Shenandoah National Park is in our "backyard", is it not?
Good, needed that technical interpretation to bring you this story.
What do Boy Scout dads do when the honey-do lists are progressed and a holiday is on? Do a 12.5m hike in SNP was our choice yesterday. At the start of the hike one of my companions, a scientist, proclaimed it a "nice day to see some snakes", which proved a bit prophetic. Parking near Mathews Arm, we headed down to cross Jeremy's Run, and headed up Knob Mountain for a ridge hike. On the way I nearly stepped on a little garter snake, about 12" long. Then we encountered a 5' black rat, who proved his mettle by refusing to budge off the trail and striking at the stick we used to move him. Also came across a doe with suckling fawn about 30' away, along with an assortment of other deer and a wide collection of butterflies.
At the end of Knob Mtn we turned back up the Jeremy's Run trail, with 14 stream crossings and soon found a couple of water snakes sunning on a log. But then came the delight. I was walking last of 3. Dwight, first in line, stumbled on a rock and came down hard with a stomp on his other foot. This caused the timber rattler lying quietly 3' away to spring immediately to a defensive posture and rattle vigorously for 4-5 seconds while the humans tried to sort through the pandemonium. Fortunately Dwight's stumble took him beyond striking range and we were able to revel in the discovery. My first ever eastern rattlesnake!