Life’s full of tricky snakes and ladders.
-Steven Patrick Morrissey
I spend several hours each week hiking in our local mountains.
I am particularly fond of Corriganville Park and the mile loop of amazing scenery it provides to clear my head and find inspiration.
With Luc now homeschooling, we decided to incorporate our mutual love for the outdoors to fill his physical education requirements. The daily hike we take together has been such a blessing and a wonderful learning tool.
We’ve been studying erosion, rock cycle, local animals/ tracks and native plant identification in the hills as we conquer trail after trail together. There is nothing like living in earthquake country to provide for some excellent geologic examples all around. These treks also seem to be the place where we have our best conversations as well.
This particular day we had decided to do the loop hike and take the trail that ends at a small adjacent neighborhood park for a bit.
As we set out, we were discussing the particularly warm winter California had experienced, the drought we are in and how this would impact the local plants and animals.
We watched silently as a coyote traversed the side of the mountain to return to the safety of it’s den. The same den we have watched from a respectful distance for the last three years and have been treated to the sounds and sights of pups each Spring. I photographed the bare meadow that will begin to transform into a lush yellow sea of wild mustard in the weeks to come, as it does every year. We made comments about how we think this year’s snake sighting season will go.
We both dislike snakes.
Scared of them might be a better description to use but being people who enjoy nature, an occasional run in with a less desirable indigenous creature is an inevitable but acceptable risk for time spent outdoors.
We’re visiting their home, otherwise I’d be rather offended if they were cruising through my living room.
We stay on the trails, wear appropriate clothing/shoes, carry a walking stick, cell phone, water and small first aid kit at all times. We are cautious and head out as prepared as we should for a hiking adventure.
Luc climbed all over the play gym at the park and went down the slide a few dozen times before we returned to the trail and back to our truck.
Side by side we went up the trail laughing and truly enjoying such a beautiful day.
There was sticks and leaves that had scattered along the rocky portion of the trail we were passing through from recent stormy weather. I scanned ahead up the trail as usual but didn’t notice anything unusual as we went along. Luc tends to look at the path just before him as we walk but he didn’t catch it either.
In mid sentence he started screaming and running back down the trail yelling.
All I could make out was the words, “It bit me!”
I look down and there was a small snake desperately slithering toward the safety of a nearby rock.
Instantly I thought about the fact that baby rattlesnakes don’t have rattles yet and inject often more venom than the full grown scarier versions do. It is about time again to be seeing babies in the mountains. I knew I had to get a better look at it so I could inform the hospital and found that it was nonvenomous. I’m not a reptile expert but I believe it was a rosey boa.
Now, I need to calm Luc down and take a look at the bite.
“It hit me. It hit me, not bite me,” He says pointing down at his shin yelling at me. “H-I-T.
(Score one for my craptastic hearing impairment giving me a near heart attack.)
As he stepped upon the snake that was out sunning, it whipped it’s tail back at the leg attached to the offending foot and slapped him. It all happened in seconds and right before his eyes.
“It slapped you?” I said with a nervous laugh trying not to make it any bigger of a deal to him, even though the thought of getting hit by a snake makes me want to take a shower and scrub several layers of snake cooties off.
“Mom! The snake slapped me! It was a Snake Slap! I was slapped by nature! There is nothing funny when anything in wild slaps people. You don’t laugh when lightning smacks someone, or when a fox goes all rabid on your neighbor or how about a racoons wearing a man skin caps. I bet you wouldn’t think that was so funny,” He mournfully wailed at me.
I found none of it funny… well except perhaps the racoons wearing man skin caps. That provided a really comical visual.
He had a right to feel a tad wilted about this experience and we both got shocking reminder to always remain cautious. Being aware of our surroundings at all times is the best way to avoid an unpleasant encounter.
He decided that he was done hiking for that day but he also came to the conclusion that if he were the snake, he would have bit someone that squished him so he was lucky to find one so benevolent as to not leave a dental imprint upon his leg.
I was afraid that my hiking buddy would be scared off the trails for a bit. I wouldn’t blame him given that he’s running on a higher anxiety level than the norm anyway lately.
Everyone was treated to the Snake Slap Story that night in graphic detail.
The next day he was ready to not only hit the trail but he wanted to go back to the same spot again.
He learned that these type of snakes stick to the same small territory and chances were very good that we could run across him again in the years to come. They actually are rather nice and some people keep them as pets but not these people, absolutely not.
He didn’t want to be scared of doing something he loved so much so he decided that we needed to go back to the same spot and see what we could have done differently so next time no one has to incur the wrath of the squished serpent.
Be mindful, my friends.
We forget that we share these amazing open spaces with a lot of wildlife as we trek along the trails in our own self absorbed little worlds.
It was an experience that served up a lot of lessons and now became the family joke.
Kind words spoken between siblings…
“Don’t make me snake slap you!”
“I’m as serious as a snake slap.”
There is now even Snake Slap-The Game… it is similar to playing “Lava”.
Several fears were conquered that day.
We both jump at the rustle of lizards in the brush like we’re performing a comedy sketch now but we have too much left to see and trails we want to wander down to stop because nature is sometimes inconvenient.
Tread lightly and if you must step on a poor defenseless snake accidentally, may it too just smack you.