Etna and One Ugly Snake Story

Day 96 – Tuesday, July 15 Well, I was hoping that my next blog update would have been from Ashland, Oregon but it’s not. I’m in Etna, California right now and I technically still have +/- 40 more trail miles left to do before getting here. So here’s how I got here, believe it or not. Monday had been going just like any other day on the trail. I got up and packed up my gear, eat some ultra healthy food for breakfast and start walking for the next ten hours. I was having a great day and planning to do about 31 miles (which I did do). A large number of the water sources along the trail seem to be dry these days, but the last spring before crossing Highway 3 had some running water. I’d been hiking most of the day by myself, as usual, but when I arrived at the spring, Freedom was sitting there enjoying the wonderful taste of water after about an 12 mile stretch with none. Within just a few minutes, other thru-hikers began to show up: Washpot, Willem, Gram and Ridge Runner. After all of us” camel upped” (drank a large quantity of water), we decided that we would all camp at a campground down by highway 3, about 2 1/2 miles further down the trail. The campground had no water so we had to take enough down for the night as well as enough to get us about five miles north the next morning to the next water source. I got my water and decided I would start hiking down towards the campground. I think I was busy getting my pack strapped on correctly when all of sudden I realized I had something going on beneath me. Let’s just say, I was jumping before I ever really knew what was happening. By the time I quit jumping and got a few feet more north on the trail, I turned around to see one very large rattlesnake (somewhere between 4 and 5 feet and as big around as my arm)! I knew right then what had happened…it bit me on the ankle. I just remember shouting out “I just got hit” and that’s when all the other hikers at the spring came running down the trail to see what had happened. I remember hearing Graham’s comment “that’s the biggest snake I’ve seen!” My brain was just saying “No Shit and he just bit me!”  Due to the encounter, my photo is a little out of focus! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA All of my fellow hikers were great! Washpot’s background as a ski patrol EMT kicked in. He immediately told me to drop my pack and suggested that we walk down to Highway 3 as calmly as possible. To my surprise, I was able to call Mary and briefly let her know what was going on before losing our connection. She was able to pick up on two key points: I had been snake bitten and I was 2 1/2 miles from Highway 3. She immediately researched where I was at and called the local fire department here in Etna. By the time I got within a half mile of the highway, we began to hear the sirens and quickly figured out that Mary had called for help. Wow! It was the big event! By the time I got down,  I felt like I had folks helping me in every direction and it did feel like a relief even though I was already hoping that it was just a dry bite. A lot of folks always say if you get bitten,  you want to get bitten by a big one, because they can control their venom much better than the young ones. The big guys don’t care to waste their venom if they can’t eat you! Lucky me! They even had a helicopter ready to come and get me.  At the time I was already beginning to feel like that I didn’t get a dose of venom. The EMT and paramedic  finally decided that they would transport me by ambulance to the Fairchild Medical Center in Yreka, about an hour and a half away. The team of professionals I had could not have been any better! I was loaded up in the ambulance and off towards the hospital I went. I tried to keep a sense of humor about what was going on.  We were joking around in the ambulance. The female paramedics kept me talking and said that they loved my southern accent (that’s what they told me anyway!).  Upon arriving in town, we passed by a McDonald’s and I happened to make a comment on how good it would be to make a stop there. After getting checked out by the doctor who quickly determined that it was a dry bite, I was released and my ambulance crew was more than willing to take me back toward the trail. They even let me run into the McDonald’s to grab some dinner. The EMT and her husband (Heather and Clint) invited me to their home that evening and our plan was to get me back on the trail early the next morning. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Upon waking up this morning, my ankle was pretty swollen and very sore, so I decided to just lay low today and give it some rest here in Etna. My plan now is to return to the trail in the morning being much more careful about what may be laying out in front of me. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I’m a very lucky hiker for the following reasons which are all pretty rare for hikers on the PCT:

  • I was very close to a pretty major road.
  • I had some cell phone service.
  • I had other hikers close by for help.

Below are a few additional photos from the past several days. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA All is well now, but what an adventure to say the least!

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15 Responses to Etna and One Ugly Snake Story

  1. Mike Perry says:

    Damn……I just back from dinner and read the story. Dude, you are living the life! You got bit by big snake, no venom, and were treated by some the best folks in the country has to offer to take care of you.

    Be safe, and thank the good Lord for the blessings he has provided for you.

    Take care,

    Mike

  2. Wick Goldsmith says:

    Don’t we know craziness! Thank God you are ok !

    Wick

    Sent from my iPad

  3. Bruce May says:

    Dave, did you fry that snake? Kidding, you were lucky and Hope youll

  4. Bruce May says:

    So, did your buddies on the trail fry that snake, and did they save you any? Dang, thats a big snake! Hed have to be pretty fast to catch me, i believe id have done another mile in a flash! How many times does this make it that Miss Mary has saved your ars? Its like a serious math problem, no doubt! Take care, enjoy, and watch where your going.

    Bruce

  5. Nina Fort says:

    Yay! What an adventure. Glad you are okay. Hike on.

    Nina

  6. Dave Thompson says:

    That is amazing – you must have a guardian angel. So many things could have turned out differently. Good luck as you progress onward!

  7. Brad says:

    OK, I’m seeing a new trail name in an event like this:’
    1) Snake Bite (obvious one)
    2) Damned Lucky
    3) “I’ve been hit”
    4) Venomless
    Any others? :o)
    So happy for you Whitewater that you will be able to carry on your trek and more importantly that you escaped what would have been not only a trail stopper, but could have caused you significant damage physically. I have been learning so much from your blogs. I picked you out because I believe we are pretty close in age and I wanted to follow someone in that category as I prepare for my PCT Thru Hike in 2015. I live outside of Seattle and am about an hours drive from both Stevens Pass and Snoqualmie Pass. I trail angel up on Stevens in Sept and Oct. I hike SOBO 5 miles to Lake Josephine carrying Apple Muffins with me and wait for thru hikers to come along. I feed them muffins, hike back to the Pass with them listening to their stories and experiences, then drive them down to Densmores in Baring. So much fun. Maybe I’ll get to meet you when you come thru.
    Take care and may the rest of your journey be safe and bite free
    Best regards…

  8. Will Barton says:

    Praise God for a dry bite. At least you have a great story and lived to tell about it. God is so great. Love the pictures and updates. I am so grateful for your posts. Thanks. Prayers going out. RC Slowpoke.

  9. mjirving says:

    Glad to hear you’re okay Whitewater! Wow, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of someone getting bit in the PCT. I’m glad to learn about this “dry bite” possibility and am glad
    To hear it worked out well.

    -GoalTech (your sobo chip magic friend)

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