Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wrangling with a Rattler

How quickly time passes! It's hard to believe that we've been here in Utah for ten days already. Sadly, we forgot to bring Jason's camera on our super-trip, so we don't have a lot of pictures to show all of the fun that we've been having. But, here's a quick laundry list of the fun things we've done:

• roasted marshmallows around the campfire at the Wheeler family reunion
• hugged Great-Grandma and Grandpa Hansen during our trip to Rupert, Idaho
• marveled at beautiful Shoshone Falls
• chatted with lots of aunts and uncles at The Upper Crust Restaurant above Gosner's cheese factory
• learned the meaning (and pronunciation) of "Oquirrh" at the Oquirrh Mountain Temple Open House
• picked cherries for home-made pie
• watched the Pioneer Day fireworks (Talia hid her eyes most of the time)
• waved at Grandpa Charles in the Hyde Park's parade (he was a star, especially with his bag of candy)
• cheered Jason in the 5K "This is the Race." Faster than Lightning McQueen, he ran it in 22 minutes. He would have placed him first for his age division were he my perfect age of thirty, but unfortunately he has some months left before he catches up.
• admired the stunning wildflowers while picnicking at Tony Grove Lake
• listened to harp music at the Logan tabernacle
• giggled at the smiley face drawn on Grandpa Charles's hardhat
• licked sticky fingers after eating yummy Aggie Ice Cream
• feasted again and again thanks to Grandma Susie's fabulous kitchen

Of all the things that we've done here, however, one is my very favorite. Early one morning, Jason and I kissed our sleeping girls goodbye and drove up the canyon to hike the Crimson Trail. Since I'm not terribly stable on steep descents, we hiked the trail in reverse, beginning with a seriously intense climb. I'm learning that a trail labeled "intermediate" out in the Rocky Mountain West is definitely not the same as an "intermediate" trail in the cornfields of Illinois. While it may have been difficult to lug my pregnant body up the mountainside, it was definitely worth the effort. The trail glides along the edge of a high canyon ridge with tremendous views into the valley below. When we stopped to rest, inquisitive hummingbirds and chipmunks drew close to check us out.

What we were NOT expecting, however, was the rattler. Just as we turned the corner after our final ascent, a camouflaged rattlesnake lay right in the middle of the path, basking in the morning sun. Nearly underfoot, Jason would have stepped on it had it not sounded its warning rattle. Fortunately, the snake wasn't aggressive and slithered off the trail (albeit not far enough away for my liking.) Completely terrified, I ran off the other direction shrieking. Jason, on the other hand, stayed there and tried to coax me into coming close so I could get a better look.

Once my heart stopped racing after this too-close-for-comfort encounter with a venomous snake, I realized how woefully unprepared I was to handle a snake bite. If Jason had been bit, I wouldn't have had any idea what to do. The last time I studied snake bites was decades ago as a Girl Scout--not a terrific knowledge foundation.

And so, in case any of you are woefully outdated in your knowledge of snake bite First Aid, here's the latest information that I found off a website but out by NIH (

First Aid

1. Keep the person calm, reassuring them that bites can be effectively treated in an emergency room. Restrict movement, and keep the affected area below heart level to reduce the flow of venom.

2. If you have a pump suction device (such as that made by Sawyer), follow the manufacturer's directions.

3. Remove any rings or constricting items because the affected area may swell. Create a loose splint to help restrict movement of the area.

4. If the area of the bite begins to swell and change color, the snake was probably poisonous.

5. Monitor the person's vital signs -- temperature, pulse, rate of breathing, and blood pressure -- if possible. If there are signs of shock (such as paleness), lay the person flat, raise the feet about a foot, and cover the person with a blanket.

6. Get medical help right away.

7. Bring in the dead snake only if this can be done safely. Do not waste time hunting for the snake, and do not risk another bite if it is not easy to kill the snake. Be careful of the head when transporting it -- a snake can actually bite for up to an hour after it's dead (from a reflex).


* DO NOT allow the person to become over-exerted. If necessary, carry the person to safety.
* DO NOT apply a tourniquet.
* DO NOT apply cold compresses to a snake bite.
* DO NOT cut into a snake bite with a knife or razor.
* DO NOT try to suck out the venom by mouth.
* DO NOT give the person stimulants or pain medications unless a doctor tells you to do so.
* DO NOT give the person anything by mouth.
* DO NOT raise the site of the bite above the level of the person's heart.

In our case, if Jason had been bit by the rattler, we would have had trouble getting him down off the mountain. I certainly couldn't have carried him, yet the exertion of hiking down would have likely been too much for him. Thus in hindsight, I've learned the importance of always having a way to contact 911--even if only a well-charged cell phone if you are somewhere close to service. We also should have had a whistle to call for help and an up-to-date snake bite kit. Oh, and long pants...

While I hope that neither you nor I will ever need this information, there's peace in knowing what to do in case of such an emergency.


Tanja said...

I am so happy nothing serious happened to you. Thanks for the advice about snake bits - if I will ever be in the area again and will go hiking (very unlikely, but possible) - I will remember your advise. Have a wonderful week.

Mom L said...

Ummm - yeah, about that ... I would have been running with you! I hate friendly snakes. I can't even describe my feelings about rattlers in the wild! But it is good to get a refresher on snake bite first aid. Sure wish it would've worked out for us to join all of you for dinner Thursday night.
So many things going on. Glad you were able to make it here and we're hoping you have a very safe return trip. - Aunt Julie

The Favorite said...

YIKES ! ! Snakes. We have not seen a snake since we have been here so I strongly suggest that this is where you should come :)
Keep having fun in Cache Valley!

Bruce Richards said...

The Crimson trail is a great hike. I never saw a snake, but I remember the steep descent.

Brittney Richards said...

I think I would have run and never come back. I've had friends see a rattler on the Crimson Trail hike, and the one time I hiked it, I was terrified that I would encounter one as well. I kept a heavy stick at my side the entire time ready to strike. Knowing me I would only have run instead of strike. Glad no one got bit.