Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Day 97: Rattlesnake Wrestling!

July 26: During the night, the wind picked up dramatically! I woke up and rearranged a few of my items to make sure nothing would blow away. Setting up my tarp would have been helpful to break the wind, except there was absolutely nothing around to attach it to, so I just lived with the wind blowing through camp.

I managed not to lose any gear, however, and packed up in the morning and hit the trail just before sunrise. I wanted an early start to take advantage of the cooler weather in the mornings and today I expected to get into Rawlins, so the earlier I started hiking, the earlier I'd be in the comfort of air-conditioning and restaurants!

A couple of miles into the hike, the trail passed a park where I was able to throw out my trash in some garbage bins. Although it wasn't that far into town, it's always nice to get rid of any amount of weight. At least I wouldn't have to carry this trash for an extra 10 miles.

The trail continued following gravel roads, pretty much all the way into town.

The highlight of my day came a couple of hours into my hike when I noticed two rattlesnakes on the trail, rising up from the ground like they were being controlled by a snake charmer. Then they twisted around each other and wrestled a bit, flipping each other over before rising off the ground like the snake charmer regained control of them and repeated the exercise. Over and over again.

I wasn't really sure what was going on. These were the first rattlesnakes I had seen since New Mexico, although I knew they were definitely in the area, and I'd seen a lot of rattlesnakes over the years. Not just in New Mexico earlier on the trail, but also on the PCT, Arizona Trail and countless day hikes over the years. I've never seen any snake do anything like this performance.

As I approached closer on the trail, they stopped their wrestling briefly and eyed me, but they didn't slither off nor coil up and shake their tails in warning. I stopped to continue watching, and eventually they went back to wrestling.

It seemed like some sort of mating ritual to me, but I could only guess. Later I would find out that they were actually two males fighting over a female snake, probably hidden in the bushes somewhere nearby. I never did see the female, however.

Wrestling rattlesnakes! What an exciting find!
I wound up watching them for about 20 minutes in all, hypnotized by the spectacle. It was such unexpected and bizarre behavior! I was curious how long this would last and what would happen after they finished, so I patiently just waited and watched. (And filmed, of course.)

The day was scorching hot, however, and just standing in the sun I was sweating bullets. After about 20 minutes, I couldn't take it anymore. I needed to keep going. I didn't know if they'd be at this for another 5 minutes or 5 hours. I'd have waited another 5 minutes, but definitely not 5 hours! After 20 minutes with no sign of them slowing down, I called it quits and continued on my way... but what an interesting spectacle! That alone made it entirely worth it for me to not have taken the road walk into town.

Perhaps a miles or so outside of town, the trail finally connected with paved roads, which I followed the rest of the way into Rawlins. Along the road walk, a man driving a pickup truck slowed down and asked if I wanted a cold water. Sure!

He pulled over and brought out an ice cold water bottle. I wasn't hurting for water--I made sure I carried plenty to get me into town--but it was miserably hot and so was the water I carried. This was ice cold and I downed it in about two gulps. It was such a treat!

Ice cold water for trail magic! Worth its weight in gold!
On the way into town, I noticed the official red-line route seemed to do a weird zig-zag through town that added a few unnecessary blocks to the route. Not seeing any good reason for that, I did take a shortcut here over a bridge crossing the railroad tracks. It wasn't until I got to the other side of the bridge and saw a sign saying that pedestrians weren't allowed on the bridge that I understood why the zig-zag was required. I never saw a sign saying no pedestrians from the side of the bridge I came, but I'm not sure if that's just because I missed it or if it was because there was no sign at all. I wasn't going to hike back to find out, either.

So I did cross that bridge illegally as it turned out, completely by mistake. But at the same time, it struck me as a stupid rule. The road didn't have any sidewalks which I'm sure was part of the rational for it, but it was a really wide bridge! It could have had four lanes of traffic going over it! And it wasn't like the bridge was busy. I maybe saw four cars cross while I was on it. There was plenty of space for pedestrians and I never felt like it was even remotely dangerous to walk on the road. Stupid rules. I was kind of glad I didn't follow this one. =)

Oh, NOW they tell me after I've already crossed the bridge!
Once I was over the bridge, I basically arrived in the downtown core and pulled out Google Maps to lead me to post office. I had packages to pick up including (fingers crossed!) my long-lost laptop! The last time I used it was back in New Mexico. It probably didn't even have any charge left on it at this point.

So I arrived at the post office, and the lady at the desk asked if I was thru-hiking the trail. Well, of course! Then she went into a spiel that I just had to make sure to stop at the chamber of commerce because they had all sorts of stuff for free that they'd give out to thru-hikers. She pulled out a bag showing me all the goods they had available for thru-hikers. Stickers, hand-sanitizer, pens, buffs, pins and more. I promised I would do so, but maybe tomorrow. Today, I just wanted to get into a hotel, take a shower and get cleaned up!

I did pick up my packages, however. This time I had three of them, and one of them was my long-lost laptop! "Hello, my precious!" The other one was from my mom, resupplying my strawberry leather and dehydrated ground beef. I don't really remember why there was a third package. Maybe I sent some of my gear ahead from a previous town? Maybe I ordered something online, though--a new something from REI, for instance.

In any case, in my journal, I wrote that I had picked up three packages so I know that much is true, but I failed to note what each of them were and now I don't remember what the third one included, and I didn't think to jot it down in my journal.

Between the three packages, it was a lot to carry. So I opened the packages there at the post office and rearranged things to make it all fit into my pack. Well, a few items I could just throw away. For instance, all the maps I had printed out ahead of time to use through Colorado were basically useless at this point. Not that they took up a lot of room, but it was a tight fit to get everything, including my laptop, into my pack. Any little thing that was no longer helpful could go into the trash cans at the post office.

Then I walked toward the east end of town where I had made a hotel reservation. I was pretty excited about the hotel. There were a few options for a measly $50/night. It was great to get out of expensive Colorado! I had already planned to take a zero day, my first in nearly a month. Now that I had my laptop and could get some serious work done and a cheap hotel to enjoy the comforts of town without breaking the bank, I definitely deserved a day off. *nodding* Off from the trail, at least.

Walking into town, I bumped into Reality Check and Prince who were on their way out of town. Reality Check reported seeing two mountain lions that night after she passed me on the trail during her 41-mile hike into town. Woah! Cool! Although she said it was a bit worrying at the time. It made me think the stampede that nearly ran over me two nights ago was was, in fact, started by a mountain lion. It could have even been one of the ones that Reality Check saw.

Reality Check had already taken a day off yesterday after walking into town, so she was ready to keep going. I showed off my wrestling snakes video, which they both found impressive. Wow! "Yeah, I know!" It had only happened a couple of hours earlier, just a few miles outside of town.

I also ran into another hiker I'd never met before. He was walking in the opposite direction and stopped to ask if I was heading north. Confirming that that was the case, he grabbed me gently by both shoulders, looked me straight in the face, and told me, "Whatever you do, take the Cirque of the Towers Alternate. Do not, I repeat, do NOT stay on the red line. You understand? I will not let you go until you promise to take that alternate."

Whaat? He went on to explain that he had just gone through that section, in the Wind River Range, and the blowdowns were massive and horrible. He made the mistake of staying on the red line, which was one of the worst mistakes he ever made in his life. He pointed down to his bare legs--he was wearing shorts but I hadn't really noticed them before--but now noticed they were covered in seemingly hundreds of scratches.

I gotta say, those are some pretty sad, ugly-looking legs!
I was convinced. Definitely avoid the main trail through that area. The alternate would be a lot better option. I swore to take the alternate, then he let me go saying that he was done. He was getting off the trail and had a bus to catch. The Wind River Range had broken him.

Well, that was something to look forward to, I guess.... 

I finally made it to my hotel, the 1st Choice hotel which, for me at least, lived up to its name. It was, in fact, my first choice. It tied with the hotel across the street for being the cheapest, so I was bound to end up in one of those two hotels at the very least. =)

First thing I did was strip off all my dirty clothes and take a good, long shower. One of the perks of my bounce boxes were fresh, clean clothes to wear while I was doing laundry, and now that it finally caught up with me, I could put them on. Fresh, clean clothes! I use them as padding for my laptop, but my town clothes had been stuck in purgatory along with my laptop for the last 43 days. It felt so nice to get my town clothes back!

Deer wandering around in downtown Rawlins.

Then I dropped off all my filthy, dirty clothes at the front desk to be washed. There wasn't a laundromat on the premises to wash my own laundry, but they would do a bag of a laundry for a reasonable fee which worked just as well. They'd return the bag to my room when the laundry was done.

At this point, I was ready to eat some food! But I really didn't want to go back outside to a restaurant. It was so freaking hot outside! Definitely in the 90s. And there wasn't anything right next door or anything, which is when I got the idea to just order pizza and have it delivered. Yes! Delivery! I sometimes forget that that's an option because I do it so rarely.

I found a Dominoes Pizza in town, and ordered a pizza, bread bites and a 2-liter bottle of Coke. I didn't really expect to eat it all in one sitting, but this was going to be lunch, dinner and maybe even a meal or two for tomorrow as well.

The website said it should arrive in a half hour or so, to kill time, I plugged in my laptop and powered it up. Time to get online! Glorious electricity!

A half hour or so later, I heard a knock at my door and answered it, and my food was sitting on the floor in front of my door. I looked down the hall and saw the delivery driver wave from a distance. I waved back, and he left. Covid. Strange times. I wasn't surprised to find my food on the ground, though. They did say that the delivery would be a "non-contact" situation.

I brought the food in and feasted. Oh, gosh! How I feasted! Later in the afternoon, the hot temperatures started seeping into the room from outside so I turned on the air-conditioning. Oh, glorious air-conditioning!

And I never left my room for the rest of the day. I spent the whole rest of the day just catching up with a boatload of online stuff that I needed to get done, but I enjoyed every minute of it. =)

It was gonna be another hot day! Don't be fooled by this photo. That's not a lake in the distance. That's a dry lake bed covered with salt.

My water source this morning was this small spring. That's some good, quality water in this otherwise inhabitable place!

I took a lot of photos of these rattlesnakes wrestling!

If you're wondering why the color on this is so different than the previous two photos, that's because I took this one with my cell phone and the other two with my regular camera. The pictures look a bit different between the two!

And, of course, I also took videos of the wrestling rattlesnakes!

This is the bridge that I accidentally crossed illegally.

And wow... look the view from the top of the bridge! =)


Lou Catozzi (PI Joe) said...

I know that photos can be deceiving but that pic of the spring/ is the most disgusting water source I've seen pictured on the entire CDT.

Ryan said...

The water was actually pretty good, but I will admit that the photo doesn't do it justice. In the photo, the water looks pretty muddy, but it's not. The water was crystal clear, but the dirt bottom looks a bit misleading. It's a very slow, shallow water source. The only problem I had was trying to collect it! But it was so good, I didn't even treat that water. Definitely one of the better water sources along this stretch of trail! =)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Lou! Thanks for the explanation, Ryan, of why the water looked so terrible yet tasted good. I enjoyed the snake dominance video. I hope the female snake was watching!