Right – Rattlesnakes! Why the fever over rattlesnakes you may ask? You may have also noticed other comments about snakes in past posts. You probably know that I am a birder so why the sudden interest in snakes.
Firstly, I am not just a birder but am interested and have always been interested in all animals. Birds are just easy to see and count. In the UK there are a grand total of 6 native reptile species, only three of which are snakes (the other three are lizards). In the US there are something like 50 species of snake alone so Americans are spoilt for snakes. When I was a kid watching old westerns and series’ like ‘Champion the Wonder Horse’ (remember that one), there were often scenes including rattlesnakes and to my mind that was about the most dangerous and exotic thing I could think of. Back then I never thought I’d actually see one.
Fast forward to our summer trip to visit Lindsey’s family in Colorado. Lindsey’s sister Katie moved there with her family a year ago. Lindsey’s parents are also in the process of moving there and by chance they have cousins who also moved there not too long ago. We flew into Denver after a nightmare journey which I’ll let Lindsey tell you about and took a bus north to Fort Collins where Katie lives. This is right near the Rocky Mountain National Park which, like all American National parks I have been too is fantastically well looked after and staggeringly beautiful.
We moved around a bit staying in different places for a few days here and there to take in as much of the countryside as we could taking hikes in the park and neighbouring areas. The weather in Colorado is very sunny in the main but also very changeable. We got caught once on a short hike and had to walk back in the pouring rain with Lindsey and I wearing nothing but shorts and t-shirts. One time, while we were thankfully inside, it started to hail and I’ve never seen anything like it. Some of the hail stones were almost the size of golf balls! Apparently, hail insurance is something everyone has in Colorado and we did see one car with loads of little dents from hail. Afterwards, Lindsey and I had a mini snowball fight with the left overs.
One day Katie arranged for us to go white water rafting which is something I’ve never done before. I was more than a little nervous to be honest for several reasons. Firstly, because I’d put my back out about a week before and felt that rafting was probably not the best thing for it. Secondly, I was nervous about falling out of the raft. I wasn’t particularly nervous about dying until we watched an animated video about all the ways you can die while rafting. There are a surprisingly large number. During our briefing we were told of even more ways of dying. Anyway, we eventually got going with the added bonus that the two other people who were supposed to be going with us cancelled so it was just us four with the guide. The guide’s principle job, other than to prevent us from dying, is to steer the boat. We then received an oar each and were given brief instruction on how to oar and when to oar. We were on the Cache la Poudre river and our section of it had four class 4 rapids. Class 5 is as high as it gets so Class 4 is pretty serious. The rest of the river were mainly class twos and threes. The rafting was fantastic fun. Larry, Lindsey’s father, has been several times but said that this was the best. About a third of the way along the river our guide suggested we stop to walk into a small creek with an old mine shaft. We duly stopped and the guide led us along a small path along the creek. I was behind the guide and Lindsey behind me. All of a sudden Lindsey let out a yell and there before our eyes was a rattlesnake in full rattle. Apparently, it is quite common for the third person in a row of walkers to get bitten by rattlesnakes. The first person wakes it up, the second person pisses it off and the third person gets bitten. I was so shocked I forgot to ask the species of the rattlesnake although it was definitely a young one. Apparently, these can be the most dangerous as they haven’t learnt to control the amount of venom they inject so can accidentally give you all they’ve got. Our guide looked around for a stick but then ended up using an oar to fling the snake away. I would say it was about three feet long.
On one of the class fours I definitely thought I was going to come out but somehow managed to hold on, however, on the way back we heard a story of three people who all came out of the raft a couple of weeks before and only two were pulled out of the river initially. The third one was found dead a few days after our trip so it’s possible we rafted over him. Quite spooky.
While we there we saw several osprey nests and witnessed an osprey bring two rounds of food to the nest (the second one being a small snake)! We also saw a female moose with a calf albeit at some distance. I have yet to see a male or bull moose with a full rack of antlers. However the best animal sighting was saved to last. One morning Larry and I were standing by the window drinking our morning coffee and chatting. All of a sudden a sizeable black bear walked right past the window about 20 feet away. It slowly walked right on by the car and off into the woods. It was a magical moment that I’m glad to have shared with Larry. It was all too quick for cameras or phones, just a wonderful 20 seconds to watch a majestic creature stroll on by.
I am finishing writing this post on the plane on the 2nd August which is our 11th wedding anniversary. All of these adventures I share with my beautiful and wonderful wife and they are all made better by Lindsey being a part of them. We are perfecting our retirement practice in order to one day spend that retirement together and I could never have imagined a better person to do that with.