Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sometimes, things happen

Yesterday, a couple of friends of mine and I decided to take a hike along the Pacific Crest Trail west of Wrightwood, CA.  Those of you who know me well, know that this wasn't just a planned hike, but also a geocaching excursion.  We do this all the time.

We started our hike, heading up to the first geocache.  There were some high clouds in the sky, but they weren't really blocking the sun much so it was a warm day, perfect hiking/geocaching weather.  

The first cache took the most time, mostly because we didn't find it right away and so resorted to the hint which threw us off of our game.  At one point, I spotted a rattlesnake in a rock crevasse near the cache.  I wasn't quite sure what I was looking at, at the time, but once it moved and rattled, I made a hasty retreat.  Eventually we spotted the cache and moved on down the trail.  I took the first shot from that cache spot.

As the day went on, we found a variety of caches, stopped for a quick bite to eat and to allow one of my friend's dog to rest her feet in the shade.  The sun had heated up the trail and it was rather hot for her out there.  At the next to last cache, we ended up soaking her feet quite extensively, then started back down the road that paralleled the Pacific Crest Trail.  By taking the road back, we shaved about a mile and a half off of our return hike, still getting a nice 5.34 mile hike in.

There was a cache alongside the road and by this time, we could tell it would be better to rest the dog here.  Her owner stayed with her while my other friend and I hiked the rest of the way along the road to retrieve the car.  By the time we got back to the pullout, our friend had found the last cache.

In reality, this wasn't planned to be our last cache, but it worked out that way, because sometimes things happen.  When we go geocaching, our unwritten rule is, whoever retrieves the cache needs to replace it.  We do this because that person knows where it was exactly hidden.  I've been in a group where another person re-hid the cache and we accidentally lost it because he put it where he thought I'd found it and ended up dropping it down a hole where it was non-retrievable.

As our friend returned the cache, he decided to place a rock on top of the cache to keep it in place and to add an additional layer of camouflage to the hide.  Had he not done that, I wouldn't be writing this story and we would have gotten a couple of more cache finds before we called it a day.  

The rattlesnake, lying nearby, took exception to my friend placing that rock there, and bit my friend on the hand.  The snake had been there all along, but for whatever reason, didn't make its presence known when he retrieved the cache, nor did it rattle when he replaced the cache.  It just bit him when he tried to place the rock and then rattled.  Biting and then rattling, I think, is fairly typical of baby rattlers, which this one was.  The photo is not the rattler in question, just another rattlesnake that I've encountered while out geocaching.

Our first order of business was calming our friend down and then getting him to a local hospital.  We decided to take him to Loma Linda, which was the closest and also the best equipped hospital in the area to handle snake bites.  Coincidentally, my other friend with us had been bitten by a rattlesnake a couple of years ago.  I mentioned it, in this post from my other blog.  

Needless to say, we got him down off the mountain and at the hospital in 45 minutes without having to drive recklessly in the process.  And it is amazing how many people you get to bypass at the emergency room door by say those two magical words, rattlesnake bite.  We got pushed to the front of the line very quickly, they took his vitals and got us into the emergency room right away.  As of this writing, he's still in the hospital, undergoing treatment but appears to be improving.

What this leads to is a public service announcement.  Snakes are out there and they are common.  I overheard a nurse in the ER say the hospital is getting between 1 to 2 snakebites victims per week.  And I have to say we're fairly careful, yet one of us still got bit yesterday.  Things happen, so be prepared, be calm should it happen and seek medical attention right away.

1 comment:

  1. That is downright scary. It's amazing that we can all take geocaching so easily and knowing things like this can happen. I'm sure you've -- and every other geocacher -- has read about a cacher dying for not realizing situations (it's happened several times that I know about) or somebody being seriously injured.

    On the flip side, the game really is an amazing way to connect with nature or find yourself, so to speak. Hope everything worked out with your friend.