My summer fantasy

Here’s what I do for a little relaxation: I stare at maps. My summer research is a bit constrained right now, so I’ve been planning alternatives, like making day-trips to neglected local spots to do spider-hunting. I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of spiders is limited — I know a fair bit about a few species that live in the niches I’ve concentrated on, but relatively little about a lot of species that are in other environments. I need to correct that.

So I’ve been looking at maps and planning lovely little trips. My wife and I will pack the car with a picnic lunch, collecting tubes, my camera, and a drone (for scouting out locations), we’ll dress in long pants and long sleeves and boots, douse ourselves with DEET, and take off in the morning for a leisurely drive with frequent stops. We’ll look for parks and lakes and streams and abandoned farms and tromp around looking for spiders, photographing many, capturing a few, and heading back home in the late afternoon.

It sounds delightful to me. Right now all I can do is look at maps and plan these jaunts until I get all my grades submitted and recover my faithful companion, but it’s nice, and perfect for the pandemic season, because I plan to avoid people and visit places that spiders would like, and spiders don’t carry the virus. I look at the roads and the satellite views that reveal brushy areas where no one in their right mind would want to go — well, some of them might look great to hunters and fisherpeople, and that’s OK, I can share — and look forward to getting dirty and scratched and bug-bitten.

I also keep an eye on the local news. Oh, the Grass Lake restoration project is winding up? I bet there are spiders there. The university is constructing an ecostation? Spider country!

My original plans for the summer were a bit more lab-centered, and I still have some lab projects to maintain, but I’ve been thinking about how to adapt to our new circumstances, and I think I can find happiness in a summer in the weeds.


  1. Sean Boyd says

    That is certainly the upside of rural living, at least when one has time to enjoy it. Living sans car in the Seattle-Tacoma mess makes it a little tougher. On the good side, though: Tacoma has Pt Defiance and Swan Creek Park. Both have extensive forested trails with lots of wee beasties to examine. When in the middle of either, it’s easy to imagine there’s no city within 50 miles.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    Additional suggested travel objectives:
    If you have the opportunity to travel far enough from cities to escape “light pollution” you should take the opportunity to bring the family along on a clear evening without moonlight.
    -Use reatively low-magnification telescopes, ordinary binoculars or just the unaided eye.
    If you are lucky and there is no atmospheric haze you should be able to are the milky way, and a bajillion stars.
    Use a simple orientation star map, and check the internet for which planets will be over the horizon this season in the evening.
    Bring a thermos, folding chairs and blankets. It will be worth the effort.