A few of my friends and acquaintances think that I’m crazy to run where snakes, specifically rattlesnakes, cross my path. I have actually seen people on the trail run away screaming, even at the mere mention of a rattler. Being that I got in a two-snake run on Monday, I’d like to clarify some things regarding these snakes that I have grown so accustomed to on the trail. To begin, it appears that I do not fear rattlesnakes. Truth is, I do not fear a rattler that I can see. If I’m out there snapping pictures of my slithering friend, everything is a-okay. It is the rattlesnake that I do not see that I fear. If I can see him, I can tell if he’s ready to strike. If I can see him, I can determine his striking distance. I have no qualms about walking around a snake on the trail. If I can see him, I can estimate the length of his body. And since no rattler that I have ever heard of can strike the distance of his body length, I give him that. Say the snake is about three feet long. I can very safely travel around him within six feet. (I should note that my research says that rattlers can only strike up to 2/3rds its body length. So on a good day a three foot rattlesnake can only strike two feet away, and I give him six!). You can see then, there is no need to fear if I’ve got him in sight.
So when I’m running along, and I am suddenly up on a snake (because I was not paying attention) I waste no time looking for its rattlers or other tell-tale signs (like the shape of his head). I back off immediately. Immediately. I’ve seen how fast a rattler can coil – it takes a split second. And once he’s coiled, he is good to strike. This is my rule: Look for the rattles later – back off now.
It’s those guys I cannot see who are the real problem. This is why I am always on the lookout for rattlers, and why I am so happy when I see one. But even if I can’t see him, I may hear him. Fortunately, rattlesnakes are spooked quite easily, and their warning system is loud. There is no mistaking a rattlesnake’s rattle. You may have wondered if that sound you heard was from a rattlesnake or a cicada (a grasshopper-like insect out our way). But once you’ve heard a rattlesnake, there’s no mistaking it. It is loud, vigorous and determined. As I’m running along that trail (fa-la-la-la-la-la), and a rattling overtakes the serenity, I run away from the sound. Away. This is my second rule: Do not try to determine where the rattlesnake is – put distance between you and that sound. Then you can go about tossing pebbles if you want to know where he’s at.
Basically, I’m on the lookout, and I give the snake its space. Simple as that. Enough of my snake rules (for now). Let me show you the lovelies that I ran up in Wood Canyon on Monday. The first one was a friendly guy, good for a close up:
The second guy was not so good for a close up:
Miles run: 10