If bitten by a rattlesnake, I once read that there is a 25% chance it will only "mouth" you, a 50% chance it will sink in it's fangs without envenomating (shoving in the venom with the fangs) and only a 25% chance you get both the bite and venom. I've had a few encounters with the critters. Once I was backpacking through a part of the Grand Canyon and upon rounding a corner, there was a Western Diamondback in full coil prepared to strike. Fortunately for me, it had half swallowed a mouse with only the tail remaining, hanging from its mouth. It disgorged the mouse and slithered into the rocks. In another part of the Canyon, I walked by a Pink Rattlesnake, a species found only in the Canyon, wrapped around the base of a bush. It's head was pointing away from me but the rattles were in full force. I bent over to touch the tail, thinking that would be cool to say I had once touched one but pulled back my hand, thinking better of the idea. Another time, I was sitting on a boulder at dusk, reading a paperback to kill the last few minutes before darkness. When it became too dark to read, I put the book down, glanced down and saw a very large rattlesnake slithering in the middle of the path towards my swinging legs. I threw myself backwards, stood up, did what I could with what I had to alter its path and then, in darkness, decided taking refuge in the tent was the best idea. Thus began the longest night, my first over night backpacking experience in the Canyon with, I imagined, a hungry rattler circling my tent. Did not sleep more than an hour that night. Then saw one hiking up Phoenix's Camelback Mountain, a little guy in a crevice about shoulder high. Until today, that was the extent of my experience with rattlers.
So, decided to hike the Finger Rock Trail up to Mount Kimball. Five very strenuous miles gaining 4000+ feet of elevation. Thankfully, for some of the trail the sun was behind the rocks.
Hiked along for awhile, passed a small group and then higher up ran into this guy. Wow. Today was his 1392 time up to the top! He catalogs all the plant and animal species and just loves the views at the top. Said they were the best in the valley and rattled off many peaks and mountain ranges one can see. He'd been life flighted out two times, once with a broken leg and once dehydrated. Probably not a bad ratio of hikes to flights. He warned me.....
......this area ahead, once emerging from the shade, would be prone to rattlesnake sightings and he had heard one when he stepped on a rock but could not find it. Ugh....I walked into this area with lots of thick grass bordering the trail. I was so apprehensive with the many rocky outcroppings and thick vegetation that I began rolling a rock ahead of me to try to give me advance warning but did not see any of the critters.
Farther up, the views were great and I looked forward to seeing the views at the top. However, I had brought a trail description with me and it described various spur trails and where not to go and at mile 3.5, the group I had passed I saw on the other side of the canyon, there was a lot of scat about, indicating mountain lions or similar creatures and had not seen anyone for a long time.
Kind of wierded me out and convinced myself I was off the official trail and so turned back. Turns out I had been on the correct trail and that group had gotten off on a spur trail. Oh well, will do it again.
It didn't help that there were dozens of these grasshoppers that when startled, would fly away with a clacking of the wings that sounded like a rattlesnake. Headed back down. Toward the bottom, the route finally flattened a bit and began trotting
when I saw a man standing in the path in front of me. I thought he yelled, "Stand still so I can take a picture of this rabbit", which seemed odd to me. I walked a little farther and there, on a stone facing south and away from me was....
.....a black tail diamondback rattlesnake! Had that man not happened to be coming up trail, would I have seen the snake in time to stop? Not a chance. Doesn't mean it would have struck me either but makes me wonder and I'm really glad I only have to wonder. It was a beautiful creature, green and brown and the rattle did not rattle. That's how some of these live a long time because the rattle function does not work. I calculated it's strike range, tripled the calculation and gave it a very wide berth. Well, doing the Ventenna Canyon trail tomorrow past the Maiden Pools and up to the "Window". 14 mile round trip hike. Still have to report on the bike rides too and that is coming.
Sorry I have to miss my favorite ride of the year, the COP Rockmill Brewery ride this Saturday. If you can't make the ride, get there for the beer and brewery. A very neat place and probably Flyin Tuna will be there to reenact one of my favorite images from last year.