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Couch2Trail

Our journey from getting off the couch and onto the trail

Why I Caught a Rattlesnake (or, Dude are you CRAZY?)

Cathy and I recently hiked on the Hickory Creek Trail in the Cohutta Wilderness, and we documented the trip and prepared a trip video that can be seen here.

It was a very relaxing trip for the most part. The details are in the video, so if you’re interested in our hike or the area check it out. However there was one really exciting adventure that took place that I feel needs a little more background and information. If you’ve seen the video, you already know, but for those who haven’t (like the title of this blog post implies), I caught a rattlesnake.

Here’s the situation: We had hiked in to our destination, enjoyed a nice lunch and a really nice nap in our hammocks, and then started hiking back out. One the way back out, along the Conasauga River, we encountered a troop of Boy Scouts that had set up in an area alongside the trail. As we were passing, some of the young men warned us of a rattlesnake on the other side of the trail. I was immediately interested, because it had been many (30ish) years since I have seen a rattlesnake in the wild, and never in my home state of GA. They showed us where a large timber rattler was coiled up next to a tree across the trail from their chosen campsite.

At this point I was thinking “Okay, I’ll just take a couple of pictures and then leave it alone”, thinking that I didn’t want to do anything else with all of the Scouters around. But then they told me that they were breaking down camp and moving because of the snake.

Here I must take the opportunity to commend the troop, because most people would simply kill the snake (no matter what kind it was) and carry on. I hate to hear of people doing that. The snakes live out there in the wilds and we are just visitors, and in my opinion it isn’t acceptable to just kill them in their homes because they inconvenience us, or because we are frightened of them. That said, with a group of young men’s lives in the balance, if the troop leaders had decided to kill the snake I could almost call that “justifiable snake-icide”. Kudos to their decision to relocate their camp instead!

Here also I will insert my thoughts and prior experience with snakes in general and venomous snakes in particular. For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with snakes. As a young child I often caught snakes and kept them as pets. I would spend hours out in the woods and fields looking for them. In all those searches I never came across a venomous snake (that I positively identified). This fascination continued as I grew into adulthood and joined the USMC.

While serving in Thailand I had a unique opportunity to actually catch a cobra by hand. The Thai Royal Marines were giving us a demonstration on how to handle cobras, and asked for volunteers. No one was quick to jump in, and since I was experienced in handling snakes I thought “How hard can it be?” and raised my hand. They demonstrated the technique and I copied it with success.

Fast forward to the present: In the recent past I have caught two different copperhead snakes (pit vipers, related to rattlesnakes). One was while riding with my nephew on the Silver Comet Trail. We rode by the snake crossing the trail so I stopped and moved him off to prevent his being run over, or worse someone missing seeing him and getting bitten in the process. Because of my experience catching snakes all my life, and recent success handling the copperheads, I felt confident I could catch the rattler. Not only that, as weird as this may sound, I REALLY wanted to.

Seizing the opportunity, I asked the troop if instead of breaking down and moving their camp, they would prefer that I catch and relocate the snake. All I needed to hear was one “yes” and I was on it. The rattler was coiled up next to a tree, minding his own business, and even when I approached closely he wasn’t yet rattling or threatening in any way. Using his stillness to my advantage, I slowly moved the end of my hiking staff close and pinned his head with it. After that it was a simple matter of picking him up by the neck, close to his head where he couldn’t turn and bite me.

I held him there for a minute or two letting the scouts take a good look at him, while also admonishing them not to emulate my foolish actions and explaining that I have had a lot of past experience handling snakes. Then I carried the snake down and off the trail about a quarter of a mile or so away and let him go.

So, to answer the question posed above… am I crazy? I’ll leave that to the reader to decide. (If you say yes, most people agree haha!) I must say though, that it was a very exciting adventure and I will remember it fondly for a long time!

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Meet Supergirl

On February 23, 2017, John and I finished the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail. That day the plan was to start at Blue Ridge Gap and hike at least to Bly Gap, just past the North Carolina border. We intended to take some photos of our hike and do a video or two to document our journey. It was a beautiful day for hiking, cool but not cold. If all went well, we knew this would be the day we made it to the border, so we were super excited about completing our goal. Continue reading “Meet Supergirl”

Hiking the AT: Unicoi Gap to the GA/NC Border (His Take)

Cathy had a week off from school, and we had been putting off our goal of finishing the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail for too long. After some “Google-Fu” research we found a small cabin at the Henson Cove Bed and Breakfast establishment that was ideally located to the part of the trail we needed to complete- from Unicoi Gap (north of Helen) to the border of North Carolina. Henson Cove B&B (we stayed in the Cove Cabin) is a nicely run establishment and the hosts, Mariah and Dave, are friendly, courteous and professional. Dave also shuttles hikers along the AT. Continue reading “Hiking the AT: Unicoi Gap to the GA/NC Border (His Take)”

Hiking the AT: Unicoi Gap to the GA/NC Border (Her Take)

Winter Break from school was the perfect opportunity for John and me to finish the rest of the AT in Georgia, so we took full advantage! We decided to rent a little cabin called Henson Cove up in Hiawassee, GA since that would be close to the sections of the AT we still needed to hike. We packed up both cars and the dogs and off we went. We arrived Saturday afternoon and got ourselves settled into the cozy little cabin. It was just right and met our needs beautifully. Continue reading “Hiking the AT: Unicoi Gap to the GA/NC Border (Her Take)”

Where’s Cathy Been?

Some of you may have been wondering where Cathy’s been lately. I know I have been silent on this blog for quite a while now. This past summer provided many opportunities for adventure and blogging about those adventures; however, once the school year began, things changed for me. You see, I am a teacher and the school year has kind of slowed me down a bit. I don’t think many people realize what a time consuming job teaching is. I’ve spent many days and weekends taking my work home with me, which has prevented me from getting outdoors as much as I would like. Unfortunately, from August until November we did not do many hikes. Once November rolled around, I realized this needed to change. Continue reading “Where’s Cathy Been?”

Hike22: After-Action Report and Video

On February 10th, a group of us hiked 22(ish) miles in an attempt to raise awareness about the high number of veteran suicide rates. It’s difficult to gauge how successfully the goal of the hike was or will be met. My hope is that maybe there are a few people who now know that a problem exists that were not aware of it beforehand, and who will now be more sensitive to the issues veterans face and will reach out to the veterans they know to try and make sure those vets are okay. Continue reading “Hike22: After-Action Report and Video”

Struggles Veterans Face: Possible Causes and Possible Solutions

My nephew Bryan and I have planned a 22 mile hike (details coming soon) to attempt to raise awareness of what I can only think of an epidemic-the high number of daily suicides among our veteran population on a daily basis. The inspiration for planning this hike can be found here. LINK Continue reading “Struggles Veterans Face: Possible Causes and Possible Solutions”

Suffer Fest on the BMT: A Cautionary Tale

My good friend and trail brother, Ken Brenner reached out to me the week of Thanksgiving 2016, asking me if I wanted to hike with him on Black Friday. Ken is an avid hiker, stays in shape, and he can really move down the trail. Continue reading “Suffer Fest on the BMT: A Cautionary Tale”

Five Tips for Getting Your Wife out on the Trail

This one is for the guys. You love getting out in the wilds, hiking and backpacking, going far and getting dirty and smelly. Your wife, however, isn’t as enamored with all of that as you are. You want to share your love of the outdoors with her, but she’s reluctant. How do you convince her to go out and stay in the woods with you? Continue reading “Five Tips for Getting Your Wife out on the Trail”

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