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I had heard about rattlesnakes. I read signs around here that talk about how they come out in the summer. There’s a warning on an office bulletin board about how to move slowly once you’ve been bitten. It says that they’re not typically deadly, so don’t freak out.

I’m still a tourist hiker – I hardly bring anything with me. I can’t even keep track of my sunglasses when I hike, so it’s probably better that way. But I’m learning that people carry half a day’s food and snakebite first aide kits, both of which sound sustaining and very important.

I’m hearing all this detail as I tell “native” (no one is really native here) Coloradans that I touched a rattlesnake on one of my hikes the other day. Their faces are slack and wide-eyed. I stand face to face with people who’ve just been surprised by a man with a knife in a pitch black room, or who turn left at the intersection and witness a three car pile-up. It’s right about then that I reconsider my course of action post-rattlesnake.

Here’s a video of the little dude, sitting on his rock, basking in the sun and the spray from the waterfall. Initially, I jumped back in terror and surprise, when my hand leaned on his rock, and my fingers encircled his scaly body. But after my breathing returned to normal, I took pictures and dropped leaves around him, unaware that he’s able to spring himself off the rock and latch onto my face. For some reason, he didn’t – though he might have been thinking about it with that black split-tongue sliding out of his mouth.

Naivety is less of a gift than I once thought. Ignorance is not bliss, like they say. After watching dozens of Coloradans listen to my rattlesnake adventure in disbelief, I decided to get educated and try to muster some fear for the slithery little guys. Thank you wikipedia and $4.95 snakebite kit at Target.