Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Close Encounter With A Rattlesnake

I had my first hair raising experience out running the mountains today. In the past I've encountered bobcats and wild turkey, which made me pause. The bobcats crossed my path but kept going. The turkeys I see all the time, so nothing different there, with only once where there was a whole herd of them that wouldn't get out of my way and only me moving slowly towards them making a lot of noise moved them out of my path. I would rather not encounter the claws and beaks of wild turkey.

But a rattlesnake is a completely different situation. I was about 5 miles into my 2 hour run (which was 10.33 total miles) and I was running downhill, pretty fast, on a wide open fire road that was in the low 80's and very dry. Luckily for me I tend to run with my eyes always watching well ahead of me, wanting to be aware of what I am running into.

At first it looked like a stick, and with about ten feet before me I realized it was moving. I froze. Fear pricked the hairs on the back of neck and on my arms. It was a rattlesnake, and not just any rattlesnake, but a young one. The snake stopped and put its head in the air and stared at me, but its rattle wasn't making any noise so I felt somewhat safe.

As I patiently waited, the rattlesnake eventually made its cautious way off the fire road, all the while keeping its head pointed at me. All I could think about was a coworker's story about her husband out running and being bitten by a rattlesnake. He had to have 40 vials of antivenom and his leg almost was amputated. Scary. And this was a young or baby rattler, which meant it was worse because it wouldn't regulate how much venom it released if it struck.

Anyway, I waited for a wide circle of safety of at least ten feet. I've read that snakes can only strike as far as their body length, and this one was only about 3 feet, so I felt safe.

As I slowly walked forward I felt the heat bake me as my body heated up without the movement. Finally, I sprinted forward and away from the snake only to see the snake's head shoot straight up and its rattle started going crazy. As hot as I was I went cold instantly as my hair exploded all over my body. That was the first time I felt frightened out on the trails. Rattlesnake bights are very dangerous, especially when I was a mile and a half away from the nearest paved road.

A runner's nightmare averted. Scary stuff.


Nancy said...

Oh man, just reading that is going to give me nightmares. I am so afraid of snakes. I'm glad everything is okay. Do you run with a phone???

Brian Hawkinson said...

Yeah, it was pretty scary. Before this I been told of a coworkers husband who was bitten by a rattler had to be in the ICU for 5 days, several incisions to release the pressure and had something like 60 vials of antivenom. Scary stuff. They almost thought they had to amputate his leg at one point. Really scary.

I don't run with a phone, but I should, especially something like that because where I was at probably wouldn't have had other runners/walkers for a while...

Oh well. Just wanted to say again, great job on the 10k on the 10. Your virtual races are always fun.

Andy B. said...

Good eye spotting it before it was too late. I have only seen one rattler while out on trails in the last 20 years hiking, running and fishing - and that was almost a month ago while hiking with my wife down near Palm Springs. And it was about 5 feet off the trail under some brush and heading away from us.

Certainly no fun to almost run on top of one, especially the little ones, who, as you mentioned, don't have the ability to consistently regulate the amount of venom the inject.

Jill said...

Oh my gosh! YIKES! I have never been running with a rattlesnake, but I did have one following me up a steep hill on my bike. Dennis was behind me and saw the snake slithering alongside me, but decided to tell me after the ride because I would've probably freaked out and fallen off my bike if he told me then,