Saturday, May 3, 2008

Rattlesnake Phobia

When I began my exile in Texas back in 1999 I think the #1 thing that concerned me about Texas (at that point in time) was I knew rattlesnakes, copperheads and water moccasins lived in Texas. Along with tarantulas.

On the west side of the mountains, in Washington, there are no poisonous snakes. Eastern Washington does have rattlesnakes, but I never saw one. I do remember a ranger at Sun Lakes State Park once warning my brother and me of a bunch of rattlers ahead in the canyon we were climbing around in.

When I was first in Texas, at my first abode, I had to walk out a long driveway to get my morning paper. It took me along time to quit worrying I'd encounter a snake.

I was swimming in Lake Grapevine in July of 2002. I knew there were water moccasins in the lake. Suddenly a reptilian head popped up in my face. I did not know I was able to swim as fast as I did. The temps were well over 100. Forgetting that, I ran out on the metal floating dock to see if I could see the snake. I was jumping up and down cuz the deck was so hot. After a minute or so of hot footing it a big turtle popped up instead of a snake. They can bite you too, it just isn't poisonous. I've not been back in Lake Grapevine.

And then in 2003 I went to the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup. Sweetwater is a town out in west Texas, about 200 miles from my current location. At the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup I saw hundreds of snakes. I heard many rattling. At first I was unsettled by all the up close and personal contact I was seeing with the snakes, but I got used to it.

I'd bought my first video camcorder the week before I went to Sweetwater. The YouTube video below is the first video I made. Hence the goofy bad titles at the start. But, even though this was my first video, and with it only being on YouTube for a few months, it is by far my most viewed video with almost 2000 viewings.

The rattlesnakes at Sweetwater were the first I'd seen in Texas. My snake fear had had some reinforcement via copperhead and water moccasin encounters at a Indian Village Park in Arlington. And I've had many non-poisonous snake encounters at River Legacy Park. You can go here and see a photo of a huge snake blocking my way at River Legacy.

So, one week after hearing all those rattles rattling at Sweetwater I was biking the Extreme Trail at Cedar Hills State Park's mountain bike trail in Dallas. I was nearing the top of Expletive Ridge when I let out an expletive, not due to the steep, punishing hill, but due to the no mistaking what it was loud sound of a rattlesnake rattle. I looked to my right and there it was, bigger than any I'd seen in Sweetwater, its rattle in fully erect position and shaking hard as the snake slithered away. I suspect it'd been napping on the sun warmed trail when the sound of me coming up the hill woke it up.

The rattlesnake encounter sent my adrenaline into overdrive. The section of trail after Expletive Ridge went through a marshy, tall grass area. Prime snake territory it seemed to me. I pedalled as fast as I could to get through it and was real happy when I reached a much broader section of trail.

I have not been back to Expletive Ridge since, because of the rattler encounter, plus the fact that the trail was destroyed by a 13 inch rain and has only recently re-opened with newly built trails.

It amazes me how my snake phobia has so greatly diminished over the years. It doesn't even cross my mind anymore, even when hiking in a real wild place like Tandy Hills Park. Of course, all it would take is one close snake encounter and my phobia will be back.

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