a VirtualTourist member from Ra`ananna
I'll be hiking alone in the Joshua Tree National Park in December.
Are there any rattlesnakes around this time of year? Is it a real danger for a solo hiker? Where is the nearest facility with anti-venom available?
There is a chance to see one during the day, especially in rocky areas. The good think about rattlesankes is they usually give a good warning if you get too close. A few rules to keep in mind. Don't stick your hand into any area you can't see, for example if you drop something in a rocky area and can't see it, don't feel around, use a stick. Intersting fact about rattlesnakes, only 1 in 3 bites inject venom. Your too big for a meal. If you see one just walk around give a wide berth. They can only strike about 2/3's of their body length.
There are other dangers hiking alone in the desert. First rule is to be sure to tell someone your exact trail, time your are starting out and time you expect to return. Be sure to have a good map, even if the trail is well marked.
I've hiked alot in the desert southwest and have come across plenty of rattlesnakes. Just be mindful in rocky areas. Don't travel too fast or step into a spot you can't see. They can be on rocks during the day for heat or at the edge of bushes waiting for prey. As far as rattlesnakes, it's safe if you stay aware. Again, that time of year there is a much less chance of seeing one.
John is giving you good advice. I have allways felt that the rattlesnake has gotten a bad rap. They are actually a rather non-aggressive and some what shy creature. They are only going to bite you if they feel cornered or suprised. They bite large animals like people out of fear not argession.
So like John said use common sense and pay attention and the rattler will pose no real threat for you.
On the other hand his follow up advise is excellent. (As a volunteer fireman who has been on a few searches) Leaving information about your plans with a person that can contact authorities if you do not check in with them on your return is a very good idea, This could be a person at the park or a family member at home. Remember they do not have to be in the U.S. they just need to be able to make a phone call and alert the authorities. In the western U.S. this would be the County Sheriff or The National Park Service. As a backup plan put a short description of your plan inside your vehicle at the trail head. This is the first place the sheriff would look for clues if a car remains at a trail head too long.
Hypothermia and dehydration should be your main concern. Much more threatening than snakes.Do not forget to put some effort into staying hydrated and be prepared for cold. Some extra water,food and layers of clothes can turn what would have been a tragedy into a slightly uncomfortable adventure. So be prepared with adequate clothing, nourishment and a map and compass and you will have a great time in Joshua Tree.
I have hiked alone all my life so please do not be discouraged by this advise. I reread it and it sounds a bit alarming. Just prepare ahead, pay attention and have a great time.
Randy - that's great advise about putting some type of itinerary in your vehicle. I also hike solo most of the time. I do let people know where I will be and when I will be back but I never leave something in my car. Definitely a good idea!
Just do not leave it on the dash. The Sheriff will look in the glove box first thing. No reason to let everybody know when you will be back.
They typically do not strike at the first person who passes one by. It is typically the 3rd.
Thanks for your valuable tips!
They are encouraging, not alarming.
Lee - it's good to know that rattlesnakes can count till 3!
That is when they become afraid.
I have no intention to scare them... Live and let live...
Although at the moment I am living in Hesperia, not too far from the Joshua Tree, and I encounter rattlers as well, but my point was that I am costantly telling visitors to my country of Iceland, how to prepare for a hike, and the two gentlemen above are giving you excellent advise.
Always, ALWAYS give the itinerary information to someone of sound mind, and leaving an itinerary in the vehicle is solid advise. Having a GPS would not hurt either. If you book into a hotel, and hike from there, leave information at the hotel.
Not much help, but just wanted to back up the previous advise given. Follow the advise given and you will be just fine.
Thanks Erik, I trekked in Iceland and the huts along the way always kept a log of hikers, for any occasion. This safety rule is very clear to me. Fortunately, I didn't have to worry about rattlesnakes in Iceland...
Well compadre, then you have not a thing to worry about, if you survived a trek in Iceland, the Joshua will be a piece of cake, - rattlers aside.....d:o)
Much good advice provided already, especially an itinerary. However in searching around the web there is a you tube video followed up by some NPS commentary indicating that there has been only one reported rattlesnake bite in Joshua Tree in the past 14 years, the last one being in April of this year. By all means use caution in the rocky areas and if you do any climbing where rattlers tend to frequent to bask out in the sun even during winter. In early spring the blooms from the joshua trees are this bright white which is really spectacular to see.
Thanks! I don't want to be remembered as the 2nd person in history who was bitten by a rattlesnake in Joshua Tree... But the statistics are encouraging!