In Rattlesnake Country

At the trailhead for the Sharptail Ridge Open Space preserve, south of Denver, a sign warns of rattlesnakes in the area.  Of course, similar signs are found at many other parks along the Colorado Front Range and across large portions of our country.

Acknowledging the warning (both appropriate and legally correct), we headed south on the main trail, gradually climbing onto the grass-covered ridge.  While we gazed ahead from time to time, making sure that a rattler was not basking on the path, our focus was on the magnificent scenery, on the colorful wildflowers and on the local wildlife; the latter included a prairie falcon, vesper sparrows, western meadowlarks, Say's phoebes, western kingbirds and rufous-sided towhees.  Unfortunately, on several visits to that preserve, I have yet to encounter a sharp-tailed grouse.

Atop the ridge, we enjoyed both a picnic lunch and broad views of the Front Range and Metro Denver.  Soon after beginning our descent, we passed two women on horseback who warned of a rattlesnake further down the trail.  Suddenly, that warning sign took on more significance and, paying less attention to the scenery, wildflowers and wildlife, we focused on the path before us; though I hoped to catch a glimpse of the dangerous reptile, I wanted to do so from a safe distance.  Alas, the snake was not encountered and our descent from Sharptail Ridge was far less enjoyable than the climb; after all, warnings are one thing and reality is another.