Just another day on the trail.

February 9, 2012 @ 3:41 pm | Filed under: ,

Well, today’s big event was the Rattlesnake Encounter, which becomes more epic each time one of us recounts the story. We were walking one of the trails at a local nature preserve—a wonderful place, all chaparral and low hills, where the wind smells like sage. Whenever I’m there (and it had been a long while since our last visit) I wonder why I don’t go every week. It’s my kind of landscape, those rocky, rounded slopes lifting up the blue, blue sky. I stand there like Heidi on her mountain, drawing deep breaths of the fragrant air.

Then something will happen to remind me why I don’t go more often, like OH SAY A RATTLESNAKE WILL APPEAR ON THE TRAIL THREE FEET FROM MY CHILDREN.

Rose and Beanie spotted him at the same time—they were in the lead, fortunately; they’re sharp-eyed lasses and I was distracted by a hot, red-faced, cranky Huck. If this had been the part of the trail where Huck suddenly charged ahead and we larger folk had to scramble to catch up, he’d have been on that snake before any of us saw it. It was lying quite still at first, stretched out across our path. Rose had just enough time to ask “Is it real?” before it twitched, and I took in the triangular head and the rattle and hollered EVERYONE BACK UP IT’S A RATTLER GRAB THE LITTLE ONES!! (I used more exclamation points.)

We edged back a yard and stood watching it. Huck, who’d been begging me to carry him, now clamored to be put down. Not a chance, pal. The rest of us were still and silent. After a long moment, the snake began to move; it slid across the trail into the underbrush.

“This is the best thing that EVER HAPPENED TO ME,” Rose declared.

“I think we’ll just go back the way we came,” I said weakly. Suddenly the trail ahead, curving into a clump of trees, seemed spiked with hazards. Huck was squirming for freedom and there was no way I was putting him back down to run loose on that path.

So we came home and drank a lot of water and ate lunch and played Oregon Trail and weeded a flowerbed and I read two picture books to Rilla.

In Oregon Trail, I lost one of my children to cholera and another to dysentery. Which is ironic, since usually in that game it’s the snakebite that gets you.

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12 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Ellie says:

    **eyes wide** we have ’em here too. Such excitement! Too much, maybe??

  2. Sarah says:

    Scary but hilarious. The Oregon trail bit did me in.

    My only venomous snake encounter occurred on horseback, and there was no danger of getting too close. The terrified horse would sooner have bucked me off then moved an inch closer. How is it that they know these things…

  3. Jennifer says:

    This reminded me of one of your old posts where you described a nature hike in VA but Wonderboy was your youngest then. I can’t believe I’ve been reading that long. And also, wow, a rattlesnake. We’ve never been so lucky(?) to see one in person.

  4. maria says:

    Oh wow! So glad you are all okay. Reminds me of when I walked out the back door, looked down and saw a small ground rattler curled up sleeping next to the back steps. After a moment frozen, I turned, picked up the large garbage bin and slammed it down onto the snake then prayed I had killed it. I stood atop the steps to pick up the bin to check. WHEW! Dead snake. Then my knees turned to jelly. LOL

    Sounds like you all handled it well. Oh what excitement! And I for one am quite glad your Oregon Trail children were not taken by snake bite as that would have been a bit too eery. EEK!

  5. Phoebe says:

    I had a close encounter with a copperhead when I was about 10. Shudder.

  6. sarah says:

    This reminds me to be thankful all over again that we have no snakes in our country.

    I can just imagine you gesticulating wildly at everyone to remain still 😉

    So glad you’re all okay.

  7. Melissa Wiley says:

    @Phoebe, I like how The Doctor is giving your copperhead encounter a thumbs up. 🙂

  8. tanita says:

    My Dad hikes a preserve near our home in California with a.) bulls, b.) bees, and c.) rattlers — and he hikes every day with two dogs and occasionally my mother, who is apt to take off in the other direction if she sees any of those things.

    When I was a kid, he wouldn’t let us go home after one of those rattler moments. Oh, nooo, we had to march onward. I think I would have preferred some tame dysentery and Oregon Trail instead!

  9. Judy Berna says:

    Wow! What a fun story, that your kids will carry with them into adulthood!

    I’ve never encountered a rattle snake but when I was about ten, I went down to our basement to sharpen my pencil. My dad had screwed the crank sharpener onto one of the studs in our basement wall, and as I started turning the crank I realized a huge black snake was curled up, literally inches from my hand, on the cross board right above the sharpener.

    It is something you never forget, being that close to a snake. It was harmless, but I didn’t realize that at first, and was unsure, as I stood there frozen, what I should do. He was huge, inches from my face, and less than a foot from my body/face. (still have the mental picture in my mind!)

    Hooray that none of you got hurt and now you have this great family story to tell for decades to come!


  10. Ellie says:

    I was going to ask where the photos were! 🙂

  11. mamacrow says:

    Gosh, I’ve only ever seen a grass snake *sigh* it all sounds impossibly exciting!

    The only other encounter with snakes is somewhat second hand… (Apart from holding a python at a zoo) At a stables I worked at once (long ago) we had a highland pony. I disremember his actualy name, we always called him Fling (as in, Highland Fling). He could not tolerate a hissing sound at all whatsoever, as we quickly found out with fly spray! He would back off rapidly, shaking his head, and get quite upset. I don’t know if he grew up quite wild or wether, being more a native breed, the inbuilt memory was stonger?

    I’ve heard of it before, in horses, in ones that have run free a bit, really come from herd.