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Saturday, May 01, 2004


Reptile attack - part 1

Heading west from Portland, over many hills and through many forests, standing tall aside the Pacific, lies Nehakanie Mountain. It may be shorter than its cousins in the Cascade range but what Nehakanie lacks in snow, it more than makes up for in purty scenery and hiking ops.

It also has snakes. Dum! Dum! Dum!

Once or twice a year, I make a sojourn down Highway 101 for an afternoon hike. For someone who has never excercised in his life, the ascent up Nehakanie is just strenuous enough to make me feel like I'm conquering the Matterhorn. Bannana slugs, wild hares, occassional deer and elk and the rare coyote all call the mountain home and keep humans on their toes.

After a seemingly endless string of 20 degree inclines, the trail gives way gentle path through pine trees. A quick jaunt up a rocky incline at the end leads to the peak, where a view of Manzanita and Haystack Rock awaits. On a clear day, you can see all the way down the coast to Garibaldi.

Given all this freak weather (80? In April? In Portland what 'ze fuck?), I headed to Nehakanie a few Saturdays back. The trail was packed with the typical assortment of hippies, yuppie broods...and snakes.

Lots of snakes.

I'm not an expert on these cold-blooded, apple-advocating critters but they're not an uncommon sight on the mountain. They usually keep to themselves and can be heard slithering around in the brush near the trail. On this Saturday, they were all over the place. At one point, while heading up, I stepped off the trail to make way for a line of fraternity brothers and their girlfriends. One of them neglected to notice the scaly-loafer under her feet and immediately freaked out. She leapt one way, and the snake leapt the other...right on top of feet. Yes, wackiness ensued.

Reptile attack? Not quite.

At the top, I took a seat one a rock oddly shaped like a beanbag chair. I broke out the usual Cliff Bar feast, took the usual boring pictures, strolled to the other side to get a look at Cannon Beach, etc. I noticed it when I was getting ready to leave: a completely stationary snake, about ten feet away. "Wow, isn't this a cute little photo op," I thought, reaching for my digital camera.

The snake was a perfect model. Maybe it had a subscription to Cosmo or something. It raised its read and remained completely still as I clicked the shutter a few thousand times. "OK, now give me sad," I said to the snake, utilizing a few dozen fashion photographer cliches. "Now where's happy? Gimmie happy. You're elated. Estatic You've just scored a bag of primo, Grade-A bugs."

After about three minutes of photo fun, I finally grew bored and decided it was time to get going. Between the two of us was my open backpack. Suddenly it dawned on me. This snake had been eyeing it the whole time. I began to wonder. How many poisonous lizards call Oswald State Park home? Elle Driver's speech began running through my head. "The Black Mamba Snake can deliver 55 billion milligrams of venom in a single bite."

The fashion shoot had just mutated into a Jurassic Park-themed stand-off. If my keys and iPod hadn't been in the backpack, I would have probably let the lizard have it. There was no way I was going to battle to the death over a sweatshirt and $20 worth of...whatever backpacks are made out of. Failure wasn't an option. I had two options: get off the mountain with the backpack or stay up there forever.

Meanwhile, the snake sat perfectly still with eyes that seemed to say, "Bring it on, you warm-blooded bitch."

To be continued...

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