Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rattled

This photo has layers. In the top right corner you see Altadena in the distance. I think of the next layer as the row of sagebrush that lines the path. Then there's the sunny part of the path, then the shady part. Then, in the shaded foreground, see that curved mark like someone took a wide stick and marked the dust? It's the path left by a rattlesnake. You may have to enlarge the picture by clicking on it to see it.

This time of year if you want to hike during the warm times of day you have to watch for snakes. It's just the way things are. They live here and so do we. They watch for us, too, and avoid us just as we avoid them. Case in point: John and I were walking Boz last week when we saw one on the path after it had seen us. The reason we hadn't seen it at first was because it had stopped moving to wait and allow us a wide berth.

What you don't want is the situation where neither you nor the snake is paying attention. Whoa! Surprise! Biting! Excuse me! Ouch! Poison! Sorry, man, I didn't realize it was you. Too late.

I never saw the snake who left this mark on the Sam Merrill Trail. Another hiker told me, breathlessly, that she'd seen it go into the underbrush. She was afraid it would turn around and come back. But I'm pretty sure once that snake got wind of us, he wasn't coming out until until every last hiker was long gone.

(This one's for AmyR.)

21 comments:

Jilly said...

I love the way the path draws our eye into the photograph. So agree about snakes. We have them too and they run away when they hear our footfalls. Sometimes I find a discarded skin on the track - rather beautiful too.

Dina said...

Oi, that path would be way too narrow for me and a snake.
But I love your philosophy.

Bellis said...

When I scrolled down your lovely photo, the hairs on the back of my neck rose in horror - rattlers on the Sam Merrill trail! It's lucky that the San Gabriel variety is rather lazy and polite - I came across one crossing the trail in front of me, and it kindly rattled a warning before and after. Once, to my horror, my elderly dog peed right next to one, thinking it was just a large stick, but all it did was blink its eyes in disgust. Afterwards, my friend who writes hiking books told me they can't bite unless they're coiled up to strike - I hope that's true.

Petrea said...

I wonder if that's true about coiling. I think so--hope so. If you stepped on one and you were near its mouth, could it bite if it couldn't coil? I don't know.

But you're also right about them being lazy and polite.

Cafe Observer said...

I think as much as possible humans need to avoid trekking into the "homes & backyards" of the wild animals, just as we would don't want these snakes, cougars, bears, etc., coming down into ours. And, certainly building homes into the foothills is ridiculous. Humans have already polluted much of the oceans for the sealife.
It's their land, their part of the planet. A green thing to do.

I pray the endangered species list could shrink rather than increase.

Vanda said...

Some weeks ago there was large rattler in Emir's Garden in Griffith Park. I think it since have been relocated to a less traveled part of the park.

I was hiking there yesterday, took the long road to Bee Rock, and two deers crossed my path. As the sun was going down the coyotes started singing. It was nice that you can be surrounded by the city 360ยบ yet have all that wildlife around you.

AmyR said...

Wow, look at the trail/bellyprint! This trail sounds perfect - a lovely view of Altadena and snakes. I think I may have to check this out tomorrow. I will, of course, be extra careful. :D

Margaret said...

I don't think I've ever seen a snake's trail. Wow.

-K- said...

I'm too too too s-c-c-c-ared to enlarge the picture.

[Picture of Cowardly Lion goes here.]

Lynn said...

I'm a little scared too. :(

Petrea said...

I understand your concern, Cafe, and I share it. But I wouldn't worry too much about the Sam Merrill Trail. It's well-loved, but not busy. Generally folks are reverent there. But it can't hurt for them to be in nature and learn more reverence.

Vanda, Bee Rock has a special place in my heart.

I hope you enjoy the Sam Merrill Trail, Amy. I don't know if it's challenging enough for you!

K, are you chicken? Snakes like chickens.

Petrea said...

Oops. Sorry, Margaret. You'd never really notice snake trails if you're not looking. But when you hike on a hot and sunny day, I recommend looking.

Lynn, you don't have to worry about snakes. All you have to do is sic your cat on 'em.

Andreea said...

I lived in San Francisco for six years and your photo reminds me so much of my hiking days around Bay Area. I did happen to run into a rattler when hiking at Castle Rock in Santa Cruz mountains. Like Bellis' my encounter was with a polite one; it just rattled a warning before we passed.

Thanks for nice words of encouragement for my blog.

J+P said...

Boy, what Cafe Observer said … second that!

Ms M said...

I'm a little bit snake-phobic (yes, chicken :)); I think I'd have a hard time continuing on a trail that had the evidence of a large snake nearby. There are rattlers here, too, once you get out of the city, in the desert or up in the foothills.

USelaine said...

A natural history teacher long ago told us that using a walking stick is helpful to all concerned. As you thunk it onto the ground while walking, snakes can hear/feel the vibration getting closer. It gives them time to get away safely from you.

The same teacher said they can only strike one third of their length, and do NOT sail through the air at you or anything like that. The coil gives them an anchor to work from, but like you said, if you step on them stretched out, they are perfectly capable of reaching back or over to bite.

Fun observation, that track!

Shell Sherree said...

I'll do my best to stay calm if I see a snake close up - we have our fair share of them in Australia too, and generally they are more scared of us and will move away unless they feel threatened. Not that I plan on testing the theory. :)

CARBON CHEMISTRY said...

I always appreciate your ways of analyzing the photographs and the philosophy or attitude inbuilt. Any how it’s an excellent observation….

"Whoa! Surprise! Biting! Excuse me! Ouch! Poison! Sorry, man, I didn't realize it was you. Too late"... real expression Love it.

Petrea said...

Andreea, you're welcome. I've never visited Bucharest and it looks so interesting. It's great to have a daily photo blog of it now.

J, no more hiking with me? I must continue alone, then.

Ms. M, see Elaine's comment and take your walking stick. I like that idea. Because that's what they want to do--get away. They have no interest in attacking us. You don't want to see them too close up, Shell. A third of their length isn't much.

Hello, Carbon Chemistry! Thanks for your visit. If you say that's "analysis" and "observation," I'm not going to argue. You're the scientist.
(I tried to leave a comment on your very interesting kitchen safety post and couldn't enter the word verification, just fyi.)

Italo said...

che bello!

Hughes said...

Snakes creep me out, I wouldn't want to see one while hiking. Great shot of its trail though!