Location- Next to giant boulder on side of trail
Distance Traveled Today- 16.7 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 144 miles
Weather/Temp- Clear, 80s
Pain level- low
Days without shower- 5
Today was hot, hotter than usual it seemed. We got a later start, between 7 and 8 am, which was aggravating, because it meant less hiking time for Katana. I woke up at 6 to my alarm, but feel back to sleep, and didn’t wake back up until the hot sun was on my face.
I got a good 6 miles out of the 10 total we did before noon, from Katana. That ten put us at an unexpected water cache, where we refilled, and decided to lay low for a couple hours. I just wasn’t messing with the heat and sun today at high noon.
I set up my hammock rain fly as a tarp to create shade using Schweppes’s trekking poles. Myself, katana, Schweppes, and another hiker named “Hollywood,” laid underneath it until almost 3 pm, before heading out. My dreams of a 25 mile day evaporating by the minute.
It was stifling hot still, but the plus side was that the wind had picked up considerably, more so than it had since I’ve been on the trail. It was definitely doing its part in combating the heat. This desert stretch would be incredibly more difficult if the air was dead every day.
Around 4:30, Dillon was leading, I was in the middle carrying katana, and Hollywood was about 15 paces behind me. I had just rounded a tight horseshoe curve in the trail when I heard the unmistakable, raspy vibration of a rattle. I spun around quick to see Hollywood take two or three, quick leaping steps further down the trail. “Snake?” I quickly asked. “Yup!” He just as quickly replied through a tight grin.
I set katana down, leashed her to my pack, called to Schweppes, who was still hiking, then made my way towards the sound, about 50 feet back down the trail.
The rattler was about 3 feet long, maybe slightly less, and a very light beige color, with a darker, mottled, yellowish tan pattern on its back. The only species that came to mind was the “Mojave,” I can’t be totally sure though.
I used my staff to manipulate the snake back onto the trail, pinned its head, then quickly grabbed the neck with my right hand, and the bulk of the body with my left hand. This was my first west coast rattlesnake, and my first hand caught rattlesnake since my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2014. I surprised myself at how quickly I’d captured it, too quickly for Schweppes to even pull out his phone to record it. In a way, this was a good thing. It meant I was focused only on the snake, no hesitations. Hesitating is dangerous when it comes to venomous snake capture; you have to react exactly as everything unfolds (correctly), before the snake has a chance to get the upper hand, or you have a chance to second guess yourself. If you second guess yourself, just let the snake go, or don’t mess with it in the first place. That’s exactly how my last rattlesnake capture went in Pennsylvania on the AT; I left it alone because I hesitated and second guessed myself, even though I’d done it many times before.
After some pictures and videos, I released the snake a little ways off the trail and continued on. I kept Katana on leash for the next 4 miles, until we decided to camp in a field of giant boulders overlooking the sunset.
The wind continued to pick up, so I set my hammock up as a ground bivy for some extra protection and crawled into bed, Katana once again curled up by my feet.
I don’t know what the plan is for tomorrow. We’ll hit a road in 8 miles that has a cafe on it; I know we’ll go that far at least, but after that…we’ll see
Go to my book, “Racing Winter on the Pacific Crest Trail”