Monday, May 26, 2008

@#$%&**!!! Snake!!

Hope you all had a good weekend. Ours was good, just interrupted a couple of times. Kind of a southwestern version of unwanted encounters. Saturday was devoted to chores- getting the swamp cooler hooked up and ready to go, pulling a mort of weeds, watering, mowing, and all those little things.
Sunday, A, the dog and I took the morning and headed up the mountain behind town.

Our exercise was cut a bit short by running into this fine fellow:

At least he had the grace to start buzzing right away. It's been a while since I've run into a rattler and I'd nearly forgotten the full body adrenaline rush that sound can inspire. Cue bad words and me skipping backwards yanking 95 pounds of confused Chessie behind me. The weather is nice enough for snakes, but I was a bit surprised to see him at what must be at least 6000 feet in elevation. Wonder what particular type? Not diamondback. (Edited to add- I think he's a Northern Black-Tailed Rattlesnake).

Since I was seeing snakes under every rock, and there were lots of rocks, we headed back down the hill. Booker is training for the summer backpacking season:

That evening, we blew up to one of my very favorite venues and caught Blue Rodeo. I'm happy to report that they are every bit as good, if not better, live as they are on album. The whole scene was definitely something white people might like, with lots of folks up by the stage, bobbing their heads and tapping their feet. No judgment, I was happily bobbing & tapping along, noting Los Alamos Barbie & Ken in the audience. All in all a very good time, great weather, lovely patio, good music, very good beer and a superior type of bar food. Get the Asian slaw as a side. That place is one of the things that makes me happy I live where I do.

Today we headed up into the mountains, looking to dodge holiday crowds and find some water. The dog was not impressed with the plan-

We had just bailed off the trail to head down to the water when we ran across three and a half feet of bull snake, an unwelcome surprise at 8000 feet.

I didn't think any snakes hung around up there, but he was big around as a ball bat in his middle.

I used the encounter to engage in a little snake training with the dog, as I saw the reptile first. Once Booker noticed him, I yanked to dog downhill, shouting and doing my best to instill a little aversion. Still, my equanimity had been lost. Soon, though, we got down to the creek.

Runoff swollen, but fishable. Swimable for sure.

Cold water? No problem:

That stuff was snow 10 hours ago.

I'm going to need to work with the dog a bit on the concept of fishing, though. He takes my interest in a stretch of water as a reason to check it out first hand:

Little mountain trout don't rise to the fly under these circumstances:

In the end, a beautiful outdoors day and a tired dog:

Hope everyone else fared as well.


Matt Mullenix said...

A good outing! Enjoyed your account.

mdmnm said...

Thanks, Matt!

Steve Bodio said...

Definitely a blacktail, our prettiest rattler.

Which, I hate to tell you, I have seen at 8000 feet here-- had to move it off the trail to get the dogs by.

Rock rattlers go even higher but generally in the scree rather than on trails and are tiny, secretive, and hard to find.

mdmnm said...

Thanks, Steve! I appreciate the definite id. Diamondbacks and prairie rattlers I know, this was my first blacktail.

I knew rock rattlers lived way up, but tend to stay away from scree slopes and figured I was a bit far north for them anyway. After reading about them in Querencia, I've been curious, but not enough to try to hunt one up.

For the others, well, live and learn. I was under the erroneous impression that 8k was snake free, apart from a few little garter & water snakes. Twenty-some years of knocking around up high and now I find out!

Henry Chappell said...

Great post, Mike. I always enjoy Booker photos.

I had an unsettling snake encounter myself recently. A cottomouth dropped off a limb and nearly landed on top of Maggs and Cate. Maggs, having been bitten by a copperhead, knew to leave it alone, but I had to throw my binoculars at Cate to get her to back off the snake far enough that I could grab her without getting bitten myself.

I'm a bit sketchy on snakes and altitude. About twenty years ago, I nearly stepped on a rock rattler up in the Davis Mountains. I don't know the altitutde, but it was pretty high for Texas -and a very cool June morning.

mdmnm said...

Thanks, Henry!

Cottonmouths freak me out a bit with their aggression. It just doesn't seem right when one will swim toward a boat many times its size. Dropping off limbs is also very un-cool. Glad you, Maggs, & Cate came through it ok.