On Labor Day, we headed inland to hike the Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail, a fairly easy, flat 3-mile trail (one-way) that leads to a waterfall. There is a small $3 fee to park at the Los Panesquitos Canyon Preseve, but from there its a short walk to the trailhead.
Even though it was one of the cooler days we’ve had in a while, Hoku was already exhausted by the one-mile mark and kept beelining into the tall dried grass to lie down. David was worried about him getting heatstroke so we decided to turn around. On the way back, we saw a rattlesnake slither across the path directly in front of us and into the bushes. We instinctually picked Hoku up off the ground and waited until the snake had disappeared before quickly moving ahead.
An important note about rattlesnakes in Southern California. The months between April and October are generally known as rattlesnake season. San Diego is home to 3 of 32 rattlesnake species: the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (the most aggressive), the Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake (rarely seen because it doesn’t like humans) and the Red Diamond Rattlesnake (the most common). Also, some rattlers don’t make a warning sound before striking, especially when startled. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, some good practices include wearing shoes instead of sandals and avoiding tall grasses and weeds. More tips here.
So according to Google, it looks as if the snake we saw could have been the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake. Yikes. And in hindsight, it was a terrible, terrible idea to let Hoku lie down in that grass. It gives me goosebumps to think about what might have happened. We’re so thankful nothing did.
We’ll probably try this hike again later in the Fall/Winter, like in November when all the snakes are sleeping. And in the meantime, we’re signing Hoku up for some rattlesnake avoidance training.