After a long day of driving in the mountains yesterday, we are ready for a day closer to “home” so after a leisurely morning, we get ourselves together and head up to Horsetooth mountain. We had visited the Horsetooth Reservoir briefly on our first night, just for the beauty of the scenery; now we are ready to see more, and up close.
We grab our respective waters and decide on the hike to Horsetooth Falls. It looks to be a fairly easy, and not terribly long, path (in deference to both the small people in our party and my father’s still-healing lungs. And, okay, let’s be honest… my general lack of fitness as well.)
In any case, we walk along the trail, first over hills and dales, across fields, into little valleys, down into a gully where we can hear and see signs of the water that is falling somewhere ahead of us.
And then, disaster strikes.
There’s a rattlesnake on the trail. Or on a rock right beside the trail, which is close enough.
OK, maybe that’s not a disaster. I mean, if one of us had been BITTEN by the rattlesnake, that would be a disaster. But you have to understand how afraid of snakes my mother is. You have to understand how afraid of snakes I am.
So we come up to the place where the snake is. Someone up ahead of us is saying that it’s a small snake, and can’t strike as far as the path. A bunch of exceedingly stupid college-age people are sticking their cameras within inches of the snake, which is rattling its ire, full force. That they are not getting bitten is nothing short of miraculous.
The falls – our goal – are just a bit past this turn in the path. My BIL crosses first, keeping as far to the right of the path as possible, to give the snake as much of a wide berth as possible.
The Youngest follows her dad, unafraid. She’s with her daddy, and she’s fine.
The Eldest looks back nervously. She understands about rattlesnakes being dangerous. She’s seen her dad go across but she wants reassurance. Nana and I put on our bravest faces. Her mom tells her she’s OK, and they cross together.
From the other side of the snake, my sister watches it and directs me. I am fine as far as snakes go, so long as I don’t actually have to see them. Or touch them, I suppose, but that’s just too horrible a thought. I hear that snake rattling wildly, and I don’t look. Big cicada, I tell myself, so that I don’t panic midway through. Then I’m across, past it, still not looking because seeing is all it will take to make me lose it, and now I’m on the wrong side of the path to be having a meltdown.
On the other side, my mother is really trying not to lose it. But she can hear it, and nothing can make her not know what that is. The idea of snake is terrifying, and she’s trying so hard not to freak out with the little girls there but her phobia is strong and – let’s be real here – being afraid of a poisonous snake is not exactly an irrational fear. She pulls back and it’s all over her that left to her own devices she would RUN back down the trail the way we came, without thought to her own safety in the process.
Dad takes her back. BIL takes the girls to the waterfall. I go as far as the ledge above the waterfall, where I can get some shots of the falls and the girls posing for pics for their dad. Sis goes as far as to where she can see the waterfalls through the trees.
Then she heads back, after Mom and Dad.
BIL and the girls are still at the falls when I call that I’m going to follow their mom. I’ve realized I have my parents’ water supply in my backpack, so I hope to catch up with them.
One problem. There’s still a snake on the trail. And if I see it, I’m lost.
I make my way back, a little nervous that I might get to that point and there NOT be any people there, leaving me to stumble right into the thing. No worries, there’s a pile-up of people checking this out. There’s a hill that’s NOT the path, up and over the curve that I need to avoid, and so I blaze my own trail, all the while hoping that there’s nothing awful up there and very pointedly not looking in the direction of the loathsome creature.
I got past that area and headed down, pausing to look to the curves below in hopes of seeing Sis (no luck) or my parents (they must have seriously beat feet down the trail). I call out, but no one I know hears me. OK then; down I go, trying not to worry so much about mom & dad waterless in the park or about BIL and girls who still have to get past the slithering awfulness.
I pass a park ranger on the way up to deal with the issue. He’ll be there moving the snake to a safe place off the path when the rest of our party gets there. He’ll also tell them that it wasn’t a baby at all, but an old bugger, with lots of rattles.
In any case, they eventually catch up to me. When we get to a open area in the hike, we can see Sis and the ‘rents in the distance. Sis waits for us and M&D press on to the parking lot and rest area. And then the hike is over, and a very hungry bunch of us is ready for lunch.
Then we hang out at the pool, go for a browse through Old Town Fort Collins, and stop for ice cream at Walrus. Which the girls have been begging for every night since we got here.
The cappuccino chip with cookie dough blended in? Fantastic!