In April 2016, I was camping with a friend near to Wolverine Canyon, about 28-miles from Boulder, Utah, in The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. This area has the second largest Late Triassic petrified forest in North America (behind Petrified Forest National Park). Giant fossil logs of araucarian conifers (Norfolk Island Pine relatives) litter the beautiful badland slopes eroded into the 220 million year old purple and maroon clays of the Chinle Formation. The hillside was covered in scree, rocks, clay, and huge petrified logs, and the geology of the area was fascinating.
My friend and I had decided to explore this slope, but it was covered in these hard round stones that looked a bit like porous chunks of mud. As I moved from one huge petrified log to another, I was treading carefully on these rocks that were like ball-bearings under my feet, but not carefully enough. I was tired after not sleeping well the night before, and wasn’t paying as much attention as I would normally, to the placement of my feet. I’d already accidentally disturbed a huge bull snake who was hiding in a very small bush, which had slithered away and vanished into a hole that didn’t look like a mouse could fit into. After that, I’d intended to pay even more attention to this perfect habitat for snakes, but was still being a bit complacent. At one point I reached for a small piece of petrified rock on the slope in front of me, and my foot slipped right out from under me and I ended up sliding the short way down the hill on the rock balls, coming to an ungracious stop at the bottom.
As I slid down the slope I managed to scrape my leg on something and bang my elbow on a rock. The bump to the elbow had hit a funny bone, and when I made a move to get up I suddenly felt nauseous and dizzy. Trying to balance on the rounded rocks didn’t help, so I called to my friend to help me sit down, which he did except it was still on the hillside and I felt like I could slip again. I was really dizzy and unstable. I’ve never had a reaction like this to a fall before, at least not one I can remember.
My friend returned to looking at the fascinating rocks, thinking I was good, but I had my eye on a nice petrified log a short distance away. It had a flat top, and I figured it would be a much safer place to sit, so I made my way over to it very carefully, though a little unsteadily, and all my focus was on my balance.
When I reached the rock I decided to step over it as was in a small gully with a slope on either side covered in the dreaded ball bearing-like rocks. I balanced myself carefully and reached my left foot over the rock and set in down on the other side, then as I leaned forward to bring my right foot over I looked down at the rock, and that’s when I saw it; The tail of a rattle snake sticking out!
Holy cow! I exclaimed and in the same instance danger signals went off in my brain, and immediately sent adrenaline throughout my body, giving me the strength to leap away from the rock at speeds that were probably close to the speed of light (LOL).
Gone was the nausea and dizziness, I was several feet away from that rock before I could take another breath!
When I walked back towards the rock (keeping a safe distance), I noticed that the rattlesnake wasn’t getting upset at me at all. It lay there and watched me but didn’t raise it’s tail or move. I got to thinking that it must have been dozing when I set my foot down in front of it just inches from it’s mouth, and was in a very relaxed mood. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was.
Then I got to thinking about how easily I could have ended up being bitten, and how easily accidents can happen, especially in wild places in a series of events like the ones above, all within about a 4-minute time period or less.
In just four minutes I went from a smiling woman looking at rocks, to possibly ending up in a very dire situation. We were twenty-six miles from the tiny town of Boulder, which (I think) has a small clinic, but we were an additional twenty-nine miles from the town of Escalante, which has a larger clinic (but both roads are slow driving, made up of dirt, or very windy black-top roads) and I’ve no idea where the closest hospital is. It would be a LONG way! By the time we found help, I could have been in a serious condition, if not already dead.
The Moral of the Story
So why am I sharing this story? Well, in my view this story is a perfect example of how quickly accidents can happen when a person is being complacent. When I was a volunteer fire fighter, we were taught that COMPLACENCY KILLS and can be just as dangerous as fire, if not more so.
The second moral of this story is this; Our lives can come to an end in just seconds, minutes, or hours. There are no guarantees that there will be a tomorrow. Not for you, your family and friends, your favorite preacher, doctor, or movie star, or for I.
So many humans put things off for another day, week, year, or even wait all the way to retirement before they start to truly LIVE, or travel, or do the things they have dreamt of doing.
I have a friend who used to work in a nursing home, and he told me that many of the people in there had experienced heart attacks just weeks after they had retired. To someone like myself, that is just a horribly sad way to end a life of hard work. That is one of the many reasons I’ve decided to live my life now…because there may not be a tomorrow, and this past April, I came very close to that possibility. I know some of you will suggest that I was putting myself in danger, but there are dangers everywhere in life, not only in the wilderness.
I’m sharing this story with the hopes of inspiring at least one of you to get off the couch, face your fears, and live your life now…because there may not be a tomorrow.
In other words….try to stay alive, but if you’re going to die, be sure it’s while you are LIVING!!!
Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature
YOU COULD GET MAULED BY A BEAR AND DIE.
YOU COULD GET BIT MY A SNAKE AND DIE.
YOU COULD FALL OFF A CLIFF AND DIE.
YOU COULD GET GORED BY A BISON AND DIE.
YOU COULD GET STRUCK BY LIGHTNING AND DIE.
YOU COULD GET ATTACKED BY FIRE ANTS AND DIE.
YOU COULD STAY HOME ON THE COUCH,
EAT POTATO CHIPS AND DIE.
(I copied that from a very old Backpacker magazine).
This post was originally published on Nomad for Nature and written
by Roxy Whalley