One of the very first dates I went on with my wife, was a walk up the Bitterbrush trail. We walked along the trail through the rolling meadows below the rock garden. I'm sure we were talking sweetly and discovering new things about each other, typical first date stuff.
Suddenly! Just a few steps ahead of us in the trail was a coiled and rattling, prairie rattlesnake. Looking back on the incident, I'm glad my first reaction was to pull her back to safety and take a protective step forward putting myself between her and certain danger. Another option would have been to push her into the weeds and run back down the trail screaming and flailing my hands. Really glad I didn't do that, but you just never know how you'll react when put to the test.
|Actual photo from a friend in Colorado|
Now, I'm familiar with the policy regarding bears that says: You don't need to run faster than the bear, only faster than the people you are with. But, I don't think this holds true for rattlesnakes. An average rattlesnake has an 18 inch striking distance and can strike at a speed of 108 inches per second. Since this is Boulder County, let's just assume our snakes strike even faster than average. They probably train harder and eat only lean prairie dogs. Just because you are riding past the snake fast, if you are within 18 inches or so...it's not fast enough.
Another time I was climbing up in the rock garden with my friend Josh. He was ahead of me, because, well... we were climbing. Suddenly! Bam! right in front of me was a big thick rattlesnake all snaked-out and making its way across the trail. I stopped and let the snake pass, then I caught up to Josh and learned he hadn't even seen it. For it to come out between us meant that it had to be right at the trail side as he passed. Again, within striking distance.
I read an Outside magazine article titled Rattled from the June 2018 issue. It was about a guy who was bitten in the leg. It said each vile of antivenom cost $18,000 and over three days he used 18 viles of it. This really got me thinking, if I had 18 viles of antivenom, I would start micro-dosing myself until I developed an immunity to rattlesnake bites. Then I would sit out on the Pearl Street Mall with a guitar case full of rattlesnakes and let them bite me in front of a crowd. That would be a pretty awesome street performance.
On average over 70 people are bitten by rattlesnakes in Colorado every year. As I write this 2019 has already had three bites so far. Of course the odds of being hit by a car or even bitten by a dog are higher than being snakebit. The point is, these awesome predators are going to be out on the trails next summer, and maybe if you're lucky you might see one. If you do, pay it some serious respect.
If you want to read a true survival story and see some gnarly photos, read this article.