My Rattlesnake Story

Just Like the One I Encountered

It was about twenty years ago. I was hiking by myself at Point Mugu State Park. I approached the park from the north and parked near the Satwiwa Interpretive Center. Unfortunately, I started a bit too late, so this turned out to be a hike that I had to abort in the middle. I was walking along the Upper Sycamore Canyon Trail, which eventually merged with Sycamore Canyon Road, which was a level walk back to the parking lot. As it was late afternoon, I got a little anxious because the junction was farther along than I thought, and the parking lot gate was closed at 5 pm.

So I had to walk down one of the narrow paths that connected the trail with the road. I didn’t like the look of any of these paths, because some of them seem to disappear midway down. Finally I chose one and was halfway down before I noticed a rattlesnake coiled up beneath a bush that pretty much hogged the trail. To the left of the bush was a cliff down; to the right, a cliff up. I had to get past that rattler without sustaining a load of its venom.

I was wearing thick leather hiking boots that went up above my ankles, so I was safe if the snake went low. But what if it went high? I also had with me a sturdy ash hiking staff. I noticed that the path along the edge of the cliff gave me about six inches to walk around, so I started to plunge the staff down hard every few inches to encourage the snake the bite the staff while I edged around the bush. It did make a feint at the staff, but did not bite. I managed to circle around the bush and resume my hike, returning to the parking lot with only a few minutes to spare.