Know Your Snakes! Part II…

Our second encounter was during the final weeks of summer vacation during a jaunt up Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah. The prior week I had taken the kiddos up a quick access falls trail across the road from a rushing Little Cottonwood Creek for a picnic, and it was so delightful we decided to bring their dad back for a return trip to check out the beautiful waterfall over sheer granite known as Lisa Falls (

Picnicking by a rush of snowmelt that is the Little Cottonwood Creek.

We headed up on a late weekday afternoon before the locals were off work and were the only ones there. It was quiet and magical. I wandered away from my family around the side of the falls, climbing as high as I could go in search of the slot canyon at the top of the falls, but eventually turned around at the number of western fence lizards darting around on the boulders and dark holes and brush. It was too quiet and for some reason my gut said don’t be alone here. I returned to the stream with my kids. My son and I even spotted a hairstreak butterfly with vividly purple wings, but alas I didn’t have my camera handy so I missed a shot.

View of Little Cottonwood Canyon with Lisa Falls at our backs.

My husband and I ultimately found ourselves basking on one giant boulder enjoying the epic view of the towering mountaintop vistas with the falls at our backs, and just gazing and being surrounded by all that granite! Our son behind us peeking around when he whispers… “Mommy, come see…” Grinning from ear to ear.

The granite that the infamous Salt Lake City temple was constructed of was actually pulled from this area - check out the boulder in the foreground with a beautiful, green perhaps shale composite layer?
The granite that the infamous Salt Lake City temple was constructed of was actually pulled from this area – check out the boulder in the foreground with a beautiful, green perhaps shale composite layer?
Close- up of that pretty green.
Close- up of that pretty green.
How can one not go barefoot here?!
How can one not go barefoot here?!

“You really need to come see…” I was in a trance and shrugged him off with a lazy what is it dear?

Still whispering. “Mommy. A snake!” After our Fort Worth Nature Center encounter, I thought he was just crying wolf which he has been apt to do, and often. He is a tease.

I said, “No way, dude! No.”

But there it was. The first time I’d come across one since my early twenties, and only on my evening trail runs where they liked to bask stretched over the warm gravel.

A Great Basin Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus)
A Great Basin Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus)

Unlike our encounter with the other pit viper, this critter was very shy upon being spotted and did slink back into its hole to watch us carefully, as far back as it could go. It didn’t even rattle until it saw all of my kids approach to take a peek. We could watch from a distance as it slowly made it’s way out of a side tunnel and be on it’s merry way.

As terrifying as snakes are to most people, this year has been a highly educational one as far as our chance encounters with them, especially these two pit viper relatives. I would never want to put my kids this close to venomous species, but we’ve been out in the elements since they were wee ones, and I suppose this was the year for my children to experience and appreciate that which is the snake.

Ophidiophobia or Ophiophobia – the fear of snakes.

This rattlesnake was as meek as they come, and we easily understood one another’s boundaries. Since our encounter with the cottonmouth, I think my son was already well aware of the distance he needed to maintain without being panicked as well, once he spotted this rattler all on his own. Thanks to this summer, I hope to say my children will never have ophidiophobia, and I am grateful. They would be missing out on so much if they did.

In the long run, know your snakes, their habitats, behaviors, and how beneficial they are to this web of life.

Here’s a link to a radio show I used to follow, all about our little friends. Have a listen!

Wild About Utah: Don’t Tread on Me!

And for kicks, here’s an almost comical video of two skiers making their way down the falls from a direction you and I will most likely never see in person – Le Grand Tour! Thanks, Ben White!


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