As we often do when we are camping at City of Rocks New Mexico campground – smack dab between Deming and Silver City – we decided to hike the “Hydra” trail to get in a moderate 4 ish mile walk.
So we just got through the bulk of the work to getting our new camper – and we’d actually slept in it the last couple of days. I was multitasking – a nod to pre-retirement days – talking on the phone and walking with Linda on the Hydra. I’m trying to work with the bank rep on the line to correct a $1500.00 +/- error that would help our efforts to get some serious hiking done in Canada and Alaska over the next several months. Suddenly Linda just stops walking and is staring into a thick bush beside the trail. I finished my conversation as quickly as I could – maybe a minute or two- then turned and came up behind Linda. She whispered that she’d heard a rattler! She also said she thought she new exactly where it was. We were peering from the trail into the bush, when I noticed movement coming at us, very fast – it was a snake, head up and moving extremely quickly right at us. We both got into reverse (HIGH) immediately and put a few feet between us and this aggressive critter. Once he got us backed off, he dodged toward and into a hole that we had been to close too for his druthers. He wiggled in while we struggled to get our camera phones operational – an exercise doomed to failure as we rarely take pictures with the phones – and when we do it’s in very controlled and sedate circumstances. This was the first time in literally months, that neither of us had our cameras with us. Needless to say, what adrenalin we have, was pumping full bore and we were pretty excited about the whole occurrence. Linda thought she might have got something on her phone, and she got a very quick 2-second video – here’s a link:
I had nothing except the excitement of seeing my first rattlesnake after traipsing a few hundred miles of desert in the Southwest over the last several years. We decided to mark the spot where we had seen him – I estimated that it was 1/3 to 1/2 mile on the main trail from the Pegasus camping area connector trail.
We then walked the 3/4 mile or so to the visitor’s center and told the Volunteer and Ranger of our sighting and what we had done to mark it. The Volunteer told us, he’d go looking as soon as his shift was up. They shared with us that they had relocated 25 rattlers in the last year from camping and trail areas in City of Rocks and some 80 slitherers from Rock Hound State Park – a place we also frequent, 30 miles away. Once we got that info and were done sharing what we thought was exciting and what they considered as relatively routine news – we continued our hike with about 2.5 miles left to get back to our new Nash RV.
When we got to the cut off for the Pegasus area where we were camped we decided to do the additional bit to assure that our marker was still there and perhaps take a photo of the hole. I kept looking at every hole we saw near the trail looking for “snake tracks” or a smoothing of the hole edges from a snake crawling in – never found a noticeable trace. but when we got back to our marker on the trail, I found it to be exactly .32 mile from the entrance to the Pegasus camping area connector. I was very carefully looking and getting ready to take a picture of his hole, when all of a sudden I saw him (her?) – a mere 3 or 4 feet away. He was laying very still and not acting aggressive at all so I attempted a photo.
We probably will check out there tomorrow to see if he’s around – warmer weather is coming and if we learned anything with this encounter it was that Rattle Snakes (we believe this is a Prairie Rattler) can move pretty quickly – much more than we thought – in mid 50 degree temperatures. A valuable lesson learned!