+ramapo Posted July 31, 2006 Share Posted July 31, 2006 I was hiking in the Newark watershed yesterday and had my first snake encounter since I was about five years old when I almost stepped on a copperhead, back in the day when rattlesnakes and copperheads still called Hawthorne, NJ home. I was on the red trail headed towards Needful Things from the fire tower. I was moving at a good clip, and the trail was fairly open, although it was grassy. As often the case when hiking, I was kind of in a zone, thinking about stuff while enjoying the day, just like driving on autopilot. Now and then I'd make some noise to alert any bruins in the area. Suddenly I was jolted into awareness by a very loud rattle. Just ahead, not more than a handful of steps, was a good-sized rattlesnake lying in the grass in the middle of the trail. Had he not warned me, I would've been upon him in seconds. He was not visible to me when I heard the rattle. I backed off to a safe distance and watched to see what he was going to do. I took a step forward to get a better look and he rattled again. Then he started to move, not into the brush but down the trail towards me. So I backed down the trail searching for a detour. I found one and moved very carefully around his location and then back to the trail. What was a bit disconcerting was that when I got back to the trail, I couldn't see him any longer, so after a very careful look, I quickly moved out of the area. Of course I didn't have my camera with me, although I don't think I would've gotten much of a picture anyway. I certainly wouldn't have gone any closer to him to get a portrait. But he was a good-looking snake. Snakes were on my mind for the rest of the hike. I've been thinking about my situation had I been bitten. I was alone, and at least a good 30-minutes from my car, not that hiking out would've been a sensible option. I guess a call to 911 would've been first on the list, followed by remaining calm and still, while waiting for assistance. Some googling today brought me to a page for the Sawyer Extractor, which is a simple vacuum device that will remove up to half the venom. Might not be a bad idea to carry one, just in case. Although the chance of getting bitten is slim, I consider myself warned to be more aware. I always knew rattlers are out there but there's nothing like a face-to-face encounter to make you take them a bit more seriously. The problem is that snakes are made to blend into the environment so you're not supposed to see them. Also, I just read that the snake's rattles don't work when wet. I hope the snakes stay in their dens when it rains. So be careful out there, not just when searching rocks but along the trail at all times. It's not just the bears and mountain lions that you have to watch out for. Quote Link to comment
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