Southern California Rattlesnake - Wandering Gartersnake - Pictures/Photos - Gridley Trail - Ojai, California, August 2010

With the help of a few websites, such as California Herps "A Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of California" (pdf), I determined the identities of the following snakes.

Photos/Pictures/Photographs - August 7, 2010

A Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri) (pdf) crossing Fuel Break Road which forms the first mile or so of the popular Gridley Trail in Ojai, California. I lived nearby for four years, not even needing to get into a car to go on a hike here.

I had actually just passed this big guy in my car. I stopped and looked down at him from the driver's seat, maybe just 5 feet away. He hadn't crossed yet. He was a large, beautiful, impressive creature. Maybe it was because I was inside the car looking through my open window, and hence he didn't sense my heat signature, but he was unfazed by the car and me, appearing quite intent to continue his journey. I've seen snakes before at this time of the year that appeared very much to be "on the move." I figure they were all looking for a mate to produce baby rattlers with. I've killed maybe 25 rattlesnakes along different trails. I am not proud of this. It's just that I've come so close to stepping on them, and some of them have a downright nasty personality. I don't like things that coil up and hiss at me. Up in the mountains I figure that I am the alpha predator, and mountain lions, bears, and rattle snakes would do well to leave me alone. I feel more comfortable when I am in that frame of mind in the wilderness. It was unusual for me to let this snake live, as he was so close to well-trafficked areas for humans. But he was a robust, striking fellow who could not have cared less about me. I took that as a sign of confidence, so I showed him the courtesy that was his due. May he mate well!

A shot along Fuel Break Road. No chemtrails today. Just large parcels here: 50 acre, 18 acre, 43 acre, and a couple of others that grant easement to the mountain bikers, equestrians, and hikers on their way to the Gridley Trail which begins when the dirt road ends. There are lots of avocado trees. The 43 acre orchard is certified organic. Ojai Valley is surprisingly hot and dry, despite it's being near the ocean. The surrounding mountains do a good job of keeping the marine layer, and it's moderating influence of temperatures, out. I do not miss the area's dust and dirt.

New tower complex overlooking Ojai Valley to the south and the Sespe Wilderness and Rose Valley to the north, as seen from Fuel Break Road and the Gridley Trail. Bad news. Bad mojo. More towers and satellite uplink dishes have been added since this August 2010 shot.

A Wandering Gartersnake -Thamnophis elegans vagrans (pdf) crossing Fuel Break Road along an avocado orchard. Knowing these dudes are non-poisonous, I've always wanted to pick one up to a take a picture of it close-up in my hands, like I do sometimes with horny toads. But there is enough similarity in their markings to rattlesnakes (whose markings do vary quite a bit), that I've never been sure enough of my safety, so I just leave them alone. Unless they are asleep or have just awoken from winter's hibernation, they slither off as fast as they can without so much as a hiss. Rattlesnakes on the other hand frequently coil up and stand their ground making all kinds of racket, obliging me to plunk a big rock on their head in response.





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