Saturday, June 7, 2014

Into the snake pit

Here's a confession: I kind of love snakes. I just think they're pretty neat. In the Florida swamps, we tramped around hoping to see them, especially the two brightly banded ones that can be easily mistaken, the viper for the innocent. We had a rhyme we chanted to remember the way the stripes were supposed to go: "Red on yellow can hurt a fellow (coral snake); red on black, friend of Jack. (scarlet king)." When random scientists showed up in their tall snake gaiters and minced about the tall grass in fear, we strode through in our Vietnam surplus swamp boots and never, ever got bitten.

So when we heard the first rattle, just off the trail, my first thought was, "Cool!" My companions, not so much. Not for that snake, or for the dozen others we encountered in the Wenaha-Tucannon wilderness. After awhile one of the Ts was gingerly poking each clump of grass we encountered as we waded through the jungle that was the trail. When I took over the lead and hiked faster, the Freak of Nature was heard to say, "Oh, that's the (Monkey Bars) approach to snake prevention. Power through and hope for the best."  Yep. That's pretty much my life approach.

The beautiful Wenaha
In their defense, they had dogs, and dogs and snakes don't mix well. By the end of the day, as we reached a lovely grassy bench by the Wenaha River, everyone was approaching snake fatigue. We had also been doing the Poison Ivy Dance all day, contorting our bodies into strange poses as we leapt through the foliage like backpack-clad ballet dancers.

My Skyscape worked great, even with some wind and a little sprinkle of rain!
You might wonder why we decided to do this hike, but the main reason is that despite its issues, the canyon is a serene and incredible place. The river rushed bright and clear past our camp, and the stars hung like grapes in the darkness. A spiderweb of trails took off from this place, which made us imagine striking out for days and days before coming out.

But we had to come out. The next day was mostly snake-free, and after waiting the requisite 5-7 days I am happy to report no poison ivy rash. The dance worked!
Wouldn't you go here, even with snakes?



12 comments:

  1. Where? Is this in Hells Canyon? Beautiful photos....glad you dodged both snakes and poison ivy.

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  2. It's in the umatilla nf, near Troy.

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  3. Beautiful! I had to drive from Portland to Boise three weeks ago, and I really enjoyed the eastern Oregon landscape. I need to get back there.

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  4. Yay for the success of the Skyscape. Will we see it on the PCT this year in July? Carol

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  5. Pretty spot, especially all greened up as it is. You're right. Snakes and dogs don't mix. Poison ivy and dogs don't either. I itch just see in poison ivy in print!

    Is the skycape a tarp, or is there a tent hiding underneath?

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    1. There is a net tent underneath!

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  6. Oh the beautiful Wenaha. Shane and I packed into this lovely canyon over ten years ago on a Memorial weekend and were greeted by the rattling residents.
    I saw my husband jump six feet up and back at the same time carrying a 40 pound pack to avoid stepping on the first one of many, I never knew he could do that. Thank goodness we did not have our dogs at the time and yes I was pounding all the grass in the meadow where we camped before setting up the tent. But it was a good time and a beautiful place!

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  7. I learned the rhyme a bit differently, "red on yellow can kill a fellow, red on black - venom lacks" but it's the same thing. I'm with you about snakes. I think they are really cool. They need to be treated with respect for sure, but I love seeing them. Poison Ivy on the other hand.........that would deter me. I should probably give it another chance, but I was so sick the last time I had it that I have a perhaps unreasonable avoidance issue with it. The Wenaha is beautiful though.

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    1. I am totally amazed I didn't get it, but I am sure I am still just as allergic. I just drove to Prineville near JD..you work in some nice country! Sending you a personal email about it.

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