Rubber Boa

Brushwhacking today…it has been unseasonably cool and damp for a couple of days. The brush along the Johnson Creek trail is exuberant, and when the sky opened up today I was in the thick of it. Felt quite whiny until I got used to being wet. As I made my way through the tall bracken ferns and alders, water brushed off onto my cotton work pants, creeping up my shins to my thighs. My shirt sleeves got soaked, and my leather gloves. Sigh. My raincoat might have helped for awhile. I found a semi-dry spot under a tree to eat my lunch, and when I felt chilled I got up and kept hiking. The rain stopped, the brush thinned out as I climbed. The creek chattered away, the hermit thrushes sang. Then somehow it was midafternoon and time to turn around to head for the truck.

Some people don’t like snakes. I like some snakes more than others. In rattlesnake country, I am alert because they never fail to startle me. I dread that little squirt of adrenaline when I hear them buzz. Most of the places I frequent these days are not rattlesnake country. This rubber boa (Charina bottae) was stretched out in the trail as I descended, and I was happy to see it. It was about a foot long, and cocoa brown. Both ends of the snake are blunt, and you have to look carefully to see which end is the head. Rubber boas are very docile, and can be handled. They are true boa constrictors and will squeeze hard. I left this one on the ground, but did stroke it gently with one finger, feeling the cool smooth scales and dampness from the rain. It was moving slowly, nosing its way into the plant litter on the forest floor. It may have had a burrow nearby.

The trail crew hypothesis (circumstantial evidence only) is that rubber boas camouflage themselves as piles of poop. They are brown, and can coil up messily alongside the trail. If you are hiking by not paying much attention, you’ll pass right by something you think is coyote scat. But it might be a snake.

I’m happy to be home and dry now. Gear is hanging up and my boots are on the marvelous Peet shoe dryer. No one who works in the woods in the Pacific Northwest should be without one of these. Tomorrow my feet go into dry boots for another hike.