Brad Feld

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Running with Rattlesnakes

Sep 25, 2004

I’m a month away from my next marathon (Duke City Marathon – Albuquerque, NM) so I thought I’d do an easy run today since I have a three hour run tomorrow.

I decided to head up Fowler Trail and check out the fire we had in Eldorado Springs last week. About 15 minutes into the run I hit a “Mtn Trail” sawhorse with a sign that said the trail was clue due to fire and trespassers would be subject to a fine or jail.

I’ve spent enough time the past few weeks at the Boulder Jail visiting my ex-running coach (yeah – it’s a little uncomfortable the first time you go to visit someone at a jail and the reception person asks you for your drivers license and social security number – at which point she types it into a computer and the only thought that can possible run through your mind is “why am I here – am I SURE I want to do this?”) So – I decided to head up the trail away from the fire thinking that I could at least explore a part of the trail I never run on. The trail eventually looped around and it occurred to me that I might be able to hook up with Fowler Trail on the other side of the burn area.

Suddenly, I was in the middle of the burn. I knew the smell since we’ve had a fire on our land and near us on Walker Ranch and I’d hiked the area extensively. It’s always amazing to be in the middle of a burn with some trees completely toast and others untouched. I kept going, thinking that if I was going to get arrested, it was kind of too late to turn around. Fortunately, I was paying attention because within a minute of entering the burn area, I heard a rattling noise. I looked toward the noise and saw a coiled rattlesnake 10 feet away (upon which I was closing fast.) I’m not sure if it’s possible to execute a 180 degree turn in mid-stride – but I came as close as humanly possible.

After my heart rate settled down, I realized that I had almost run right into a rattlesnake. I wound my way back down the trail, noticing every stray sound. I’ve run extensively in these mountains over the past two years and never seen a rattlesnake (although logically I figured they exist since one of the trails I run is called “Rattlesnake Gulch Trail.” I was daydreaming about snakes (what else would you expect me to do after almost stepping on one) when I came across another one! This one was stretched out on the road – I couldn’t tell whether it was alive or deal – but I didn’t stick around to see.

The fire must have flushed out these rattlesnakes from their normal home. When I got home, I decided it was time to cool off with a “Colorado Rattlesnake” (although I don’t drink, so I merely thought about it while I composed the following Rattlesnake Haiku.)

A rattlesnake sat
In front of me on my trail
I ran away fast