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A Complete Appalachian Trail Guidebook.
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  1. #1
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    Post Irrational snake fears

    Long time lurker, first time poster

    I'm section hiking the smokies next week and keep having this irrational fear about rattlesnakes and stepping on one. I hiked all over Virginia as a kid in the boy scouts in the early 90's. Never worried about snakes (matter of fact, we didn't even hang food for bears, just kept it in our tents, times have changed). I've been back in the game for about 3 years. Every time I go out in the summer I have massive anxiety before hitting the trail about rattlesnakes. Granted, I've seen two recently and never had issues. One was a big sucker laying between two rocks and I was probably about 6 feet away. It never rattled and I just enjoyed the sight of it. If I can see them, I'm not scared. Its what I cant see that freaks me out. I know this is irrational but its driving me nutty!!!! I absolutely am not scared of them if I can see them. I just worry about not seeing one right off trail and it biting me without warning. Usually I'm fine once I get going, although often times I'm move slowly through rocky or grassy areas. Is this like this for anyone else???? Or am I just a nervous nelly?

    PS: Anyone having any recent issues parking in Hot Springs? I really want to still have a catalytic converter when I get done.

    PPS: Whats the REAL deal with Standing Bear?? So many mixed reviews.

  2. #2
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    I have seen WAY more copperheads than rattlesnakes in my hiking. Just watch where you are walking and you will be fine. They want nothing to do with you and will retreat unless cornered or stepped on (again, watch where your feet are landing).

  3. #3
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    Here in AZ, hiking through tall dried out grass is always a bit nerve wracking for me. Only because, after stopping to un snag my external frame pack from a Mesquite bush a snake decided I was too close, started rattling and I could not locate him until he "rose" up out of the grass.
    So the memory of that adrenaline filled moment stayed with me for quite a while. I am just a bit more careful about where I place my feet in thick grass and avoid it whenever possible

  4. #4
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    I had similar fears on a long section of the PCT (Mexican border to Sierras). I nearly stepped on a rattlesnake, then had a run in with a rattler who was on the trail and didn’t want to move, and I once realized that a rattler was just a few feet away from a location I was drawing water from. I came to realize that they want nothing to do with us and will avoid us if at all possible. It’s just a reality of the trail in socal. As for the Appalachians, I haven’t seen many snakes over the years and those I’ve seen looked nonvenemous.

  5. #5
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    As for the Appalachians, I haven’t seen many snakes over the years and those I’ve seen looked nonvenemous.”

    should note this is mostly in Northern VA. I know that snakes are out there. I just haven’t seen too many and I don’t worry too much around here.

  6. #6
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    Lol. Iím the opposite. Iíve only seen one copperhead on a cool fall morning in the shenandoahs. It was small and moving slow.

    The weird thing is. I know all this. That they donít want anything to do with us, but yet. I still have massive anxiety over it. I spend so much time scanning the trail I think I miss cool things along the way.

  7. #7
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    Fear the little tick, not the rattle’s nick….

  8. #8
    Registered User 2Hobbits's Avatar
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    Truth to that

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by jckesler View Post
    Long time lurker, first time poster ....
    I'm section hiking the smokies next week and keep having this irrational fear about rattlesnakes and stepping on one.

    Lurkers are good.

    Maybe you'll run into Randy Ratliff. He posts frequently on the Hiking the Smokies Facebook page. His trips invariably involve snakes, usually several of them. Typically they're not on the trail, he's off-trail looking for them. I think he could cure you of your fear. At the very least, you'd become a lot more familiar with snakes' habits.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post

    Lurkers are good.

    Maybe you'll run into Randy Ratliff. He posts frequently on the Hiking the Smokies Facebook page. His trips invariably involve snakes, usually several of them. Typically they're not on the trail, he's off-trail looking for them. I think he could cure you of your fear. At the very least, you'd become a lot more familiar with snakes' habits.
    Iím good with not looking for them. As long as they stay well off train Iím good!! Lol.

    I love lurking. Learn a lot and I usually donít have much to add.

  11. #11
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    Our minds play tricks at 3 a.m. and whenever contemplating a backpacking trip. Especially if we're taking our youngsters. I've dealt with that through the years, but it always evaporated once I stepped on the trail. From that point forward, it's just "take the next step" and "remain reasonably alert." As the years have passed, I recognize the anxiety and just dismiss it because I know it can't survive the first step anyway.

    I've seen lots of vipers on the trail, more copperheads than timber rattlers. They don't bother me. Bears don't bother me. Ticks don't bother me. People don't either. The only thing that really is of concern, to me, is lightning on ridges.

  12. #12
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    So piling on the irrational fears and to keep my wife happy when I go out...

    I camp with a tarp and sometimes cowboy camp. Will snakes be crawling under my tarp and curling up with me at night to stay warm?

    Have never had a problem with snakes or other critters camping mostly in southern Indiana.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Roper View Post
    Our minds play tricks at 3 a.m. and whenever contemplating a backpacking trip. Especially if we're taking our youngsters. I've dealt with that through the years, but it always evaporated once I stepped on the trail. From that point forward, it's just "take the next step" and "remain reasonably alert." As the years have passed, I recognize the anxiety and just dismiss it because I know it can't survive the first step anyway.

    I've seen lots of vipers on the trail, more copperheads than timber rattlers. They don't bother me. Bears don't bother me. Ticks don't bother me. People don't either. The only thing that really is of concern, to me, is lightning on ridges.
    OMG Thats one more thing for me to worry about!!!!! lol.
    But thank you for that perspective, because that's how I am. Worry worry worry and then I get out there and its one foot in front of the other. Carefully.

  14. #14
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    They like to be right on the other side of a log across the trail as well so look when stepping over logs and rocks.
    I've always been more concerned with ticks ,you don't even know if you have one or more on you. And they don't have to be on you long and bam you have Lyme for life or bam your allergic to meat for life!

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by JNI64 View Post
    They like to be right on the other side of a log across the trail as well so look when stepping over logs and rocks.
    Usually reach over with my hiking pole and bang the other side of the log before stepping over.

  16. #16

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    I'll go with the odds and worry about it in proportion to the actual statistical threat it represents.

    How many people are actually bitten each year on the AT or other hiking trails throughout the country? Very, very, very few. And collectively that's a whole poopload of hiker miles without incident that we're talking about.
    UL, because nobody ever asks "How can I make my pack heavier?"

  17. #17
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    Growing up hiking in Florida, you get used to nearly every critter wanting to bite, burrow, suck, stick, gnaw, or inject you in some fashion. Snakes are EVERYWHERE, particularly the hot part of the year, which runs from late March to November. I remember swimming in a river with my sister when we were very young and later that day seeing a cotton-mouth nest very close to where we had just been splashing about. And another time, on the Florida Trail, turning and seeing a LARGE coral snake right next to where I had just stepped. Both of these situations could have turned out much worse than they did.

    Long, loose fitting pants and/or tall boots can serve as a mild shield against snake strikes but it's not a guarantee, though if you are really nervous about it, it may give you a little peace of mind. Walking with a stick and keeping track of what is on the ground around you also helps (in general, situational awareness is the best defense against "hiker worry").
    "I am learning nothing in this trivial world of [humans]. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news." --John Muir

  18. #18

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    Grew up in south FL and used to warm weather, but plans to ever hike the Florida Trail due to the increased opportunities for snake encounters, especially potential of walking through water with cotton mouths.
    Completed AT and several other trails. Dont really think much about snakes, just try to be aware of my surroundings just like any other wildlife. Much more concerned with ticks and lyme disease as a threat.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Astro View Post
    Grew up in south FL and used to warm weather, but plans to ever hike the Florida Trail due to the increased opportunities for snake encounters, especially potential of walking through water with cotton mouths.
    Completed AT and several other trails. Dont really think much about snakes, just try to be aware of my surroundings just like any other wildlife. Much more concerned with ticks and lyme disease as a threat.
    Should be "NO" plans to hike FT.

  20. #20

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    thats one big plus about winter hiking: No ticks or snakes in my area. I`ve seen plenty of copperheads and rattlers here in southeast Pa.
    loose lips sink ships

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