I hiked this on a hot July morning. Knowing I didn't have time for the whole loop hike, I decided to try to get to Fern Cave by way of Haynes Ridge. Big mistake!
After the approximately 400 foot climb to the top of Haynes Ridge, I started out toward Fern Cave. The views from the top of the ridge were beautiful in all directions, and I got some wonderful panoramic photos of both the North and South Prong Canyons.
About a mile toward Fern Cave, I happened to look down... and I was about a foot and a half from stepping on a 4 foot long rattlesnake sunning itself on the trail. I backed off and pulled out my camera and attached the telephoto. The snake never became alarmed. It just slithered off the trail, curled up and watched me to see if I posed a threat. I got some amazing closeups of it with the telephoto lens.
After it disappeared when I turned my back to change lenses, I realized just what a bonehead move I had pulled to hike in shorts. All I had thought about was the heat.... not about any slithery critters I might encounter. I aborted my attempt for Fern Cave as it was getting late and my encounter with the snake had spooked me, and I hiked back down to the parking lot.
I think I was the only person in the park that day. The only other car I saw was the Park Ranger, and even the Visitor's Center was closed when I went by at lunch!
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