So in preparation for going trekking in the mountains of northern Thailand, I bought some new trail shoes, and took them for a test drive today. I did a 10 mile solo endurance hike, carrying excess weight (on purpose), with major elevation changes.
I was about a half mile from the car (on the way back) when I got to a part of the trail that was cut into a hill. The hill on the left had a small 2 foot drop down to the trail, and there was a bush growing at the top of it. It was a not-a-cloud-in-the-sky, 75 degree, perfect southern California day. I was walking along (I think I may have been whistling), when all of a sudden there was a burst of motion in front of me and a 4 foot rattlesnake dropped off the hill (or out of the bush, not sure which, it was too fast and unexpected) and landed one stride in front of me. He (I'm assuming male) was not very happy, nor would I be if I just fell out of a bush. I looked at him and he glared back at me. The rattle was going furiously. He was coiled, and though I'm not an expert, he looked ready to strike. All the while I had this forward motion, and when my foot came down it would have me stepping on him. Almost a whole second had passed by this point. Before I could process what was happening and make some logical decision about course of action, my body, driven no doubt by some deep-seated tribal/species memory about bad snake experiences, somehow launched itself backwards and upwards at a precise 45 degree angle, directly away from the snake. Then I came down hard (fortunately all electronics were in my front pockets!). So now I'm lying on the ground, possibly with a broken tailbone, while this incredibly angry looking poisonous reptile is making threatening noises at me. Not the ideal fight-or-flight position. An eternity (another second) passes as we continue to stare at each other. I notice his rattle is small, but his head is huge. Does that mean bigger fangs and more venom? Other random thoughts like this bounce around my head, as I start to wonder that the heck I can do (this is still in the same second). He then slithers off to the right of the trail. Elapsed time must have been approx 3 seconds, but with a full-on adrenaline rush, it felt like an hour.
I can’t see him now, but I have to walk past that part of the trail to get back. I threw a few things in that direction, then very quickly walk past, my heart still racing.
I do a lot of stuff outside in rattlesnake areas (mountain biking, hiking, desert camping). The first 4.5 years I lived in SoCal I saw one rattlesnake the whole time, despite the fact that I was ALWAYS looking for them and wanted to see one. Now I’ve seen 3 more in the wild in just the past 2 weeks. I’m done. Having an angry one within 3 feet or so is just too close for comfort. I know it’s rare for people to die from rattlesnake bites, and that they really don’t want to bite anything they can’t swallow, and I actually did have a snake bite kit with me, but, that’s one life experience I’d like to do without.