Monday, August 26, 2013

Ladies of Leisure + My First Rattlesnake Encounter

Ladies of Leisure

A ride opportunity came through Facebook the other day that I was only too happy to snap up! Some of the ladies from the CycloFemme ride I crashed on back in May (a story for another post) were headed to Sabre Springs, just north east of San Diego. Gerhard let me take the Prius on a little field trip to explore yet more new-to-me trails.

It is so great to get out riding with ladies! No offence to my dudes of course, but a gaggle of girls on bikes is a rare thing. Happily, these chatty, supportive gaggles seem to be forming more and more which is great. So Tami, Julie, Allison and I started our Monday on an exploratory mission. "I've never been down this one -- should we try it?" was the oft-repeated theme.

On one such descent -- Strava called it "Helicopter" -- Julie stopped abruptly and let us know that we had a visitor: a rattlesnake! I haven't had a run-in with one of these fellows yet so part of me was curious, and part of me was wondering why the heck we didn't just turn around and walk back up the hill. Julie let us know he was hiding in the bushes, and we were okay to pass if we went wide. Which we did, and the ride continued and was awesome and then we had cake!!

But the whole thing made me realize, I have no idea what to do about snakes. So here's a little something on our reptilian trail features.

Rattlesnakes of San Diego County

There are four kinds of rattlesnakes in the San Diego area -- and they are actually the only poisonous snakes we have. They are the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis), the Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake (C. mitchelli pyrrhus), and theRed Diamond Rattlesnake (C. ruber). In the desert is the Colorado Desert Sidewinder (C. cerastes). Of course, the best offence is a a good defence so if you're walking around the trails, you should have a first aid kit and snake bite kit that includes water. 

What to do if you get bit

GO TO THE HOSPITAL. As mountain bikers, this can be a tricky one as we are often on some far flung trail. This is what helicopters are for. 

In the mean time, say, while you're waiting for the helicopter, do your best to identify the snake, making sure that it is in fact a rattlesnake. This is key. If the victim is administered the anti-venom for a snake other than the one that bit him/her, it could be fatal.  

Move the victim out of the way of the snake, in case it comes in for seconds. Try to keep them as calm and still as possible and remove any clothing or jewelry that could become constrictive once swelling starts. 

You've got to wash the wound with water, and then immobilize the area with a sling. With your handy dandy snake bite kit, suction out the venom. If you haven't got a kit skip this step -- never use your mouth. 

Finally, keep the wounded area lower than the heart, and if possible, carry your felled rider rather than have them walk or roll out. Whether via helicopter, car, ambulance, it's off to the nearest hospital for anti-venom lickety split.  I've heard some say that depending on the snake, you may have as little as 30 minutes before you're in big trouble. But the good news is, a fatal rattlesnake bite is a rare occurrence. 

What NOT to do if you get bit

Sorry, Hollywood -- heroics like ripping strips from the shirt off your back to tie a tourniquet, or sucking out the venom with your mouth are top of the DON'Ts list. Also, some say an ice pack will help slow the spread of the venom ... nope. 

It's also not a good idea to run around freaking out as that will increase your heart rate and help spread the venom through your system even faster. For the same reason, this is not the time for a stiff drink, a soft drink or even an aspirin. Oh, and paramedics/medical professionals would really appreciate it if you did not try to catch the snake or bring it with you to the hospital. 

After learning about rattlers, I'm even more happy to report that the snake we saw today was safely avoided. I hope that's always the case, but in the mean time, I'm definitely going to pick up one of those snake kits to go with my mobile bandaids and antiseptic. Ride safe! 

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