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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Stuff About Me #3: Rattlesnakes!

My first rattlesnake encounter was on the top of Mt. Logan when I was in college at USU. My second was hiking in Siskiyou county. More interesting was my third encounter, a few years ago, at the PCT 50 Mile Run near San Diego: I was running along and a rattler began crawling across the trail in front of me, from right to left. I was going to jump over his back half when a second rattler, about 6' down the trail, began crossing from left to right. I didn't want to land near his fangy end so I just jumped over the first, staying in the middle, jumped over the second and kept going. Since they can't strike unless coiled I wasn't in any danger but it felt brave anyway!

The first time a rattler rattled at me was last month when I was tying a flag to a rock while marking the Tehama 50K course. It sounded just like a rattle and I spotted the small (foot long) rattler a few feet away in a pile of rocks. He bared his fangs and then turned and crawled into his hole. No biggie.

Then. This past weekend. Runnin' along, singing my song, paying no particular attention to anything other than my deeply profound thoughts, not looking at the ground, enjoying my run, and...


Somewhere in my mind's background I became aware of a strange sound, sort of like a cross between a high power line buzzing, water running and an osprey calling out a warning- but not quite like any of those. It didn't sink in at first as I was quite lost in thought, but it got louder and after a few strides I stopped to look at the treetops to see if some strange bird might be upset at me.

As I turned my head to the left I realized the sound was still coming from my left (directly behind where me) and from the ground. There, about 4' away, was a very angry 3 foot rattler, vibrating his tail so fast that it didn't rattle, it hummed. And hissing. And no wonder he was ticked; I had probably almost stepped on him, even though he had seen me coming and tried to warn me away. Thank God I didn't, and thank God I didn't happen to stop, cluelessly, while I was standing right next to him. This was a close call.

My dog, Teddi, was right by him now, and Teddi tends to go after anything that moves, but I called him and he came while the rattler, unsure of who was the bigger threat, Teddi or I, hesitated. We backed up and watched him from about 8' away while he continued to vibrate and hiss and eventually made his way into a wood pile.

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