Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Snakes On A Trail

*the second of two true hiking stories from my personal archives*
Yes, it's true: there are such things as "flying snakes", and I don't mean the ones that overran Samuel L. Jackson's plane in the bad movie on the subject. There really are a species of snakes that "fly" in southeast Asia. Or at least they propel themselves from tree top to tree top, "flying", so to speak.
One can assume that Bill Engvall (if you've ever heard his comedy routine as regards snakes) will be no where near southeast Asia anytime soon, but I digress.
There just aren't any around here. Or at least there weren't, until about the middle of last month.
Anyone who lives in the West -- especially anyone who lives on the west side of the Denver Metro Area -- knows we have snakes. Snakes lived here long before we came in droves. And along the foothills of the western suburbs, people and snakes share a common territory.
This summer has seen an increase in the episodes of rattlesnake bites: a golfer bitten at West Meadows Golf Course. A hiker or jogger bitten at Matthews-Winters Park. A hiker or jogger bitten at Red Rocks Park. A hiker or jogger bitten at William Frederick Hayden Park (aka, Green Mountain, my park of choice). I had my own run-in with a rattlesnake in early August (see A Reptile Dysfunction, a few entries back). I've talked with a number of other hikers and joggers who've had their own experiences this and previous summers. All agree that human-snake contacts seem to be on the increase in this neck of the woodsless.
After my first noted encounter, I changed none of my basic routine, other than trying to pay a little better attention to the trail directly ahead of me. No point in inviting an inadvertent encounter. Then came Wednesday, August 15: the Day of the IFS.
I had completed the first half of my Green Mountain excursion (the climb up), and as had been the case since the Thursday two weeks back, hadn't seen any kind of 'snake sign'. Granted, I knew them to be there. One very pissy two-footer in particular. At any rate, I was now on the descent part of my hike, where there were fewer opportunities for me to sound like an obscene phonecall (unlike on the trek up).
It was a calm morning -- as many have been this summer -- with the morning cool starting to give way to the anticipated middle-upper 90s heat that was promised later in the day. I encountered a few other folks -- mostly mountain bikers, a curious, lunatic bunch to be sure -- when as I approached a bend in the trail, two women and their labrador came round the bend, excitedly gesturing at me (the women, not the labrador).
They weren't carrying any Publisher's Clearing House balloons, oversized checks or crap, so I knew it wasn't probably anything good.
"There's a rattlesnake on the side of the trail!" one of them rasped out at me as she got close and grabbed my arm.
"Oh my gawd, it's about 20 yards back down there", she pointed, "and it was coiled up!"
"How big?" as an idea began to form in my thrice-concussed noggin.
The other, calmer of the two chimed in.."I think it was maybe, oh, 12-15 inches long, maybe?".
I assured the ladies that the trail ahead was...or at least had been...snake-free. One of them went onto regale me with how this was the fourth rattler they'd run into this year alone, and suggested that global warming was responsible for it.
Okay, she didn't really say that, but some pathetic progressive no doubt will.
They went on their way, and I, now alerted, cautiously proceeded on mine. And about 20 or so yards beyond where they had stopped me, sure enough, there he/she was: a 12-15" rattlesnake, coiled up on the edge of the trail, somewhat concealed in the weeds along the side. It didn't have the rattle that my previous encountered viper had, but as I got close enough to get its attention, it was *buzzing* for all it was worth.
Granted, I could bypass this specimen with no problem for me. But if another hiker/jogger happened along and didn't see it, stepping too close...well, my mind had been made up as soon as they told me about it. That previous *TOING* was the giveaway.
Wielding my trusty walking stick, I stepped into position. Granted, this was not what one would consider prime golf terrain; then again, for me with my penchant for playing out of the rough, it wasn't anything different than my pathetic game was rather used to. And granted, my 40" walking stick was a bit more in line with a driver than a chipping wedge. But I needed the practice. And -- to paraphrase the lines uttered by Peter Falk in a 40 year old war movie -- "this snake occupies a crucial position heah. Da snake hadda go".
So while I lined up my chip shot, the rattler conveniently sat there, coiled and paying mind to my out-of-range left leg, and not where it would have been wiser to pay heed...
Now, any of you golfers out there would probably agree: a six-eight foot chip shot, when one takes a "100 yard swing", is a disgrace. Practically a 'whiff'. But for a brief instant, the picture at the top right was acted out along side the Hayden Trail on Green Mountain. Never before had I ever seen a flying snake of any kind, let alone a rattlesnake.

Probably never before had this one anticipated the experience of it's southeast Asian cousins, either. I'm sure he/she wasn't amused by the abruptness of the launch that made it so.
But at least the trail was now clear. And the rattlesnake -- well off the trail -- could share it's Amelia Earhart experience with it's kin around the den. It might even relate the fact that I was laughing my ass off, until out of ear and eyeshot of the incident, too. I mean, I'm not sure what was funnier: the sight of a flying snake, or trying to figure out what to shout when it went airborne. "Fore!", just didn't seem to fit the moment.
At any rate...if you're ever in the Green Mountain area and decide to hike, jog or bike the William Frederick Hayden Park trails, remember: not only are there rattlesnakes there, but some of them actually fly.
Well, at least one of them has...


Blogger Herb said...

Wow! Flying snakes in Colorado! I hope him and the other guy don't decide to wait for you and do a tag-team.

08 September, 2007 05:36  
Blogger Debbie said...

Hope there were no people wherever that snake landed, ha.

We had a rattler by our mail box one day here in Tennessee.

I remember when I was a kid out in a corn field, walking right up on a rattler, coiled and rattling. Thank goodness God was looking out for me, because I just froze.

Deborah F. Hamilton
Right Truth

19 August, 2009 08:01  
Blogger Mayden' s Voyage said...

IF I ever walk in your neck of the woods-
YOU and the walking stick will be coming with me :)

19 August, 2009 19:35  
Blogger Serena said...

Flying snakes?! Geez, I'm locking myself in the bathroom. No hiking for this girl.:)

20 August, 2009 16:55  

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