I’m so delighted to introduce my friend and soul brother, Jason Evans. A man who lives his life from his heart and soul. He is daring, loves nature and wildlife. This is sacred to Jason. He lives with God and Rattlesnakes too. He loves, with empathy and kindness in his heart. We are kindred spirits, Jason and me… Steve Sparks
Rattlesnakes didn’t scare me. I hiked past dozens. Found them respectful in their warning rattle, regal as they surrendered the trail.
Except for one juvenile, basking in the sun, laid out like an arrow. He didn’t warn me. Yet I stopped short, eventually clacking my poles. Still he didn’t so much as shudder.
I reached out a pole and gently nudged him. Pliable like a bean bag. After a little pole pounding and stomping from a safe distance, and absolutely no recognition, I reached again with a pole to nudge him; wondering finally if he was dead.
Snapping, in an instant he twisted and struck – fangs tinking and dripping against the pole. He glared at me in a snakey sort of way and slithered off; I thought a little haughtily.
Later some old-timers told me the juveniles are most dangerous, because they are more likely than their judicious elders, to “blow their wad,” every time they strike.
It was a little disconcerting, cowboy camping in the desert one night, when I heard, nearby, a jackrabbit scream while ripped apart by coyotes. It wasn’t quick.
A swarm of angry bees was like a spun oblong tornado 4 feet tall, that I heard from a ways off hovering 30 feet above the chaparral, and equidistant to me. Looking back and forth on the steep and rugged trail, I realized if I was blamed for disturbing them, I had nowhere to go.
Dawn wolves howling on a nearby peak south of Crater Lake were awesome.
The cougar I saw in Southern California, at dusk, slunk up the side of the hill after I hissed at her. Super goosebumps though. I saw their tracks many times.
Bears were generally bounding off through the berries – myself made known – day or night, and so I rarely got a good look.
My only scary animal experience involved a herd of cattle.
I’ve worked with grass fed cattle on a small sustainable farm and think myself good with them.
In an open field I can move amidst the herd and walk out a particular cow if I want. I’ve been close enough to lend a good welcomed scratch from time to time. Cows don’t generally like to be petted.
I was hiking in middle California one night, near the timberline, above some steep grassy rangeland. The trail was overgrown; tall shrubs on both sides were thick and my headlamp didn’t illuminate but a few feet beyond the fringe.
I saw reflections in the eyes of a couple cows standing just off trail, chewing their cud. They spooked and started crashing – presumably blindly – through the brush.
Within moments another dozen cows, unseen, were to their feet and crashing too. They didn’t run away, but swarmed me in their confusion, sometimes checking each other in their mad scramble.
All of it I could hear, but all I saw were the flashing of their eyes and an occasional profile begin to form and then fade away. Several flashed across the trail before and behind.
There was nothing I could do but dim my headlamp and hike fast – sure I would be trampled any moment.
Eventually they were all behind me. I had run the gauntlet. I was shaking.
Most moving were the antics of spirited lizards, marmots with immense character and woodpeckers tapping trees in the near distance.
There was a mid-morning of memories that will stay with me longer than most. It was the Alpine Wilderness, in the Klamath National Forest of Northern California.
The Pacific Crest Trail cast along a wending, near horizontal path through a rough and steep scree slope.
I came around a bend, and saw grazing, at a rare tuft of verdant scruff, a young buck – a black-tail deer. His nascent antlers downy.
I said aloud “You’re beautiful,” surprised at the sound of my own voice, which I hadn’t heard in at least a day. Pausing in admiration I rested on my trekking poles, and considered our situation.
It was at least a quarter mile south to a spot where the deer or me might safely step off trail. And I knew, the chance the deer would follow me south to do so, was slim.
Certainly the deer wouldn’t brush shoulders with me while I passed. I had no idea what to expect from the trail ahead. And either of us breaking a leg to go around was my utmost concern.
So after a while I stepped forward and paused, and then again … and it seemed like Buck got the idea and he turned from me to meander up trail. I followed.
Neither of us rushed. For almost a mile we hiked together as such, he always 60 feet ahead, every now and then glancing back to be sure I hadn’t broken our agreement.
He bounded from the trail where we came over a saddle, but as I came up he still stood, facing me from a mossy clearing 20 feet away.
He leaned forward and tapped a front hoof and shook his head at me when I paused again, like he was hooking into a scrum.
I nodded, and continued my journey, leaving him to his. Jason Evans