After spending the weekend in the mountains with the dogs we headed back to Denver this morning. Knowing that the post-Labor Day traffic would be brutal, I decided to stop along the Arkansas River on US 50 near The Royal Gorge to let the girls play in the river before potentially being stuck on I-25 for a few hours.
I stopped at the Five Points portion of the Arkansas River Headwaters Recreation Area. As soon as I let the dogs out of the truck they ran down to the river and splashed about for a while. Lucy is smart enough not to venture out into the current so after about ten minutes she started exploring the river bank and trees while Fabi continued to dive in and look for rocks.
After about twenty minutes I was ready to hit the road so I called them up to the top of the bank and headed back to the truck, but I saw a dirt foot trail off to the side of the path that I remembered (I was wrong) which led down to a sand bar on the river. There was quite a bit of tall grass, cacti and ground shrubs through this area and eventually it sloped down a rocky hillside. The dogs had no problems in this terrain but I had to measure each step on the rocks and boulders carefully. As I lifted a foot and began to step down I noticed a snake in my path and tried to alter where my foot was going to land… in the process I fell backwards and sideways and landed on the ground about two feet from the snake, which I now recognized as a rattlesnake.
This was not the largest rattler I’ve ever seen, and the coloring was a bit different, almost a green-ish olive instead of the tan/beige I’ve seen in the past, and this guy was pretty small. I guessed he was no more than three foot long, probably a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. Perhaps he was very young and had just molted (to account for the color)? I think he was very young because he only coiled and rattled. At this point I was sure I was going to be bit but I remembered to stay still for a few seconds then try to back away. Staying calm with a rattler in your face is not as easy as it sounds, but I managed to scoot backwards a bit then rolled away from the snake without a strike (obviously). My boxer shorts may have been a bit moist at this point.
I stood up and cursed a bit, which is my right. Unfortunately, this attracted the dogs who came back to investigate. Fabi stopped right next to the rattler and started sniffing and checking out this creature. At one point her nose was six inches from the head of the rattler but it did not strike her. Again, I am assuming the snake was young and trying to scare us away. I eventually called Fabi away from the snake and Lucy joined us up the hill.
After I walked the dogs around the truck for a few minutes to see if either were limping or licking at snake bites (they were not), I contemplated grabbing my camera and getting a photo of the snake. My better sense won and I decided not to push my luck.