I hiked a new trail last weekend. I chose a steep, demanding trail as opposed to the easy trail. They intersect high up the mountain, but the part I like is more challenging which means it has a lot less people, and therefore more wildlife. Normally during the early summer I look down while hiking, as rattlesnakes are pretty much everywhere, whether you see them or not. And normally I don’t wear headphones because I want to hear the rattle if I’m near one.
But on this particular day I had been watching my feet while missing all the cool birds and animals around me. So I started looking up. Now, as you have probably guessed, if I’m looking up I can’t also be watching for snakes. I looked down to change the song on my music player and realized that my next step was going to land on the back of a rattlesnake.
I jumped back, quite startled but then immediately puzzled. As I backed up a foot or two, I realized the snake was making absolutely no effort to move, to defend itself, or do anything for that matter. Once I realized he wasn’t coiling up to strike, I moved a little closer, and politely requested that he move off the trail so I didn’t have to go all the way back down. Apparently he was quite comfortable on the toasty warm trail, and didn’t seem interested. I also noticed that he was fat, but only in one small section. It was then I understood- he was relaxing after a tasty (I assume) meal. But that still left me with a dilemma.
I stepped a little closer, and again asked him to move. He had his rattles partially lifted up, in an “I’m a way-too-cool LA rattlesnake, and I’m not actually going to rattle for you”. As a musician in LA, that struck me as very similar to how crowds in LA react to a band. People are too cool to actually clap, and this snake was too cool to rattle. I guess he was a hipster. When I noticed this, I became more emphatic in my requests that he move.
And move he did, very slowly. Unfortunately, he moved to the steep side of the trail, and he was too full to climb the cliff, so he just kind of ambled to the side and stretched out. I did some quick mental guestimates on whether he could strike me as I passed on the narrow trail, and decided to go for it. The hardest part was walking slowly so as not to disturb him. I passed without incident, thinking he was probably the most mellow rattlesnake I’d ever seen.
The funniest part was my encounter with too middle-aged Beverly Hills type women coming down the trail, very loudly. As they got to them I mentioned there was a rattle snake down the trail a little ways. They asked me if I was sure it was a rattlesnake. I said yes. They countered with “we saw a couple of black snakes and thought they were rattlesnakes but they weren’t”. Of course not, because rattlesnakes aren’t black, and have rattles, hence the name. I mentioned the rattles to the ladies, and they countered with “but did he rattle at you?”. They obviously didn’t believe me. As they walked away I thought about suggesting they reach into the brush to see if it really WAS a rattlesnake.