There Must Be Magic

By GirlWithACamera

Quehanna: View from Rattlesnake Rocks

Featuring: T. Tiger in peril!!!!!

Well, it is a week of glorious May weather, and we've been trying to fit in as much outdoors fun time as possible. My husband and I agreed to make a day trip to Quehanna, where we would do several day hikes instead of spending the night backpacking in the back-country. In the end, we would put in about a six-mile day.

We had a vision of having a hot breakfast on our way to Quehanna. So we hopped in the car with just about enough time to hit the Burger King in Bellefonte before breakfast closed, to snag some breakfast sandwiches and some of those hot and delicious tiny hash brown thingies that we adore.

However, it was almost not to be, for there was heavy-duty road construction on route 550 about half-way there, and we sat and stewed in our juices, and regretted our life choices and especially our missed breakfast. Oh, how bitter were those moments.

But then they let us go, and we zipped on up to Bellefonte, and made breakfast by 10 seconds! Whew! Would you like hash browns with that? Why yes, EXTRA LARGE!! (And somehow our sandwiches, which weighed about a pound apiece, featured double egg! Go figure.) And then the manager pushed the button and all the breakfast options went away. Can you say: made it by the skin of our teeth?

We also stopped for chili in Karthaus, and that was its own little odyssey, with me waiting in line with six or seven other people who had ordered hot food. I contemplated the raffle options. Did I want to spend money? Did I want to win a gun? And then finally I had my chili for the cooler, for later (their kitchen closes at 4:30 p.m. and I knew we wouldn't be back by then), and we were on our way.

We had time for two hikes in Quehanna, and one of them almost did us in. T. Tiger is still shaking! Yes, my brave little Tiger stared down a RATTLESNAKE!!! Oh my goodness, a rattlesnake in May? Who ever heard of such a thing? But my husband saw it and heard it rattle, and so did T. Tiger! But I'm getting my cart before my horse here, or perhaps my rattlesnake before my Tiger. Here is how it went.

We hiked through a beautiful green and mossy woods that looked like it was straight out of the Tongass national rainforest in Alaska. It was shady and lovely and oh so verdant. Parts of it reminded us of other trails, like the Black Forest Trail, for one. Dolly Sods, for two. And then we came to the end of the woods, and there was a big field that went down to water on our right and huge rocks up on our left.

So we went to the rocks, and it was sunny and breezy and beautiful. And we walked all around, and we set our chairs up at the top end of the rocks. My husband put his chair on one big rock. I set up mine on another huge rock with a big gaping hole underneath the front of it. The rock was flat and from there, I got a great view of the beautiful green woods, blue skies, and puffy clouds. What a perfect, gentle, lovely day!

And then I walked down around the front of the rock, and my husband said - Be careful! And I was. But I was snake hunting, so at every step I stopped and looked, and listened for the rustle and the rattle that means SNAKE!

But alas, though I crawled through some crevasses, I did not see a single snake. So I walked back up around the big rocks and saw my husband standing on a rock above me with a funny look on his face. "I just saw a rattler," he said. "It is under the rock you put your chair on. I was able to get my stuff, but it turned aggressive. You're going to need to get your own stuff."

Well now. So I stopped and thought about that a second. And in the end, I walked up around BEHIND the rock that had my chair on, and I queried him again: Where EXACTLY had the snake been? I had visions in my head of the snake - a la the film Anaconda - making off with my Tiger clamped in its jaws! He pointed, and I used his reference point to quietly sneak around, grab my chair, with daysack with T. Tiger in it, and brought it down to a lower rock.

T. Tiger had a very scared look on his face, and then my husband told me the rest of the story. I knew the part about us setting the chairs up on the high rocks. He told me he came back, and was leaping from a large rock to our rock, when he saw the snake below. He actually jumped OVER the snake. How close was it, I asked. Oh, no closer and no further away than four to six feet away. FOUR TO SIX FEET AWAY!!!! What the heck!?

The rattlesnake - which my husband pronounced the largest one he'd ever seen - crawled out from under our rock and down around a tree root. It was stretched out long. When my husband jumped over it, it rattled big-time.

And then it rattled a bunch more as it went back UNDER the rock with my chair on it. T. Tiger, sitting in my daysack looking out, had a perfect view of everything: the snake in motion, my leaping husband, the loud rattle. WOW, WHAT AN ADVENTURE!!!! I have no idea what these rocks are called but from now on, they will be Rattlesnake Rocks to us!

I was excited but also mightily disappointed. For if *I* had seen the snake, with camera in hand, we'd be looking at a picture of the mighty snake instead of just listening to a story about it! But hey, it was an adventure just the same, even though T. Tiger may have scary dreams about snakes and rattles for a very long time!

And then we packed up our stuff and walked down through the rocks, carefully, watching and listening, and looked at the new beaver dams that are there now that were not there before. The beavers have turned that tiny stream into a big dam and below it are several beaver lodges! We actually heard a tree fall while we were there, and wondered if it was them, at their work. Two Canada geese and three fluffy yellow goslings made the scene complete.

We went back to the car and made our second and final trip of the day: over to one of the deserted jet engine test cell bunkers that Quehanna is so famous for. I've included a photo in the extras of what the outside of it looks like, covered in graffiti, with vivid saturation, just for fun!

Yes, the door was open, and so I went inside, carefully, watching and listening for snakes and rabid raccoons and what-not, and finding none. Just inside the door this was written: THE DEVIL IS REAL! And additional graffiti lined the inside. I took my photos and got out, and spent much of the rest of the afternoon outside, watching many sassy newts and huge tadpoles frolic in a nearby pool.

We made it home before 7 p.m., which was pretty good, having spent about five and a half hours in the Quehanna Wild Area. But wow, what a lot of fun and excitement we packed into those hours! If you go to Quehanna, wear your good hiking boots for there is much water. There's lots of pollen too, to make you sneeze. Keep an eye out for ticks. Oh, and watch (and listen) where you step, for there may be rattlesnakes about!

I have two pictures, so here are two songs. For my photo above, and the rattlesnake tale, I wanted a song from the Scorpions album, Live Bites. So here is Wind of Change, which is a fine, fine song, and a long-time favorite of mine. More about that song here. For the second photo, of the abandoned jet engine test cell bunker, let's let the song be INXS, with Devil Inside (oh, we still miss you, Michael Hutchence!).

P.S. I am sorry I did not get to see and photograph the rattlesnake in this story. So here is a bonus picture of a rattlesnake we saw in Quehanna in September of 2020, so that you may see what they look like.

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