I went for a run this afternoon at work. I ran on the trail I use to bike to work, but in the direction away from home, so I could see part of the trail I don’t normally visit.
It was windy (windy like a mountain road, not windy like a hurricane), and a bit hilly, but otherwise very nice. The trail follows a creek on one side, with some lovely foliage on the other.
About five minutes into my run, while I was coming out of a curve and looking down at the creek, my peripheral vision picked up some strange movement on the trail in front of me.
I turned my head and immediately stopped moving, because there was a giant snake on the trail.
You’re probably picturing a snake in your head right now, and if you’re not completely terrified of snakes, I bet you’re picturing a garter snake. One of those thin, 20-inch, harmless guys, just out for some sun.
This snake was over 4 feet long. It was bigger around than a champagne flute, and if I hadn’t been literally paralyzed with fear, I’m fairly certain I would have struggled if I tried to lift it it with both hands.
And it was moving, towards me — it’s little head bobbing as it slithered.
I was physically unable to move for over a second. As soon as I could, I turned around and sprinted until I could no longer breathe.
While fleeing, I tried to warn an oncoming cyclist, who I’m sure was very confused by my running, flailing and yelling.
After catching my breath, I tried to resume my run. This failed for many reasons.
First, my pace was all messed up because of the sprinting. I don’t run intervals, so my body doesn’t really do the whole sprint/walk thing.
Then there was my heartbeat; I know how fast my heart is supposed to beat when I’m running, and this was definitely too fast.
Finally, there was the squirrel. About 15 minutes after my encounter with the snake, a squirrel hopped out of the bushes near my feet, and I jumped several feet into the air.
I nervously half-jogged back to the office, and took a cold shower. After calling Leah to explain what happened (if you count a bunch of bawling and gibberish as “explaining”), I made myself a root beer float, and sat through a meeting that was hopefully not very important, because I was thinking about snakes the entire time.
40 minutes of diligent research later, I’m fairly certain what I saw was a large western yellow-bellied racer, which you can read about here.
I assure you the one I saw was considerably larger than the “up to 3 feet long” varietals shown in most of those pictures; adults can grow up to 6 feet in length.
It’s non-venomous, of course, which I knew the second I saw it. The only venomous snakes in California are the six breeds of rattlesnakes (which are easy to identify, even without the rattle).
So, not exactly the manliest story ever told, but… that’s the first time I’ve ever seen a snake in the wild, and I can confirm that if you also have an irrational fear of snakes, seeing a giant one slither towards you is absolutely terrifying.