for various reasons we wouldn't want to
live here full time. That's one of the major advantages of
having a camper or RV -- going pretty much where we want, when
we want, for as long as we want. We can hit warm spots when
it's cold elsewhere, cool spots when it's hot elsewhere, scenic
spots when they're at their peak spring or fall colors. We can
make specific plans and reservations, move around spontaneously,
or do a combination of both.
Much as we like it here, it's time to move on because we do
have plans two states to the east for next weekend: we're
running the Mississippi 50 ultra and we want to
check out the trails and our camping options before the race.
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil