Posted: 25 May 2010 08:26 AM PDT
Among my extra curricular activities is working on the governing council of our local charter high school. I do this because I believe in the school's mission of experiential learning and their focus on environmental education.
Last week we spent four days backpacking in the Gila Wilderness using the outdoors as our classroom. Ecology in the field is so much more relevant and that's why experiential learning is so important.
We spent the days studying the flora and fauna and the web of life. We even did a series of complex measurements and calculations to determine the stream flow rate in cubic feet per second or CFS. I was amazed by the knowldege these kids posessed. Not everything you hear about public education is true.
I had a little time off one afternoon and took my fly rod up the Middle Fork of the Gila River for some trout fishing. I hadn't gotten more than a couple of hundred yards upstream from camp when I was stopped dead in my tracks by a five foot Black Tail Rattlesnake coiled, rattling and ready to strike. It's not something you forget easily and I saw three more snakes that very afternoon.
I couldn't help but think about what would have happened if Miles had been along. Labs, especially Lab puppies, are very inquisitive and I'm sure he would have been up in that snake's grill in a matter of seconds. The chances he'd have been bitten are about 90%.
That morning, I was on the phone with the local vet clinics inquiring about the rattlesnake vaccine I've written about here, before. To my amazement, none of them carried it. I then called my friend Heather down in Las Cruces at the Jornada Veterinary Clinic. She said they had it in stock. I also inquired about snake aversion training classes.
She informed me that the local guy that had done the training in the past had moved to Tucson and they were actively looking for someone else. She intimated that the local Quail Unlimited Chapter might have a class coming up for hunting dogs.
Miles is currently due for his annual boosters so I made arrangements with Heather to get those and also the rattlesnake vaccine, this week. We are planning a long trip across the Gila in late June and early July and we'll be in snake habitat most of the time. I wish I had done this sooner as it takes a few weeks to establish immunity. Hopefully, I'll be able to get in an aversion training class before we go.
After I saw that snake I was really careful moving through the woods and bush whacking to get to the good fishing holes. In fact, I spent lots of time walking right down the middle of the river. When I was up on land, I used my fly rod to shake the grass and bushes ahead of me as I walked slowly through the undergrowth. Having an aversion trained dog along might be a comforting proposition. Kind of an early warning system.
I spent yesterday fishing up on the East Fork of the Gila with my friend, Dutch. I wore my chest waders as a precaution. A snake would have to bite through a lot of material to strike pay dirt. Didn't see or hear a snake all day long. If I'd been wading in shorts and tennis shoes I'm sure they would have been everywhere.
We can get two days from the trail head on some of these trips and I often wonder what would happen if either of us was bitten that far from medical care. In our case, an ounce of prevention is worth a lot more than a pound of cure.
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