On Friday Bear had another new experience in the desert when he saw his first Mojave rattlesnake. I use the term “saw” rather loosely as though I was keeping a close eye on the trail in front of us, it’s quite narrow in this section and as we rounded a kink he walked right past it and I, following close behind, only saw it at the last and instinctively hopped over it.
After my heart started beating again, with the snake so docile and Bear so well behaved, I took a few moments to watch it from a safer distance. It was on the small side, motionless apart from an occasional flicking of the tongue, and seemed to have a green tint to its coloring. The funny thing is, I only see hints of the green in the pictures, perhaps a trick of the light or a trick of the fright. It was coiled up on top of its tail and never sounded the alarm with its rattle. After a few quick pictures and taking a moment to revel in its beauty, we warned an approaching cyclist and continued on our way.
I love peaceful encounters with rattlesnakes but I don’t need to come that close to one ever again. I wasn’t sorry we were taking a different route back to the car but I am thankful I got to watch it for a little while, it was only my second time seeing this species and it’s such a treat to watch them when you both feel safe.
This Mojave rattlesnake appeared large in the viewfinder but was a safe distance away when I began to photograph it. Even so, as it crossed the trail and started moving steadily towards where I was (having given it a wide berth and gone off-trail to let it choose its path), I pulled the camera away from my eye occasionally to get a clear view of how far away it actually was. It was well aware of me and headed over to my right so I sat still until it chose a bush to curl up under, then I continued up the trail.
I haven’t hiked as much the past month as I’ve been too tired to get up before sunrise and drive to the trails, usually only hiking once per weekend. I didn’t go at all last weekend because some chronic health issues flared up but after sleeping in yesterday this morning I was back on the trails and met this lovely Mojave rattlesnake, a new species for me. But it presented me with a dilemma I hadn’t expected.
It was at the edge of a wide trail and we saw each other from a distance so I was able to leave the trail and give it a wide berth, but a couple of mountain bikers came around the bend and I didn’t know if I should try to warn them. I didn’t have much time to decide and my hunch was they would be best to pass at speed, I figured the snake would leave them alone and in any event the trail was so wide they could stay out of striking range. I was afraid if I tried to flag them down they’d slam on the brakes and end up near the snake and possibly make the situation worse.
Neither of them saw the snake and passed close by but thankfully the snake hunkered down each time and they continued down the trail unaware. The rattler relaxed and made its way across the trail towards me. It wasn’t being aggressive so I backed up even further and let it choose its path, taking a few pictures as it slithered over to a dense bush and curled up in its shade. I’ll have to ask some riders what they would have wanted me to do, some people really dislike snakes so perhaps ignorance is bliss if the likelihood of an attack is quite low.