The Rattlesnake in Palo Duro Canyon

mountain biking
Group Mountain Bike Ride

The Rattlesnake had just woken up from its long winter’s nap and was just trying to slither peacefully over to the big flat sunning rock when all hell had broken loose. As it was, just moving anywhere until he’d had a little time to unwind was hard enough, but the still sleepy reptile had tried to giddyap especially quickly across the trail opening once he’d felt the vibrations approaching. Unfortunately for him, lethargy was all he could muster along all four feet of his bone, sinew and diamond patterned skin and moving any faster was just not something he could do at that particular moment.

Just as he was beginning to slide into the safety of the Mesquite brush and deeper grass on the far side, he sensed a blur appear off to his right, followed by a profound thud and an almost simultaneous flash of even more blur, which this time was almost on top of him.

What was going on, he wondered? Something deep in his snake gut told him to turn and fight, but at the same time another something was telling him to slither faster, keep going and get out of there. But, alas, he couldn’t make his body do either. Was he under attack? Why hadn’t whatever it was swatted or bitten at him? Should he strike back or run? In a word, the Rattlesnake had questions.

He couldn’t resist the urge to at least try to see what was happening, and so, stopped for a moment, turned and looked back as if he could see anything. He couldn’t figure it out. His first thought was to do nothing until he knew more about what was going on, but almost automatically his instincts began taking control of his actions and he found himself halfheartedly going into a coil. He knew that the action would at least offer him a measure of protection and put him in something of a fighting position, should it come to that.

His head felt heavy and wobbly as he raised and moved it around to various angles in hopes of getting a better perspective on whatever it was that was creating all of the commotion. He could feel a profound lack of energy flowing through and permeating every inch of his body, as he strained to see whatever it might be. He knew that by this point, he should be feeling like a loaded spring, but in reality, he felt more like an overcooked noodle. He was accustomed to having most animals respect his fighting abilities and maintain a safe distance corridor. He was aware, that if nothing else, he had that going for him. Whatever the blur was didn’t need to know that he wasn’t really ready to fight. He concluded that in this case, he might as well use the aura associated with his appearance, to his advantage.

Lou, from Connecticut, was the blur. He’d taken over leading a Brit mountain biking group ride after a trail lunch, and was thinking about all sorts of things as he rode out in front, but long Rattlers stretched out across the trail was not one of them. He came around a corner and there it was. Simple enough. A long snake, like the ones he’d been hearing stories about, completely filling up the trail. He did what most people would do in such a situation and squeezed his brakes hard. The abruptness and sheer violence of the way his adrenaline took over, caused him to immediately lose control of the situation and fall to the ground, and with his feet still clipped into and attached to the pedals. On the positive side of the situation, he did miss falling onto a nearby Prickly Pair cactus when he went down. But, once on the ground, he was sort of trapped between the snake and cactus and somewhat immobilized by his still connected bike. The snake was only feet away and as he lay there suspended in a sort of purgatory, it turned and looked back at him.

The two were face to face, literally. Lou didn’t know a whole lot about Rattlesnakes, but was certain enough that getting bitten in the face was not a good thing, and so did what he needed to do and swung at it, only partially hitting it. The snake still wasn’t exactly sure what it was seeing, but did know what it was feeling and didn’t like that part of it. And so, he came to the conclusion that his bluff had been called. The Western Diamondback blinked, turned and headed completely into the protection of the nearby Mesquite thicket. This time at least, the time and place had conspired in everyone’s favor.

mountain biking
Jumping Over a Snake

Author: David Appleton

I was born and raised in Texas and currently live in the Texas Hill Country, spent some 30 years living in the smack dab middle of Colorado, and have spent a lifetime adventuring and leading others on adventures in many parts of the wild world.

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