Home > Hiking Trails > Rattlesnake on the PCT

I hiked north, up the mountains, figuring that I didn’t need to spend any more money and so what if my phone died for a day or two before I could charge it.

Only the cold that I’d been fighting since Lake Morena had other ideas.

I camped two miles up the trail in a dry creek bed or wash, far thirstier than usual. I finished off almost a liter of water before I knew what I was doing. And that was a problem since I was only carrying two liters.

So I check to see where the next water source is and am discouraged to find out that it is over 20 miles away. My liter wont last the night never mind 20 to 25 miles.

The night would have been perfect if it wasn’t for the intense pain every time that I swallowed. And my head was so congested that laying down sometimes felt as if I was suffocating.

But at least it was warm.

I popped a couple of aspirin and tried my best to sleep through it. In the morning I was up but not motivated for the walk back down into Shelter Valley. Two early morning hikers surprised me though, I didn’t think that I’d see anyone all day. Truth was I’d considered leaving my tent right there only feet off the trail. They were out for a day hike but they were loaded with water. Not that I had much out here anyone would want to steal.

I ended up rolling my sleeping bag, sleeping pad and silk coccoon liner up inside my tent then wrapping that with my OD green tarp. I stashed it further up the dry creek bed, out of sight of the trail and under some rocks and branches.

I only packed out my clothes and food to bring into town. Mostly I have to figure out how to pack out more water without using my hydration bladder.

On the way down the mountain I pass another two female hikers. Unless one of them has to pee and gets off trail at the exact point where my stuff is hidden, stashed, they’ll never even suspect that it is there.

And still I worry.

Under the bridge at Scissors Crossing someone has stashed two cases of water. I drink a bottle and plan on refilling it in town. Worse comes to worse I could carry up a couple more on my way back.

Egg, ham and cheese on a croissant with out of date coke again at the Stagecoach Trails RV park. At least the sandwich is freshly made this time and I can refill the liter bottle of soda with water on my way out.

I charge my phone, of course, a never ending process, and sit until the AC forces me outside to warm up. Even then I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to be at camp too early and have people hiking by staring at me, or worse, talking to me.

Between the tourists and the Boy Scout Troop out for a hike I just want to drink and forget the world. Boy Scouts with bad troop leaders. One too out of shape to hike meets them here to buy them all ice cream. The one that hikes with them doesn’t know how to wear his pack. They are uncoordinated and unorganized, often contradicting each other in what they tell the kids.

Tourists complaining about the heat in the shade retreat to their cars to roll up the windows and run the air conditioning. I have to walk away from the building when they start using spray on sunscreen. The chemicals on the breeze drifting towards me are over powering.

Part of me wants to leave. Part of me says that there is no reason to hurry. Sitting here, doing nothing but occasionally hopping on their wifi that they don’t know I have the password for, I buy a grilled cheese sandwich. Tomato, provolone and garlic cilantro sauce.

I’ve spent double what I’d hoped to spend. I think I have $8 or $9 left in cash, but at least I can’t spend that in the desert.

Hiked back to the trail. As soon as I gave up on hitchhiking the very next car pulled over, and without my thumb even being out.

Sat under the bridge for a while. Drank another one of the stashed waters and ate my last two hot dogs from yesterday. Met a nice enough couple from British Columbia who live near Manning Park where the trail terminates. They had just hiked down, heading south, and said that I must have hidden my tent and sleeping bag well because they never saw it. They also hoped I hadn’t caught what the wife had, same symptoms, and it took her a month to shake it.

I hiked up with m umbrella open when the wind wasn’t crushing it, and mindlessly, almost, stepped on a rattlesnake.

It was within inches, and I may have got him if he hadn’t been paying attention and coiled up to strike me. There was nowhere really to go. One step left and I was off trail on a very steep slope down which I did not want to fall.

That first step sideways after I’d noticed the rattlesnake put him just about at waist level, maybe a little below, and now only two feet away. He looked to be about three feet long, and a rattlesnake can strike at least the distance of it’s body length.

But before any of that processed, my umbrella was between us like a shield and I was climbing up off the very steep slope and back to the trail.

Other than the first rattle in surprise he didn’t rattle again until I took out my phone and got closer to take his picture. I watched his tail flick back and forth for a minute then told him to relax.

He stopped rattling but stayed coiled and facing me. I’m going to have to pay a lot more attention to the trail from now on. His colors blended right into the landscape. I only hope he stood out enough to make a decent Instagram photo.

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