I went for a trail run in rattlesnake country and almost died.
A friend and I ran through the meadow at the top of this photo and up into the valley beyond. This is way out in Eastern Washington. Where it’s hot and sunny, if you can imagine.
We saw a dead rattlesnake on the road as we were jogging to the trail. That should have been a clue.
Forty minutes in, we got to a good turnaround spot with a view up the valley. There was a small hill just above us, off the trail. It wasn’t far.
“Let’s go up there,” I said. There would be an even better view up there. So we set off, off the trail.
And suddenly I didn’t want to go any further. Suddenly it wasn’t fun. The sun was still shining but somehow it seemed darker. Something felt wrong.
I called out to my friend that I was going to head back. He’s a faster runner than I am, so he’d catch up. I could see him at the top of the hill, silhouetted against the sky, having a zen moment.
The dog and I picked our way back to the trail and I started feeling better. Soon after my friend caught up. “Watch your feet,” he said quietly. “I saw a rattlesnake.” I looked down at my feet, basically bare in their little Vibram barefoot shoes. People wear boots out there for a reason.
The rattlesnake my friend saw was about an inch in diameter, coiled and rattling at him from a rock he was about to step on.
I think that rattlesnake was mine. I think I was going to get bitten on that hill four miles out in rattlesnake country. I think a premonition saved my life.
I should have told my friend I had a bad feeling. “Would you have listened to it?” I asked him.
“Definitely,” he said.