Monday, August 25, 2008


This is inspired by jo(e)'s latest post, but so loosely and tangentially that it seems silly to put it in the comments there.

At one point in my AT hike, I caught up with my friend Fishdance, who was standing in the middle of the Trail, stock still. (Mo, were you there, too?) There was a large black snake spread all the way across the path several yards ahead. I stopped next to him and we discussed the snake for a second or two. It was big, seriously thick around the middle, and looked perfectly happy to stay there all day. It looked like it had nothing planned at all except to stay there all day. What to do?

Diva Dog, who was usually a little behind me, caught up. We called to her to stop, but it was too late. She passed us in her dog backpack.

Her paw came down on the snake, the pads spreading slightly as if she were stepping on a smooth stone.

The snake's gleaming, muscular body flattened out slightly under her weight.

Her paw came off of the snake.

The snake returned, unchanged and unmoved, to its original shape.

Diva Dog turned and looked back at us, curious about why we were focused on her, why we were stopped, and what we were making all the fuss about. Deciding it was simply her, and delighted at all the attention, she started to move back towards us, still showing no sign at all that she was aware of the snake's presence. Anxious that she not step on the snake again, I stepped across it. We all did. The snake took no action to move out of the way.

Clearly, we had given it no reason to change its plans.


Songbird said...

I love this story! Did I know you were a thru-hiker? Pure Luck (his trail name, in fact) was a Southbounder in 2000. I think Southbounders are a special kind of crazy...

S. said...

Southbounders are a seriously special kind of crazy. I understand a lot about Pure Luck just from knowing that about him!

I'm a halfway thru-hiker. I blew out my arches at mile 85 and hiked on them another 915 miles, give or take. Well, actually, give a lot, since town miles don't count in the total and town miles sometimes hurt way more than trail miles. But it was intended as a thruhike and I signed all the registers as a thru-hiker, so I tag it that way on the blog. But the actual result was Springer-Front Royal + Greylock-Killington. I gave up when I was hiking such short days in New England because of my feet, and needing so much time off to recover, that we weren't going to make Katahdin before the mountain closed, even skipping the middle 700 miles (with the somewhat mushy intention of flip-flopping to get them in after Katahdin.)

Moishe said...

I wasn't there that day; I think it was probably when I was trying to catch up. Grim Reaper & I had a similar experience, but we had the added disadvantage of being more-than-slightly inebriated, and without dog. This was the day of the wedding, and I remember the snake being at least 10 feet long and 4 inches thick. It wasn't -- I have a picture -- but in my memory it was anaconda-enormous. We ended up bushwacking about a quarter of a mile around the thing.

jo(e) said...

I've seen snakes in my own woods who would just freeze -- some kind of survival instinct, I guess? Once I scared a pair of snakes, who both froze into position, and I sat down to watch them and see how long it would take before they'd move again. Then I got bored, went for a walk, and came back -- and they were still both there, in the exact same positions.

Songbird said...

I believe the picture of Pure Luck that jo(e) once admired was taken in North Adams, just before he headed to Greylock. Holy crap was he in good shape!
I'm so sorry about your arches, what a bummer. I am a non-athlete, though I tried to be a hiker until I blew out my ankle, no kidding, getting into bed...