I blew out my knee this week, and I am now on crutches. This reminds me that three years ago, I was on crutches for an entirely different reason. While photographing wildflowers on a trail near my house, I was bitten by a Northern Pacific Rattlesnake – a really big one, at that.
I stepped right on it while adjusting my camera. After it bit me, I shook the snake off my leg; secured the two dogs I was hiking with, sat down, and called my girlfriend. She lives at the trailhead, and I wanted her to call 9-1-1 from her landline for a faster response time.
I was rescued, I live to tell the tale, and I don’t even have a scar to show for all my suffering. Sometimes I contemplate getting a tattoo to commemorate the event. People ask me all the time if I still hike that trail. Of course I hike there. Why should I let something like that run my life? Receiving a legitimate bite by a rattlesnake is extremely rare, especially in the foothills of Los Gatos, California.
A couple days before my recent knee accident, I took my new neighbors out on that very trail. They were looking for a place to walk their dog. I was excited to show them the trail I walk at least 4 times a week, the trail where I had my misunderstanding with the rattler. It’s a beautiful hike where we often see deer, bobcat, herons, and hawks. And, the dogs love it.
As we walked, I told them the story. They were both wearing shorts and hiking sandals. Halfway through my story we came upon the place where I was bitten. My neighbors became oddly quiet, and started to slow their pace. I kept telling them they didn’t have to worry about it. “Just be careful and watch where you step. Stay on the trail. If for some reason you must go off the trail, you should wear boots, and perhaps carry a stick to test the area where you are about to place your feet. That’s all.”
I could see that my ophiophabia calming techniques weren’t exactly working on them. In their minds, they were packing their bags and moving…again.
It was dusk by the time we were back at the trailhead. I had successfully freaked them out about snakes, living in the mountains, hiking, and walking their dog. I may have seen one of them checking Craigslist rentals on his cell phone. But their magical experience did not stop there, oh no. About 5 feet from the trailhead, I happened to look down and narrowly avoided stepping directly on a young Kingsnake. I said a little too excitedly, “Oh look, a snake!”
I’ve seen two of them.
You know those cartoon cats that always end up clinging to the ceiling by their claws with all their fur sticking up . . . ?
When my neighbors landed, I was taking a picture of the king snake with my cell phone. Using my anti-snake-anxiety calming technique, I told them that California Kingsnakes are good. They are opportunistic feeders that include rattlesnakes in their diet.Almost stepping on a kingsnake was much, much better than the snake I stepped on 3 years ago.
To read my whole rattlesnake experience click here
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