I had a plan. But, like many plans made in the warmth of my living room, this one failed its first field test. I was backpacking for 6 months, hiking north along the Appalachian Trail with my husband Rich.
After 2 months on the trail, we hiked along one sunny day through Virginia, traversing the side of a hill in lush spring foliage. Rich was in front when we heard the sound. Having never heard it live before, I was surprised at how unmistakable the rattle of a rattlesnake was. It stopped me dead in my tracks with instant recognition. I looked to the right and there, slightly uphill and about 3 feet away, was a coiled rattlesnake, staring at me eye to eye and loudly making his displeasure known. Rich had already passed, but the snake blocked my progress along the trail.
My plan was that if I saw a rattlesnake I’d simply hike off the trail & give it a wide berth. I surveyed my surroundings – the ground was obscured in thick foliage a foot deep. What if my rattler had friends nearby? Was 3 feet within their striking range? I could hear my heart pounding in my chest and Rich getting impatient, calling for me to ignore the rattlesnake & hike on. Yeah, right.
I waited patiently. Minutes passed; many minutes according to Rich. Eventually the rattlesnake lost interest in me, lowered his head and began side winding uphill. I chose that moment to bolt down the trail, running as fast as my blistered feet could carry me, backpack bouncing on my back. Rich just laughed.