Place Where You Live:

Quantico Marine Corps Base

Me with a common king snake at Quantico in the summer of 1968.

Quantico is actually a place I used to live from 1966-1971.
Stretching from the banks of the Potomac River, some 20 miles inland, Quantico
is a Marine Corps base located 30 miles south of Washington, D.C. It was an
idyllic place for a young boy with a love of nature. My friends and I would head
out on summer mornings and hike the power lines that traversed a series of
steep hills over several miles looking for snakes, or explore woodland trails
where we’d find box turtles, salamanders, and lizards. We’d grab our fishing
poles and hop on our bikes and ride for miles until we found a creek or reservoir.
Splashing through streams surrounded by mighty oaks, yellow poplars, and sweet
gums, we’d search for frogs and turtles. It was a magical time in a magical

I said good-bye to Quantico on New Year’s Day 1971 when our
family moved to Massachusetts, but Quantico has always held a special place in
my heart and looms large in my memory and imagination. I’ve returned there
several times, occasionally for reunions with childhood friends. Last summer I
drove to Quantico to meet an old friend, Junior Poolaw, who now lives in
Oklahoma. It was Junior who first kindled my interest in herpetology, which has
now grown from a boyhood hobby into a semi-professional endeavor.

Junior and I had been back to Quantico separately on several
occasions, but never together since we left there 40 years ago. The small towns that
surrounded Quantico in my youth had become part of a contiguous suburban sprawl
of housing developments, fast food restaurants, strip malls and motels, that
extended from Washington to the edge of the base. But once we crossed that
boundary onto the Marine base, little had changed. The same forests were still
there, the same creeks still flowed, the same trails cut through the
powerlines. It was as if we had crossed a boundary in time. And we found snakes
and lizards and turtles in all the same places. What a wonderful place and a
wonderful experience!