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A few years ago, my aunt Teri and I were hiking in Will Rogers State Park high above the Pacific Palisades in Southern California. It’s a beautiful scenic hike along the Santa Monica Mountains. We followed a wide horse trail all the way up, but at the top we found a divergent path cutting through the woods. I channeled my inner Robert Frost and said, “Let’s take the path less traveled.” Teri nodded, we pushed back a branch, and off we went.
Without knowing it, I walked past a diamondback, but Teri saw it and screamed, “Snake.” Frozen, I was on one side of the creature and she was on the other. She wouldn’t move forward to me, and I didn’t want to stroll by it again to get her. We had a serious debate about what to do next. She wouldn’t go back to the top alone, but she wouldn’t move past the snake. It made more sense for her to get bit. I was much bigger and could carry her. No way could she carry me. I was hesitant to present this as an option.
I looked for a big branch in the hopes I could fling the snake out of the way. No branches. So I grabbed a small rock and hurtled at the snake, and it slithered away, disappearing into the brush. Not knowing where it went was worse than knowing where it was. I bellowed, “Run” and we flew down the path, our feet touching the ground only long enough to propel us forward. We stopped running when we got out to the access road and felt safe enough to walk to the car.
One year later, my friend Henry and I were hiking in Palm Springs. You’d think after the diamondback incident, I would’ve given up the hiking stuff. We started early before it got too hot and were the only ones on the trail. Suddenly Henry began running down the path and I yelled, “What’s going on?” He was so consumed by fear all he could holler was “Run.”
It was already ninety degrees at nine o’ clock in the morning and I didn’t feel like running. Then I heard the rattle. I turned and saw an albino rattlesnake as thick as a plumbing pipe. For some reason, the glossy white skin made the thing even scarier. I took off, and we ran until we couldn’t hear the rattle anymore. We abandoned the hike and slowly, cautiously, we headed back to the car practically tiptoeing as if walking between landmines.
I’m with Indiana Jones. I hate snakes.
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