Friday, May 21, 2010

Snakes and Lizards on Cinco de Mayo

May 5: A few hikers passed me before I hit the trail, which rather surprised me since I started pretty early myself. One hiker I didn't recognize blew past without even noticing me, and I assumed he must have been listing to an iPod or something. (Later, I would learn it was a fellow from Israel named Tomer.) Then Hiker 816 blew through, though he stopped long enough for some pleasantries. And finally Charmin, who I had briefly met in Warner Springs (and Amanda joked, "Can I squeeze you?" and she replied, "Please, do not squeeze the Charmin," but that was the full extent of our conversation.)

Charmin, it turns out, is from Switzerland and speaks with a German accent, I guess it is, and I'm not sure how I didn't pick up on the accent before. We spoke a little bit, then she headed on.

I finally got my stuff together and started hiking, and I didn't go more than a mile or two before I found Gandolf and Radar camped, quite literally, directly on the trail. They had continued past the road thinking there would be places to set up camp, but they didn't find any and camp on the trail instead. They seemed surprised at all the people tromping through their camp so early in the morning. "We thought we'd already be hiking before anyone arrived," they explained.

Further up the trail, I caught up to Charmin again and we hiked together a bit. She admitted being a little nervous about rattlesnakes, and I tried to assure her that they weren't a big deal. They don't like to eat people--we're much too big for them to digest, and they'd just as soon slither away than attack. And heck, all this time, I'd only seen one rattlesnake anyhow. It's not like they're around every corner.

And just as I finished uttering those words, she yells, "Ack! Snake!" pointing to the side of the trail I had just walked past. Sure enough, there was a rattlesnake, resting only an inch or two off the side of the trail. I practically stepped on the thing and didn't even realize it. Charmin said her adrenaline was really pumping, and somehow I found myself impressed that someone who didn't speak English as a native language would know the word adrenaline. She was still ten feet back from the snake, never close enough to be bitten by it. I, who passed within mere inches of it's head, didn't realize the danger until I was ten feet beyond it.

So I didn't get too excited about the incident. The "danger zone" was already behind me. But I don't think I did any good trying to reassure Charmin about rattlesnakes. The snake still hadn't moved--at all, which kind of surprised me. Usually they slither off. So we took pictures from a safe distance, then Charmin went off the trail around the snake and we continued hiking.

I hiked faster than Charmin, though, and eventually left her in the dust. I caught up with two other hikers, Vicki and Dennis, and accidentally scared Vicki half to death when she thought the noise behind her was a GIGANTIC rattlesnake chasing after her.

Those two were hiking pretty slow as well, though, and I eventually left them in the dust as well. Not even a  half hour after the first rattlesnake, I darned near stepped on a second one. There were a bunch of sticks in the trail, and it was in a nice, sunny spot, and I thought, "If I were a rattlesnake, I'd hang out here." So I stepped into the area slowly, looking around for lurking snakes. None on my left, none of my right, none ahead of me. Then I looked down, and there was one, not two inches from my shoe.

Now THAT scared the crap out of me. I yelled, jumped what seemed like 20 feet high, and quickly got away from it. Okay, my adrenaline was pumping now! Stupid snake blended in so perfectly with the sticks on the ground that I totally didn't see it even when I was looking for one! At least Charmin wasn't around for that incident. I've probably done enough damage to her regarding snakes as it was.

I stopped at a spring for lunch, with Hiker 816, and waited out some of the hottest part of the day under my tarp. (There wasn't much shade at the spring.) The next reliable water source was more than 20 miles away, so I loaded up with 9 1/2 liters of water, an unholy heavy weight, let me tell you, and finally started up the trail again. I also took off my shirt and hat and hosed them down with water, following Hiker 816's lead. It was COLD, at first, but once I started hiking, it felt positively wonderful. They dried off within a half hour, though. Didn't last long. *sigh*

Turns out, there was another water source a couple of miles up the trail, nicknamed "the guzzler", which I didn't even know existed. Charmin was already there, filling up, as was Hiker 816. It was Hiker 816 who peeked into the water--it was a tank covered by a plastic and cement shell, so thin it was breaking, and found a dead lizard floating in the bottom of it. Yum. =)

Charmin is a vegetarian, and we asked her about if the dead lizard in the water was a problem, and she explained that she doesn't really have a problem with the eating of animals, but rather the conditions that they are harvested in. If she raised her own animals humanely, she'd be perfectly happy to eat them.

"So free-roaming lizards are okay to consume?" I asked.

"Yes," she answered.

That really amused me. =)

Further down the trail, I met Alex, a Scottish man, and finally Sam and Ryan, who were hiking southbound. They told me that the next two water caches had plenty of water, and I joyfully poured out half the water I was carrying. Two reliable water sources up ahead! Woo-who! They also said some trail angels had set up a grill and were cooking hot dogs and all sorts of wonderful things at Highway 74. Maybe if we were lucky, they'd still be there the next day. *fingers crossed* One can hope!

I saw a third snake late in the afternoon--not a rattler this time--filled up at the next water cache, then hiked with Charmin another mile up the trail since she said there were supposedly good campsites just ahead. She was right too. We set up camp at a beautiful overlook among huge rocks. Hiker 816 and Alex decided to push on another eight miles or something to Highway 74. Not sure why--they wouldn't get there until after dark and I was pretty sure trail angels wouldn't be grilling hot dogs that late in the evening. And trying to hitch a ride (to Idyllwild) didn't seem like it was going to work very well after dark. We waved goodbye to them and wished them luck, though.


Anonymous said...

Cinco de mayo? It's the 21st, dude! We gotta get this blog a little closer to real time!

-- Kirbert

Anonymous said...

Ryan...did you scream like a girl???

Anonymous said...

I was hoping to find out what lizard-infused water tastes like...not crazy enough to try it myself.
Thanks for letting us enjoy your travels while we sit back on our couches! Stay safe! Still need to meet you one of these days!
-Morris Five

Anonymous said...

Every vegetarians have their own reasons for being a vegetarian. I would of passed on the lizard water, but I am not hiking on the PCT.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

You dumped water in the desert??! gasp!
Hopefully you watered the plants with it. Of course you did. You're a good person, right?

Holy Cripes! That first snake you saw was a Southern Pacific Rattlesnake. Gorgeous a distance! You were very lucky to get that close to it, and the other snake, too, without being bitten.
My guess why it wasn't moving or attacking is that the snake was too cold and was trying to warm up in the sun.

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers