Friday, August 29, 2008

Del Valle hike re snake phobia cure

We're still plugging away at the East Bay Regional Parks Trail Challenge, trying to stay in shape for our next trip. A week or so ago, we did the Dell Valle suggested 10 mile trip, from the dam up nearly to the marina and back. A long, hot, up and down, and mileage mislabeled trip, as they frequently are (closer to 12 miles).

Anyway, near the end of the return trip, I noticed this stick in the road that sort of looked like a snake, so knowing Susan is not too fond of snakes, I call out "hey, check out that stick in the road, doesn't it look like a snake?" She agrees, and as we continue walking towards it, the stick begins moving off the trail. We get up to it, and it is a fair sized rattlesnake, about three feet long. We didn't have our cameras, so just continued on back to our car.

The thing that prompted this post was that yesterday I asked her if she had told anyone about seeing the snake - no, she had completely forgotten it, and it was no big deal. Well, when we first met, about twenty years ago, she wouldn't even look at a picture of a snake, and anything slim and wiggly - even an angleworm was traumatic. A couple of years later we moved into house with lots of ivy, and the biggest banana slugs I had ever seen. These of course freaked Susan out. They were all unique, with black patches in different locations, and I could recognize some of them. One day I had the brilliant idea of naming them. I said "that's not a slug, that's Old Spotty" and pointed out its unique markings to Susan. I did this over several days, and almost immediately, Susan's attitude changed. These were not horrible things, they were some sort of odd looking neighbors. Over the years since, Susan has continued to view snakes and their like with a more nuanced response than sheer terror. We started hiking the PCT desert sections in 2005, and with that, rattlesnakes became a normal, though not welcomed event. The one in the first photo was the largest one we saw, and that was on the PCT up near the Oregon border. It was more than five feet long.
The second image is a tiny rattler, about 10 inches long. It scurried into a hole in the trail as we approached. I looked in the hole out of curiosity, expecting to see nothing but a hole in the ground, and there he was, waiting like a trap door spider.

Anyhow, our five year old granddaughter comes to visit frequently, and for some reason she is bug phobic, and I have been using the naming approach with some success, to help her get used to insects. "A spider shriek, shriek" "Oh, no that's just Fred. Fred's mom used to live over there, but she moved. Someplace around I saw Fred's little sister, Spindora, etc. etc. etc.