By Barb Graham
We’ve been having a heat wave in Socal lately, along with muggy weather and thunderstorms. It’s a lot like Alabama, only not quite as hot.
It’s hot enough to bring out the snakes in San Diego County. They come seeking water or prey in the neighborhood, and Animal Control has already removed a couple of rattlers from the neighborhood.
Three weeks ago, I had the snakiest ride ever! I thought that it’d be nice to escape to the mountains, maybe stop at Green Valley Falls picnic area, and just wander around the back country.
Snake Number One: the picnic area. As I pulled in, a bunch of humans were raising a ruckus about a snake near the picnic tables. One man was running over with a folding shovel. I dropped the kickstand and moseyed on over to see what they were hysterical over. What it was, was one of the biggest gopher snakes I’ve ever seen! Harmless, non-venomous, probably there for the ground squirrels.
I walked into the scrum, picked up the snake, and stowed it in my saddlebag. Meanwhile, the jackass with the shovel got angry because, “It coulda been a rattler.” Well, yeah. Coulda. Wasn’t.
I took the snake to the ranger hut at the entrance and handed it over, explaining that I’d only removed it because it was about to be killed by a wanna-be, ignorant, hero. The ranger called someone to bring him a pillowcase, and assured me it would be released away from the public. It was a gorgeous snake, and I’m glad I could rescue it.
Somewhere along the Sunrise Highway, near Cuyamaca Lake, I spotted a large Pacific Diamondback stretched across the lane. I pulled over, found a stick, and poked it to get it off the road. It turned and chased me back onto my bike before crawling back into the underbrush. I wish I’d had a camera to record the moment when I remembered that rattlesnakes can climb!
So, I was the Snake Champion that day, saving snakes from the human infestation. As I was riding up the hill towards home, near Tecolote Canyon, I saw yet another snake in the road and thought, “I would have loved this day when I was nine!” I pulled over, but it was sadly dead, probably run over, but it didn’t seem damaged. Turns out, it was a snake I’ve never seen in our canyon, a Striped Racer. It hadn’t been dead very long, so I took it home and skinned it. When I’m done tanning it, I think it’ll make a dandy hatband!
A couple of days after this snakefest, a neighbor came to the door with a snake report. There was a king snake in the gutter, baking in the hot sun. I brought him in and cooled him down with a nice bath. He recovered a bit, but he did not make it. He will also make a dandy hat band! I gotta get more hats!
I’ve safely caught rattlers to move them out of areas of human activity, but I don’t recommend it if you’re not familiar with handling them. They may only be a tube with fangs at one end, but many of them are jerks and resent being messed with.
Some motorcycle rides wind up becoming something unexpected. Snakes in the road, turkeys running in front of you, unexpected thunder storms, fish in a pond surface feeding. (Yeah, I carry a telescoping fishing pole in my panniers.)