Running with Rattlesnakes

I’m a month away from my next marathon (Duke City Marathon – Albuquerque, NM) so I thought I’d do an easy run today since I have a three hour run tomorrow.

I decided to head up Fowler Trail and check out the fire we had in Eldorado Springs last week. About 15 minutes into the run I hit a “Mtn Trail” sawhorse with a sign that said the trail was clue due to fire and trespassers would be subject to a fine or jail.

I’ve spent enough time the past few weeks at the Boulder Jail visiting my ex-running coach (yeah – it’s a little uncomfortable the first time you go to visit someone at a jail and the reception person asks you for your drivers license and social security number – at which point she types it into a computer and the only thought that can possible run through your mind is “why am I here – am I SURE I want to do this?”) So – I decided to head up the trail away from the fire thinking that I could at least explore a part of the trail I never run on. The trail eventually looped around and it occurred to me that I might be able to hook up with Fowler Trail on the other side of the burn area.

Suddenly, I was in the middle of the burn. I knew the smell since we’ve had a fire on our land and near us on Walker Ranch and I’d hiked the area extensively. It’s always amazing to be in the middle of a burn with some trees completely toast and others untouched. I kept going, thinking that if I was going to get arrested, it was kind of too late to turn around. Fortunately, I was paying attention because within a minute of entering the burn area, I heard a rattling noise. I looked toward the noise and saw a coiled rattlesnake 10 feet away (upon which I was closing fast.) I’m not sure if it’s possible to execute a 180 degree turn in mid-stride – but I came as close as humanly possible.

After my heart rate settled down, I realized that I had almost run right into a rattlesnake. I wound my way back down the trail, noticing every stray sound. I’ve run extensively in these mountains over the past two years and never seen a rattlesnake (although logically I figured they exist since one of the trails I run is called “Rattlesnake Gulch Trail.” I was daydreaming about snakes (what else would you expect me to do after almost stepping on one) when I came across another one! This one was stretched out on the road – I couldn’t tell whether it was alive or deal – but I didn’t stick around to see.

The fire must have flushed out these rattlesnakes from their normal home. When I got home, I decided it was time to cool off with a “Colorado Rattlesnake” (although I don’t drink, so I merely thought about it while I composed the following Rattlesnake Haiku.)

A rattlesnake sat
In front of me on my trail
I ran away fast

  • When I was 5, we lived in Oxford, Mississippi. Lots of interesting things happened while we lived there — four things stick very firmly in my head:

    1 – My mother found me playing with a baby cottonmouth one day and astutely pointed out that it, not me, was wrapping it around my jumprope
    2 – I was on a walk with my mother and friend when the tree that we had just passed under fell down across the road (pretty sure this was as a wicked storm was descending on us)
    3 – My mother, for some reason, drove with me from Oxford to Memphis to pick up my grandmother from the airport in the midst of Hurricane Camille (not a genteel storm)
    4 – We went on a long, long walk down a very quiet country road with some friends one day and the road was littered — truly littered — with rattlesnakes of all sizes and state of alert. One was flat, about three inches in girth and was stretched across the road so that you could see neither head nor tail, another was coiled and rattling and having a good old “I’m gonna strike you any minute” attitude and many, many more were in some state of sun induced stupor.

    Memory number 4 has left me with a near phobia of snakes. The snake fear was further enhanced by the “farm” (sharecropper house and plot of land) that my great grandparents lived on in Benton, MS just outside of Yazoo. They had so many rattlers that you just heard a kind of distant hum not unlike we have here at night with crickets.

    Rattlesnakes scare the pants off of me. I’m glad you made it back out okay and … I’ll add that to the list of things to worry/know about at the Feld residence! I already have a healthy concern about those pesky mountain lions!

  • I never moved so fast in my life when I came upon a rattler while quail hunting in the high desert above Palm Springs. Just about stepped on him when his loud rattling- so fierce and violent it sounded more like a big “HSSSSSSSS”- (kind of like pressurized gas rapidly escaping from a valve) instinctively turned me around midstep.

    Talk about an adrenaline rush!

    You haven’t lived until you’ve almost stepped on a rattlesnake!

  • Steve Tobin

    rattlesnakes are in the air…

    Diane and I were hiking at the Open Space Region left of the reservoir (OSMP). I was making conversation and chatting about the absence of rattlesnakes and how I ran all summer up here, blah blah.. We ascended the plateau on Eagle Pass and next thing I know she is screaming, reaching for my hand (i have a scratch mark from the nails), and running with high knees! I casually looked back (probably stupid in retrospect), hearing a rattle in the middle of my neck turning. Diane had been 1 foot from what appeared to be an adult rattlesnake (it was rather thick).

    After the hike she remarked “I never thought I would ever encounter a rattlesnake”. I mentally chuckeld, “great, one more experience in her book!”.

    we had rattlesnake visions all night. there is something about a snake encounter that gives to stickiness.

    it sure has me wondering about future runs, though…hmmm….

  • I want to say it was a very wild post (do not take it negative) Bcz I never faced any snakes..I had some fears like Fear of losing my memory,in that another fear is fear of facing and snake..I do not know what will I do that time…I like snake in zoo only….

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