I seem to be racking up the wildlife on the trails lately. Out at Reedy Creek Park for the Monday five miler I was running with a group when the leader thrust out his hand and pulled us up short. “Copperhead!” He warned and I then spotted the light honey patterned body and tail of the reptile slithering off the narrow singletrack and into the undergrowth mere paces away. I was thankful to have been running second, although my eyes are always concentrated down and roaming the trail ahead I’m not sure that I would have spotted that pit viper against the leaves, and I certainly wouldn’t have known it was a venomous snake.
Out at the White Water Centre on Tuesday night I was huffing my way through the humidity along the South Trail, turned a corner and came to a screeching halt thanks to the large black snake hanging out on the path there. It looked at me and gave me a good shake of its tongue.
I wasn’t so fearful of this one as I knew exactly what it was. I’d come across his sort before. It was just a very large black rat snake; non venomous, can give a nasty bite but isn’t life threatening. I fumbled for my camera to take a photo as I waited for it to uncoil and hopefully continue out of my way. Before I could get a shot off though a couple of mountain bikers came hurtling by. “Watch out for the snake!” I tried to call, and succeeded in just making them jump by my own presence as I hadn’t been visible around the corner myself. They did miss the snake, by inches, and the scaly fellow stopped lazing around and hightailed it off the path in a blink. Thankfully it didn’t streak off in my direction and instead disappeared into the trees on the other side of the path.
It was another morning at Crowders yesterday and I’d met up with Stack, Ashley and Joshua to attempt a “run to the border.” From Crowders Visitor Centre we planned to run to the NC/SC border with an obligatory tourist stop at King’s Pinnacle along the way, then back, adding on a loop around the lake and turnback trail for good measure. Basically a long run preferably in the region of twenty miles, and without the added distraction of yellow jackets this time.
We had an excellent run out to the Boulders Car Park with a good mix of varied conversation as we constantly swapped running mates and leap frogged position in the pack along the way. After refueling at Boulders Ashley turned back as she was only self scheduled to run fifteen miles that morning, while the chaps and I ploughed on the short distance to our designated turn around point. It really wasn’t that much further and we had thought we ought to then be able to catch back up with Ashley and regroup at some point on the return leg, but she flies down the trails and we didn’t see her again until back at the cars.
Unfortunately I was having rather a hard time running yesterday as with thoughts of the Blue Ridge Relay challenge ahead of me next month I had fairly intentionally started the run with dead legs from a high mileage (for me) week, including a five mile trail run the night before. I’d managed to shake those off and then had to struggle with the humidity soaking my running attire and creating a nasty chafing situation beneath my skirt. Unpleasant and quite painful. I wasn’t doing too badly though and even defeated my nemesis long gravel track by running all the way up it. A small personal victory and two fingers to that hill. I was keeping up with the guys admirably until around mile fourteen my Garmin database declared itself full and I had to stop to figure out how to create more space if I wanted to record the remainder of the run. The lads continued on and I found myself running alone for the last leg. This wasn’t a problem at all and I rather enjoyed just carrying on solo, though I did gingerly tackle the way back up the wooden steps where I had encountered the jasper last Sunday.
As I was charging back down the mountain, having left the ridgeline trail behind and back on the fairly perilous steep and rooty stretch of the pinnacle trail I was just hitting the point where Sideshow Jesus said I’d run over a snake last time I was out there with him when a group of hikers yelled at me to stop! “Rattlesnake up ahead!”
Oh blimey! Yes, I stopped. Very quickly. Cautiously I continued down the trail to investigate, incredibly cautiously as I couldn’t see any snake up ahead. I had to query with the now gathering walkers as to where this reptile was exactly, but when they pointed it out, oh yes, right there in the middle of the path. And it was definitely a rattlesnake. Crikey I’m glad there had been a bunch of slow ambling people enjoying a morning hike out there to warn me. I wonder if I’d have spotted him myself, or at least spotted him in time. I had been fairly trucking it down the track.
Luckily the timber rattlesnake wasn’t about to just make himself comfortable in the middle of the trail and after a short wait he slowly began to slide and shimmy his way off the path and down the hill. Eventually we were able to make our way past. Though, I still gingerly clambered around on the verge off trail and well away from it, especially his fangs, but not without stopping for a good gander and a Kodak moment. I was actually quite fascinated and as long as my imagination doesn’t get the better of me, feel privileged to have come across one. They are apparently actually quite shy and like to remain hidden in the forest. Sadly (or thankfully!) I did not get to hear its tail in action as timber rattlesnakes are loathe to rattle unless provoked. Although their venom can be fatal, and thus I was rightfully nervous to be so close to one in the wild, they are generally not aggressive.
Continuing on I eventually caught up with Stack on the Turnback Trail and we joined Ashley and Joshua who were already trying to cool off back at the cars. Surprisingly none of them had seen the snake on their way down. Chafing and my close encounter tipped the balance and just three miles short of my goal I decided to call it a day.
Of course, I’ve left the scariest creature encounter until last. As Andrea and I tackled the Renaissance Park trails on Friday night we came across this terrifying little beastie getting in our way: