Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Where the Wild Things Are

If you ride MTBs or trail run, you've undoubtedly come across some wildlife along the way. It's just a fact you have to deal with when heading out "into the wild" as it were. I've been fortunate to see deer, bobcats, coyotes and all manner or snakes; some of which I've inadvertently run over. Today, while out riding I had yet another encounter.

I was riding a favorite single track in Los Penasquitos Canyon called "Tunnels"; so named because the Oak Trees are of a small stature that they grow across the trail, creating a tunnel effect. A nice place to ride in the day because it keeps the temps cool and a challenging place to ride at night due to the technicality of it.

I was riding at a moderate pace, went to make a corner and hit my breaks before I realized what was happening. My eyes fixed on the tail of a red rattlesnake directly in the trail in front of me. I hollered "WHOA! SH!T!" as my front wheel stopped mere inches from the snake. I gracelessly unclipped and beat a hasty retreat about 15' away. He (it?) had just eaten and I could see the squirrel-sized lump about mid-body on the snake. I'd guess 5-6' long with as many rings on his rattle.

I backed off and waited for him to move. Luckliy I was downwind, but the trees made the wind swirl, alerting the snake to my presence. I'd get a few warning rattles until the wind resumed it's prevailing direction: more of a "leave me alone, I just ate" than "I'm mad and going to bite you".

I snuck as close as I dared and snapped a photo with my phone, but the snake is so well camoflaged he simply looks like a pile of dirt. Scared the crap out of me when I almost ran him over!

Stupid wide-angle phone camera...grrr.

Anyway, after I overcame my fear (and my heart rate dropped out of the stratosphere), I concluded he wasn't moving off the trail and there was insufficient room to pass without being in danger of getting bit. So I bactracked. I needed the miles anyway. So keep your eyes peeled for animals next time you're out ridin', runnin' or hikin'. You never know what you may see.


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