The end of my road came at N33° 15’49.3626’W111° 1’10.4946’, the end of FR2466. A highly unused road skirting the eastern side of Devil’s Canyon. I set up my bivouac, then explored the rocks on foot to the canyon’s edge. Barrel cactus and succulents spring from fissures between boulders, making a life any way they can get one. Could you blame them?
After taking a number of photographs, I made my way back to camp climbing down short walls and hopping between boulders. Once on flat ground, I scrolled through my digital photos as I walked. I couldn’t do much to dissuade the no-see-ums from buzzing around and in my ears, which mostly irritated me. It made me wonder if I’d get any sleep at all. I could see the black clouds of a monsoon rolling in and there’s always a dead calm – no wind – before it hits. I was left to fight the bugs and heat alone.
Then . . . an unmistakable noise. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! I know it well: stop, turn, and run. Now.
I managed to stop, but the chill running up my spine and through my skull seized me. Dear God, this rattlesnake is right under me, is the only thought that managed to make itself clear within a fraction of a second.
If I screamed like a little girl, no one was around to hear it. For sure I leaped backwards and ran, then turned to look at the snake. I’ll be damned, she’s pure black and about two-and-half inches in diameter. I’ve never seen a black rattler before, nor did I know they existed at all. On Monday, I’ll send an email to my friend Chuck, a wildlife biologist in New Mexico only to find out that the Arizona Black Rattlesnake is certainly rare, and definitely liberal with unloading venom when one strikes.
The thought of being alone out here and getting nailed by a rattler . . .
I lay in my tent, cooked a meal (dehydrated Jamaican chicken and rice), and read a book while the monsoon came right overhead with more bark than bite. Ironically enough.