June 11, 2017
When I was seven years old we lived on a farm with two ponds and ample pastures. As I was walking with my family one day to fish, I stepped over a snake. I don’t remember reacting to it, but my mom was fairly upset. “That’s a water moccasin.” It was just a baby, but she explained to me that they were very poisonous, and if there was a baby snake, the larger ones were sure to be around. From her reaction and since that day, I have been deadly fearful of snakes. I hate them. In my logical mind, I know that snake rarely bite unprovoked. It’s the person trying to get a selfie with them that is most at risk. But, this does nothing to assuage that apprehension.
If there is one adjective to describe the South Mills River area of the Pisgah Ranger District, it is “wet”. It is relatively low for mountain standards, besides the river, and creeks are abundant. To finish the Pisgah 400, this is my last major area. Starting at the Turkey Pen Gap trailhead, the goal was to hike up South Mills River Trail, Mullinax, take Squirrel Gap to Laurel Creek Trail and down Bradley Creek back to the car.
It was unnerving the number of snakes I encountered: copperheads, black snakes and that was just on the trail. I heard numerous rustling just off the trail as well. The trails themselves were nicely maintained and Pisgah at its finest: lush foliage, ferns, the rustic smell of laurel and rhododendron next to creeks.
Coming back down Bradley I ran into two fishermen. We traded stories of snakes and they admitted hearing that the area was ripe for copperheads. Neither of us had seen any rattlers, but rest assured, they were there as well.
Fears are interesting, looking back on the hike, I can’t recall as much of nature as I usually do. Normally I get lost in the wonderment of my surroundings, but this time I was watching every step, mindful of any movement. It wasn’t the best hike, but that wasn’t anyone’s fault but mine.
Total mileage is 8.51 miles.