View from Fifth Peak, Tongue Range, Adirondack State Park
We giggled each time we referred to “the Summit” on our hike yesterday. “It sounds like we’re hiking Everest when you say that,” my friend would chide me. But what else do you call the top? The end of the trail. The mountain’s highest point where you enjoy the view. The place you’ve been striving to reach. Granted, our six mile trek didn’t stretch our physical boundaries. There were no death-defying crevasses to traverse. There were no potential avalanches, or rock falls. There were no Yeti. None of the hazards of a Himalayan adventure. (Nor were there Sherpas hefting our sandwiches, chocolate, and water.)
However, the area of our hike IS known for its Timber Rattlers. And I am really scared of snakes. They don’t just make me uncomfortable. Their liquid-muscle movement shoots lightening fear through me every time. I’m not proud to admit this, and I’ve worked on this fear for many years. But it still lingers. So when I learned that we were venturing into snake country on our hike, and large poisonous snake country at that, I considered reconsidering the hike. “Damn,” I thought. So I picked-up the phone and I called my Forest Ranger neighbor to get his input. He assured me that there are indeed plenty of Timber Rattlers in the Tongue Range and that it was likely I’d see one. Particularly on the rocky summit where they’d be out warming themselves on this cool October day. “Great,” I thought, “set my sandwich down right on the table of its coils.” I began to reconsider the hike more seriously. But then he also assured me that these snakes are far from aggressive. That I’d really have to provoke one for it to do me any harm. He’d never heard of any snake bites in that area. Then we discussed snakebite procedure.
“The most important thing,” he said, “is to get to the hospital. Whether you’re carried out or air-lifted. Hike out if you have to. Now, this will hurt like hell, but you’d have to do it. The important thing is to get to the hospital.” I breathed deeply, listening to his sage advice. Trying to stay calm as I imagined myself in the situation: Walking off the mountain, trailing three feet of rattler, its fangs imbedded in my blackening calf. I began to giggle. I suppose it would let go, right?
“But really, Mandy, consider yourself lucky if you see one. Seriously.”
Okay, I can’t ever imagine myself feeling lucky watching a three feet long, thick-as-your-wrist, poisonous snake slithering across my picnic spot. But none the less, I felt comforted and reassured by his words. I had the information I needed to go forth with our little trek and not feel scared. I wasn’t going to be looking for Mr. Snake with every step. I wasn’t going to be walking in fear, thinking every branch, twig, and root was going to begin slithering and rattling. I knew what to look for, and where to be a little more aware or cautious. I had a sense of what to do if I saw one. So no, we were in no way about to summit Everest. But I was going to potentialy face one of my own little deamons on our outing. That’s adventure enough for me.
We had plenty of good conversation on our journey. We breathed in the October crisp air. At the summit, we drank in the vast, mountainous views. We marveled at the shadows of clouds on the pewter-like skin of Lake George, far below. We stretched out on the warm rocks and savored Belgian chocolate.
If there were any snakes out that day, they kept themselves hidden. Or I was just too oblivious enjoying myself. Either way, I’m happy not to have encountered any. And so, I would imagine, are they. It was a glorious day.