It’s good to know the rattlesnakes are out of hibernation. The best way to learn this is from your friendly neighborhood hiking blogger. The worst way is from the tips of their hypodermic fangs.

My way was in the middle: blundering about in an interesting rock formation at Joseph D. Grant County Park, taking one step too many and hearing that just-like-on-TV rattle, looking down and seeing a striped gray viper about a foot from my ankle, slithering off toward a hiding place where he rattled like crazy for another minute or so while my heart fell back down out of my throat after the “holy shit it’s a rattler” realization sank in.

This was my first rattlesnake run-in. I’m glad to have it out of the way, so now I’ll know the difference between what one might sound like and what it does sound like. There are always rattling noises on the trail, but there is only one rattlesnake rattle. Good to know, as they say.

More rattlesnake facts here, which includes these rattlesnake do’s and don’ts:

  • First, know that rattlesnakes are not confined to rural areas. They have been found near urban areas, in river or lakeside parks, and at golf courses. Be aware that startled rattlesnakes may not rattle before striking defensively. There are several safety measures that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of startling a rattlesnake.
  • Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas. Wear hiking boots.
  • When hiking, stick to well-used trails and wear over-the-ankle boots and loose-fitting long pants. Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.
  • Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark. Step ON logs and rocks, never over them, and be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood. Check out stumps or logs before sitting down, and shake out sleeping bags before use.
  • Never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers. Rattlesnakes can swim.
  • Be careful when stepping over the doorstep as well. Snakes like to crawl along the edge of buildings where they are protected on one side.
  • Never hike alone. Always have someone with you who can assist in an emergency.
  • Do not handle a freshly killed snake, it can still inject venom.
  • Teach children early to respect snakes and to leave them alone. Children are naturally curious and will pick up snakes.

OK, now these public service details have been aired, let’s look at some pictures from Monday’s hike (sorry, no pix of the snake, I was too busy being frozen in fear):

Pretty sky

I started out at the Twin Gates Trail Head. Had some nice sky — was hoping for signs that wildflower season had arrived, but didn’t see much up this way. Saw lots of California poppies on the way to the park, though, so they’re out there.

Decrepit truck

I had to stop by and check out this old truck again. The doors are all bullet-riddled, as if Bonnie and Clyde had made their last stand right here.


I did see a few wildflowers … mostly buttercups, and a few of these purple lovelies (might be a checkerbloom, though I can’t say for sure).

Rock formation near Bass Lake

After wandering around on the northeast end of the park, I headed down the road toward Bass Lake, where I wanted to take a few more pictures for a future column about Grant Ranch. There’s a little parking area a mile or so down the road where you can turn in, and crawl over a break in the fence designed to foil mountain bikers, and wander down toward the lake. I saw this rock formation and decided to check it out.

It’s where the rattlesnake and I had our little “hi, how are you” encounter.

Another look at the rock formation

How it looks from a distance. It had some tagging and graffiti on the rocks; perhaps cosmic justice will be visited upon the next youthful miscreants who run afoul of the resident rattler.

Bass Lake

Bass Lake. Hmm, wonder if it has any bass in it.

Grant Lake

With my Bass Lake visit over, I stopped by Grant Lake to see if anything photogenic was happening. If you look real closely at the bottom of this picture, you’ll see a couple Canada geese. I feel no compunction about annoying Canada geese, because they need to be reminded that they are migratory birds and that nice ponds like this one were not put here for their comfort and convenience. Fly on, geese, I say.

I did my patriotic duty...

One of them obliged when I got a bit too close.

(Incidentally: mad props to Fedak for donating his old camera to the blog.)