I heard his soft rattle before my eye caught his movement. I was blithely unaware that I was only one step away from stepping on him, a midget-faded rattlesnake. But he rattled his warning then coiled up his body, head up, tongue flicking in my direction to which I responded with an expletive and a few leaps backward. I trudges into the mormon tea and rabbitbrush, ceding the trail to the rattlesnake, giving him ample room to continue on with his day in the sun.
John, being a birding fanatic and from the Yukon where there are no rattlesnakes (or reptiles of any sort), also heard the rattle but looked up into the juniper tree branches wondering what kind of bird could be making such a pretty rattling sound.
Now every time a chipmunk or a whiptail lizard scuttles across the trail my knee-jerk reaction is an expletive and a leap backward. My hope is as I continue to hike in the desert the rattlesnake will settle into my subconscious the way grizzlies have. They are there – and they are dangerous – but I have met enough to begin to understand they do not want any more trouble than I do.