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I keep a watchful eye out for rattlesnakes when I’m on the trail. But, I’ve never once seen one when I was really looking for them. A watched pot never boils, I suppose. But, the few times I have seen them, I was, of course, completely absorbed in a really good trail run or a really fun mountain bike ride. This weekend is a case in point.
My family and I went to North Table Mountain for an early morning hike with the dog. We hiked all the way to the top of the mesa, tooled around the rock quarry, explored the maze of trails, and then turned around to come back down. It was a crisp, clear November day where the sun was hot, but the air was cool. Way too cool and way too late in the season to even consider worrying about rattlesnakes. So, with my daughter at my left shoulder, and my dog at my right, we took off running down the trail at full speed.
A few hundred yards down the trail I reached my right foot out in front of me and from the bottom edge of my eye noticed a squiggly line directly underneath it. It happened so fast I didn’t have time to even formulate a complete thought about what it was. But, those millions of years of built-in instincts knew. My right foot was coming straight down on the rattlesnake, but I knew enough to just stretch out my leg a little further to step over it. As my foot landed on the ground just inches on the other side of the snake I straddled the diamond-backed beauty midstride between my legs for a split second. I searched for a stab of pain in my leg.
But, the thing didn’t move. My five-year-old daughter and my dog were just a couple feet away from me. I couldn’t believe we made it past the snake without it even moving. I also couldn’t believe I had the presence of mind not to cuss like a sailor in front of my daughter. Not that it wouldn’t have been appropriate, but still. I walked back up the trail to get a closer look at the rattler. It was alive, it’s tongue flicking slowly. The cool temperatures must have dulled it’s reflexes. We were lucky. Really lucky. Good learning experience for my kid and good reminder to me. Keep your eyes peeled!
Steve Lemig is the founder of Wilderdad. He's been a lot of things over the years. Skateboarder. Mountain biker. Climber. Snowboarder. Bike mechanic. Forest firefighter. Woodworker. Creative director. These days he's a runner, writer, husband, and father. He writes stories to empower dads and encourage them to share outdoor adventures with their kids as a tool to strengthen families and build respect for the environment. He has also been the Communications Director at Road Runner Sports for the last 13 years.