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! 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. 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. 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.