Rattled

I’ve always enjoyed walking, but I didn’t develop an interest in hiking until a road trip my daughter and I took back in 2007 to the Black Hills in South Dakota.  I’m not sure what possessed me to agree to the almost four hour round trip hike with a 2,000 foot elevation gain up to Harney Peak, but Ashton had me convinced we could do it.

hiking in ArizonaIt turned out to be a fabulous hike – my knees may have disagreed, but  Ashton and I both agreed it was extremely enjoyable even though we arrived back at our vehicle tired and sore.

Although the hike challenged me, I found it invigorating.  It made me feel so alive.  I couldn’t remember the last time, if ever, experiencing that kind of feeling, and couldn’t wait to plan our next hike.

I should probably mention that at the time, I was an out of shape workaholic carrying an extra twenty pounds more than I currently carry.  The day after the hike, my legs and feet hurt so much I had trouble walking, but I felt awesome.

Fast forward to today, hiking has become a regular part of my life.  Granted, I don’t embark on any epic all day hikes like some of my RVing pals (you know who you are 😉 ) but I thoroughly enjoy those one to three-hour hikes amongst beautiful scenery.wildflowers

This time of year is particularly pretty in the desert southwest with the trails lined with wildflowers.  The cactuses are budding and some are starting to bloom.  Up until two weeks ago, I could be found in the morning hiking three to four days a week for an hour or two somewhere in the Phoenix metro area.  There are so many fabulous parks in Phoenix to hike and explore that getting bored would be difficult.

desert flowersAnd then the weather started getting hot …. hotter than normal for this time of year, which required I get out on the trail a little earlier.  On that fateful morning two weeks ago, I knew I was running late, temps were already in the 80’s (Fahrenheit) and I would need to be vigilant in keeping an eye out for snakes.

I left the camera at home wanting to focus on exercise and not allow myself to get distracted.  Yeah, good luck on that!  I always carry my cell phone with me for emergency purposes and it just so happens it takes photographs, which works in a pinch.

I was clipping along, making good time on my morning hike.  In spite of the heat, I kept my pace quick all the while keeping my eyes peeled on the trail in front of me and scanning the vegetation from side to side.  I’m not freaked out by snakes, but I’m also not a fan of the slithery creatures.rattle snakeI was on a trail leading me back to the truck with maybe fifteen minutes left to go and that’s when the movement in the brush stopped me in my tracks.  Mr. rattle snake was coiled in strike position and his head was bobbing back and forth as if he was dancing.  His tongue was flickering while our eyes met.snakes

I stood there frozen for a split second then gently backed away.  Once I retreated, he slowly lowered himself and starting slithering first toward me (I walked backwards some more) and then toward the other side of the trail.snakes

I stopped a women and her dog from passing me.  She was grateful that I had seen the snake first or she might have walked right by it.  We watched the snake cross the trail and counted five rings on his rattle.

This was not my first snake sighting on a trail.  I almost stepped on a bull snake in southern Colorado.   He was crossing the trail and I wasn’t paying attention.  Fortunately, I looked down before stepping on him.  Although a little started initially, I continued on my hike without concern.desert hikingThis encounter with the rattle snake rattled me …. rattled me to my core…. to the point it took me nearly ten days just to get out on the trail again.  Even then, I couldn’t enjoy that hike.  I’m afraid I’ve turned into a nervous hiker, but am hopeful in time my fears will ease.

All photos in this post were taken with my iPhone 5, and thus, not the best quality.  From now on, I won’t leave home without my Sony DSCWX350 18 MP Digital Camera (Black) Since this was my first rattle snake encounter in the wild, I wish I had gotten better photos of the snake, especially considering its my goal not to come face to face with another snake!desert hiking

Asian shrimp

 

Less time on the trails, means more time in the kitchen…… much to Al’s delight.  Click here for my Lemon Shrimp recipe.

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92 thoughts on “Rattled

  1. I’m a little snake rattled too. Though I haven’t let it stop me from exploring, it is something I think about from time to time.

    When I was teaching we would do camping during the summer months and inevitably would go out for a nightly snipe hunt. One evening we were out walking and I had about thirty students with me when we ran across a rattler in the road…startled by the noise of so many children it ran off to the side. The line of children moved just like a snake would. I was in the middle with the girls who grabbed my hand in screaming terror…frozen and scared to move. The front end lurched forward…the boys rushing toward the snake saying cool as the men (always bring men on camping trips with rambunctious boys) steered them away and the kids at the back withdrew to the opposite side of the road. We looked like a big giants “S” on the road. It took hours of getting the kids to look at other less scary creatures before they would go to bed.

    • How funny. Yes the girls scream and boys go “cool” although some are screaming inside. I’m back to hiking but on days under 80 degrees. It’ll be time to move north soon 🙂

  2. Those desert flowers are gorgeous…but every garden of Eden has its snake it seems😳 Glad all turned out well and hope you get back on the trail again!

  3. Oh my! I’m glad it all turned out ok for you and the other hiker and her dog. I’m with you on having a healthy fear of snakes, too. At our “go to” park closest to home, snakes are most definitely present on the trails. We were on bikes with another couple out there on the trail above the canyon, and friend’s hubby was the first to spot a big rattler coiled on the side of the trail. Friend and I absolutely stopped, then decided to just head on back to camp while the guys took a picture of it. I didn’t need a picture that bad! On another guided hike on that same trail on a different trip, the guide cut the sunset hike short after spotting a rattler up the trail from us. It’s good to have a healthy fear of these critters, but I hope you will still get back out there on the trails some, too. 😉

  4. As soon as I saw the title… I knew you saw a Rattler.
    One day while we were out we saw 5 snakes in one day. They are out there! And for my peace of mind… PLEASE stay on the trail. Even though this one crossed the trail… they like to hide off the trail usually around rocks to bask in the sun. Be careful out there… it’s still the wild, wild west!
    I am still on for our get together. Can’t Wait! Happy Easter!

    • Can’t stay home with those cactus blooms calling. Camera battery charged and ready for a Wednesday outing. Hmm, whatever shall we do!

    • Fortunately, the weather has cooled slightly so I’ve gotten back out on the trail. I’m still a little uneasy and keeping aware. Now, I need to focus on those cacti blooming!

  5. So glad you spotted the snake! I haven’t seen any so far this year hiking. We’ll be heading back to Apache Junction for more hiking in the Superstitions in April. That’s where we saw the most last year. Hopefully not this year. Harney, good for you!

    • I was heading back down the little hill at Apache Wash (where I took you) and because I was making such good time, I contemplated adding the big hill. But after this encounter and the increasing heat, I called it a day. Love the Superstitions. Have fun. Let me know what’s blooming over there.

  6. A wearer of bifocals or being mystified with something above my head or down the trail…I’m always fear the dreaded stomp on the wrong creature!! Glad you caught focus of danger! Off the trail right now…broke a toe helping to coat the RV roof! I better stay buried in the coastal sand for now!!! 🙂 Keep them eyes peeled!!!

    • Oh my, so sorry to hear about the toe. That roof stuff is some serious work. We’ve been avoiding it, but one day it’ll be a must. I could never get used to bifocals and carry around two pairs of glasses instead. I’ve learned how to manage with my vision issues. It sucks getting old and I don’t recommend it 😉

  7. Hello Ingrid,

    Great article! We’ve lived in Germany for nearly six years. This country is bustling with hikers and their trails are well marked and crisscross the entire country. Anyway, I’ve watched for years as 40’ish and beyond hikers use “trekking poles”. I finally recently purchased a set for myself and my wife (we’re 43/53). Best outdoor gear I’ve ever purchased (mid grade set is around $50). 1). Saves 20-30% stress on knees and lower back 2). Gives great added support sort of like having 4 legs 3). Can be adjusted up to 6′ in length for predator protection 4). Great for moving things like snakes along so you can get on your way! and my favorite 5). Gives you an excellent upper body workout ….as little or as much as you’d like. They’re telescopic and easily fit into a backpack. I purchased Cascade Mountain tech but there are many other good brands out there. If you’re not yet convinced, find a good youtube video on them and you’ll be sold.

    Kind regards,
    – Dana

    • I’ve looked into poles and may actually give’m a go one day, but they get in the way of my photography. I really don’t want to have to choose between camera or poles but that’s where I am right now. Thanks for the info and taking the time to comment. Enjoy Germany. It’s a beautiful country.

      • With a little ingenuity one can carry both! It entails a lot of bending over to pick up the poles after throwing them to the side when a red headed woodpecker calls, but it can be done!

  8. I can relate, I and we have several encounters with this slithery creature and it never failed to rattle me even I still have to see a rattler itself.
    Love all those wildflowers, Im sure the desert now is colored with not only with cacti blooms.

    • It’s seems my computer woes are getting the best of me and zapping my creative juices. I really need to pick up the camera (which has sat in the bag for over a week) before everything is done blooming. Your hikes lately look amazing 🙂

  9. I knew by the title there was going to be a rattlesnake in the post and I almost didn’t read it! I admit – I am terrified of snakes! I’m so glad you were paying attention and were able to finish the trail after he crossed in front of you. I’m so afraid of snakes when we were hiking in Palo Duro Canyon I refused to continue on a trail when other hikers warned us of a rattlesnake between us and the end of the trail. We turned around instead of going to the end.

    You are one of the few photographers I know who has a Sony camera. I use a Sony A550 and love it.

    • The encounter sure has had an impact on my hiking enjoyment. I can’t seem to relax and enjoy myself. I love my little Sony camera and usually have it on me at all times, but I wanted to hike light and not allow myself to get distracted with taking photos. I’m not pleased with the iPhone photos, thus will always carry a camera with me in the future.
      BTW… my computer saga continues and I was unable to comment on your last post…. great shots.

  10. Yes, I can relate to your feelings about the rattle snake, I came across a brown snake (small but deadly) and that put me off walking for a while….but now I try to pay attention but not worry….(admittedly……..not easy to do!)

    • As much as I do enjoy hiking by myself, right now I prefer hiking with a partner for that extra set of eyes. Hubby hasn’t been able to join me lately 😦

  11. Beautiful desert pics. We are at Cave Creek Park. Been on hikes but haven’t seen any. Always on the lookout tho

    • We love Cave Creek Reg Park. If you have the time, take the 15 minute drive to Spur Cross Conservation Park in the town of Cave Creek. The Dragon Fly Trail along with several other trails traverse beautiful and diverse terrain.

    • Looking up and around is how I almost stepped on a Bull Snake in Colorado. I learned my lesson after that close encounter – keep my eyes to the ground, which obviously served me well this day.

  12. Yikes! Yep, the weather warms up and the snakes make their presence known! Soooo glad you saw that bad boy..those Rattlers are fast on the strike..And how great to alert the lady with the dog..that could have been pretty tragic. I’m hoping you wear leather hiking shoes or boots on these escapades..I might recommend jeans and boots…and as you know, hiking earlier in the day. Sometimes we take Mother Nature for granted..she can bite!!

    • I do wear hiking boots but not ankle coverage. And that day I was off to a late start and wore shorts… duh! I knew I was running a risk thus kept my eyes scanning the trail. These days, I’m sticking to the roads around the RV Park. Not exactly scenic but at least I’m getting in some steps even thought it’s flat ground.

    • Yep, because it’s been hotter than normal, the snakes came out a lot sooner. Since I don’t care to have another encounter, I do wish I had had a better camera with me.

  13. Oh my! I’d be rattled, too! I only carry my iPhone as I’m always into it for the exercise and to experience the beauty of my surroundings. Then I see your pictures (and Mona Lisa’s and today, Beth’s) and so wish I understood a good camera! But then I can really enjoy everyone else’s art work! 😬

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • I almost always have one of my camera’s with me. When I hike with the big camera, hubby usually want’s to stay behind because he knows there will be lots of stopping and composing. When I have the little Sony with me, he knows I’m not as serious and will just be taking quick snap shots. I would be missing lots of beautiful photographic moments if I didn’t have a camera on me at all times…. like this encounter. Lesson learned!

  14. I knew exactly where you were going with this post when I saw the title. Always best to be cautious. Now that we seen to be in the rain forest, I miss the desert – didn’t think I would feel at way so quickly.

    Don’t miss cell phone photos -it’s all done of us have! 🙂

      • After a month or so along the Texas Gulf Coast, we are very ready to head back to the desert to dry out. Thus, I don’t think I could ever live anywhere full-time where there’s lots of humidity or rain.
        I see so many fantastic cell phone photos out there in the blogosphere that I thought I’d give my phone a shot. I’m not impressed or pleased with the quality of the photos taken with my phone thus will be sure to always have one of my cameras with me. I’m glad your phone works for you!

  15. Ingrid I can imagine you felt rattled. I have no doubt you will be back at it again. Sometimes i find such scares keep us in the right balance with nature. I know with my camera I can get very distracted and not be as aware of the risks around me as I should. I appreciate your story and a good reminder to all of us whether we are out hiking or on a busy city street. Being watchful and aware is always important for safety.

    • It’s funny, there are certain situations I insist Al join me especially if I’m going out strictly for photographs. If I’m stepping off trail a lot or we’re in a city setting, I like to have him along as my body guard. He keeps aware of our surroundings while I focus on composition. Having street smarts applies equally to urban, rural, and remote areas which, as a traveler, I’m sure you can relate to 🙂

      • Ingrid I think Al and Dave could have some good conversations about this back up role. yes I often have Dave’s watchful eye too. A lucky lot we are.

        • Guess we’re a couple of lucky gals to have ‘protectors’ at our sides. On the flip side, they are lucky to have a constant source of entertainment keeping them amusement. Yep, they’d be bored without us 😆

  16. Ah, Harney Peak, that brings back memories. Although at that time we did not hike it, we had taken our horses to the Black Hills and went up by horseback. I think they thought we were trying to kill them!

    • I assure you, my knees were not happy with all the stairs and I could barely walk the next day. So I feel for your horses. We do love the Black Hills and hope to spend more time there.

  17. This post reminded me of one of my favourite quotes (and you know how I love quotes) “We need to walk to know sacred places, those around us and those within. We need to walk to remember the songs.” Joseph Bruchac

  18. I just love seeing the desert in bloom.

    That snake event happened to us too. We were just merrily hiking along when a big one came out of the brush. Good thing you were alert enough to jump back.

    • It does get the heart pounding, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, we have found ourselves undertaking a host of projects, and I haven’t been out photographing the blooming desert as much as I had hoped to 😦

  19. I’m the same as you regarding snakes, but I would have backed way up and had a hand full of those rocks – I saw a black snake chasing a chipmunk and now know how fast they can move. I look forward to seeing the blooming desert next winter.

    • I had so many things swirling through my head after the initial shock…. ‘Can he strike me from this distance?’ – ‘Will he come after me and if so how fast?’ I decided to take a deep breathe, access the situation, and give the guy plenty of room to move on. I knew if he didn’t feel threatened by me, all would be fine.

  20. I understand your feeling about the rattler completely. Ever since our encounter in the Superstitions last spring, I am a little more nervous this time of year. I even went home and did a lot of research on what one should do if bitten. Darn creatures!!

    Thanks for including so many blooms in your photos:) I love the desert in the spring:)

    • It does give one pause. Unfortunately, due to the heat, I haven’t been out and about with the camera as much as I had originally intended. Guess that means, more reason to be here again next spring 🙂 So jealous of that boat ride on Powell…. love that place!

  21. Scary indeed! I have run in to them a few times and I don’t like it one bit either. But, get back out there girl! You an do it! And good for you running and hiking! Those wildflowers are amazing!

  22. Good thing you noticed him. I would have photographed it coiled and ready to strike. But I’m a real snake guy. One nice thing about rattlesnakes is they usually give warning when you are too close.

    • One of the first things that ran through my mind was “Why did I not bring the good camera?”. I would’ve loved to have photographed him in the coiled position (with a good zoom of course). By the time I managed to wrangle my iPhone out of my pack, he was on the ground moving. That said, I’m not hoping for a next time!

      • I would not get very close with a phone. I always have a camera around my neck, and two or three (one with wide-angle to normal, one with slightly tele to tele zoom, and one with a 1.4 lens) when I’m hiking. You just never know what you are going to come across.

        • I went out walking this morning and kicking myself for not bringing the good camera. I’m taking your advice and from now on will always have the camera around my neck… timing is everything especially in photography 🙂

          • Especially since you are a freebird roaming the world, you will give yourself a lot of opportunities to get great photos if you always have a decent camera at the ready. My main carry camera is a Fujifilm XPro 1. Fuji has lots of good models that are similar to it.

  23. You did all the right things in your rattler experience, Ingrid; carried a phone, paid attention, backed off, let it pass, alerted the other hiker. But it can be rattling, this I know, living where rattlesnakes live. Great job, great post.

    • Thanks Jet. I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of exhilarating encounters especially in some of the unique places you’ve traveled to. Being aware of my surroundings is ever foremost on my mind.

  24. This is one of the reasons we live in Alaska in the summer months. Not only is it cooler but we have no snakes anywhere in the state. We have mosquitos the size of flies but no snakes.
    When the temps start climbing above the 80 degree mark we start to worry about the pups finding a deadly reptile in the grass somewhere.
    We are on our way home now.
    Hope the rest of your summer is snake free!

    • We’ll be heading north ourselves in a few weeks. We used to vacation in northern Minnesota ever summer and my husband (former Pilot) used to joke about the mosquitos being so large they had numbers on their sides. Safe travels back to Alaska. Looks like you had a great winter in the lower west.

  25. Your desert flower pictures are beautiful! The very first time we visited the desert we bought special hiking boots to wear. I think I imagined snakes around every corner. Never saw one snake on that trip. We have seen them subsequently – just keep aware of our surroundings. Last week I had to drive around a rattlesnake on the road near our neighborhood. That was a first! Hope you get out for more hiking soon!

    • The snakes are coming out early this year, sooner than usual because of the early heat. I’m a little spooked right now but the lure of wildflowers is strong. Actually the wildflowers are done and the cactus are starting… always a unique sight. Guess I’d better get out there with the camera!

      • I love the cactus flowers. Well as long as you go on a well traveled trail, somebody else will probably have scared the snakes away first. 🙂

    • With as much time as you spend off trail, I’m sure you’ve had a few close encounters of sorts yourself. Always good to be aware 🙂

    • Hopefully my tale won’t deter you from exploring the desert southwest. We lived in Las Vegas for four years and have been coming to Phoenix for the past seven years and this was my FIRST snake encounter in the desert. And keep in mind, they only strike if feeling threatened…. I charmed him with my sweet words LOL.

  26. I too have “toned-down” my adventures in the wild, depending on heat, environmental conditions, and in some cases particularly if I’m solo and not in a group, just don’t go when conditions are good for encounters with snakes, alligators, etc. Have you considered snake gaiters/guards/leggings?

    • Yeah, I asked hubby about gaiters. I actually encountered one person last year wearing a pair. I do like hiking solo but stay on popular trails when doing so. One never knows. Right now it’s been too hot, thus I’m staying off the trails anyway. But the cactus are starting to bloom, so I do need to explore 🙂

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