Tuesday, May 8, 2007

On seeing the first rattlesnake in spring

5/7/2007 - Forecast high for the day is 90.

Started on my 11 mile trail route on the south side of Schabarum Park in the Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Preservation Authority, wearing my old Montrail Masai's which I hadn't worn for at least a year. The sun was already out at 6:30 in the morning. The first little climb goes ok. I always have to warmup my lower legs in this area but today they're a little better than usual.

Next through the spot where there really isn't a trail - the wild mustard plants are just beaten down from a few folks passing through. I'm a little worried about stepping on a rattlesnake here when it gets warmer but usually rattlesnakes like to be exposed to the sun. This section drops down to the Skyline Trail, a.k.a.
Juan Bautista De Anza National Historic Trail. As I curve around the first little ridge, I realize it's covered with wild mustard and its yellow flowers. The next ridge is covered with plants with purple and white flowers. Coming around this ridge, I see a skunk walking toward me on the trail, so I stop and say "Good morning." No reaction so I say it again. This time, the skunk looks up and sees me. Then it decides to continue foraging off the side of the trail. That works for me so I proceed on my way.

As I pass behind Schabarum Park, I see the horses. Someone is out feeding them this morning. I see the usual assortment of morning hikers, some of them familiar faces. Then comes the long climb back up to the ridge. I always say something to people as I'm coming up on them so they won't be startled. Sometimes they're startled anyways.

Up on the top of the ridge, I see a guy with a Boston Terrier and tell him about the skunk and let the dog sniff my hand. Then comes the long descent to the farthest point on the loop; the horse crossing by the Buddhist temple. The houses next to Hacienda Road have some dogs. I pass by the spaniel on the descent undetected but the German Shepherds notice me. After the turnaround, the German Shepherds are gone but the spaniel comes out and barks. If they weren't behind fences, they'd probably be a lot friendlier.

Now I'm on the last big climb. My legs have been dead recently and this is where I start to feel it. No wait, the previous climb was slow too.

Back on top of the ridge, I see a little 10 inch or so gopher snake. I check the tip of the tail first (no rattle) and then the head (not a triangle). It isn't interested in moving unlike the San Bernardino Ringneck snake I saw last week. I start counting curves on the trail so I can tell the guy with the terrier where the snake is. When I finally see them (4 left hand curves later - from their point of view), I tell him about the little snake but not the location.

Now I hit the turn where I take a different route back. There is a steep little climb and then the dirt road starts winding around before the long gentle descent starts. This is where I see the first rattlesnake this spring.
It's about the same size as the gopher snake and a similar color. I check the tip of the tail. It has a little amber rattle, about half the diameter of a pencil eraser. I check the head. It's a triangle. This snake doesn't want to move either. It's just trying to warm up in the morning. I see the tongue flicker out twice, then I continue on. I take it easy on the descent.

When I turn off the main road onto the last side road and start the last little climb, I enter my favorite part of the route. I'm not sure why this is my favorite but it's close to the end, it's shaded, and the surface and contours of the road are nice. I've run barefoot in this section before. When I get to the final downhill, I try to avoid stepping on the ants at an active anthole in the road. A couple of minutes later, I'm back at the car and find that I'm going to be late getting to work.

The nice thing about running trails is that even when the running isn't so good, the run itself can be rewarding.

No comments: