Rattlesnake: A Multi-use Recreational Area

I have been hiking, training for longer backpacking trips for several years. I have tried trails at Rattlesnake, Grimes Point, and Hazen. They were good, but still needed something. Then I started noticing a thing ribbon of trail at Rattlesnake.  I had been parking near the airport and hiking up the road near to the top then crossing over to the many roads both official and non. As I crossed the west side of the hill, I stumbled across what were clearly foot and bike trails. I didn’t know where they started or went, but I would follow parts of the trails as I wandered around. I really enjoyed the trails because they gave more depth to the hiking. Then on an off chance, I parked at the cemetery one day and discovered an entire collection of trail ribbons and started exploring. There is a main trail that goes completely around the mountain, raceway, and trap club. It crosses roads, zigzags in and around the brush and rocks. It has good climbs and intricate places. I was in heaven. This was the type of trail I was looking for. I could push myself physically, and I could interweave the many off shoots creating something different to see. I enjoyed looking at the different rock formations and remnants from the past. I could easily create a scavenger hunt out on the trail.

Coming in to the trail head, I crest over a hill and see a man on the trail ahead of me.  It startled me because I hadn’t seen another person the entire time I had been out hiking. He greeted me in a jovial manner.  “Hi, glad to see you.”  I thought that it was a different way to great someone on the trail, but all hikers seem to have their own way of greeting another.  The brief conversation that followed informed me that he had been working on these bike trails with the intention of giving mountain bikers, trail runners, and hikers a local place to go.

I got to thinking about the work that would go into creating the trails. Had he mapped the trails before building them or after? How did he decide where to turn the trails and where to climb? He definitely integrated the elements of the landscape into the tails using rocks, brush, and natural contours to give the trail complexity and to mark the paths.  Then there were the hours of clearing and marking.  It is truly a work of art. These trails have been mapped and listed on Trailhooks an app for mountain bikers. There have been hundreds of bikers from all over the world who have posted that they have tried the trails.

Rattlesnake Mountain is truly a multiuse recreational area. It belongs to the city, but many people go out and use it for their recreational activities. When I first moved to Fallon in the 70s, it had limited use – races and fireworks, occasionally a bike- a-thon. But now, in addition to the Rattlesnake Raceway there is a trap shoot club and many trails. The trails are for many uses too. There is hiking, trail running, dog walking, mountain biking, motorcycles, rock crawling, and so many more activities. If you want to do something out doors that does not need to be a team sport, you could probably do it at Rattlesnake.

The only problem is that since the recreation area doesn’t have any official designation, besides the raceway and trap club, there are people who misuse some of the trails. There are motorcycles and off road vehicles that tear up the thin trails, there are people who cut across the terrain, and there are people who dump their refuse. All these actions take away from the experience of the trail. Many people might think that since there is an intricate web of trails of all kinds out there, it couldn’t be destroyed. But, since wheels and usage add to erosion, all alternative uses of the trails change them.

The main thing to remember, though, is that no matter how we choose to use the recreation area, we need to be considerate of others. If we are out on our bikes, we need to watch out for those on foot. Dumping of trash should not be done out there no matter what. If we drop some trash, we should clean up after ourselves. If we are running our dogs, they should be trained to your commands and you should be aware that not all people are comfortable around dogs. Your choice to listen to music or not is yours, but consider the volume, someone else might not want to listen to your music.

Some other things that the recreation area need are a good clean up and maintenance, designated areas for motor vehicles, and a couple of outhouses or restrooms.  Otherwise, enjoy the area the way you like. Enjoy what has been given to us, but don’t wreck it for others.

Axe Man on the PCT

Coming around the corner on the trail, I find myself face to face with a grumpy man dressed as if he were on a job site carrying a dirty axe. My heart jolts, and my mind jumps to the girls. They were ahead of us, and I worried about them. All sorts of ideas of the acts he could have done jump into my mind. The fear is so urgent; I don’t hear the birds anymore. Instead the sound of an axe hitting a stump pushes its way into my ears. Was that what we heard last night? I wonder. Though the axe was covered in dirt, I saw the deep brown of dried blood. It didn’t make sense because the girls weren’t that far ahead. There had been no screaming from them. I had only heard the song “She’ll be coming around the mountain when she comes” playing in my mind before coming upon the man.

We move off to the side of the trail allowing the man to pass us, and we say, “Hello.” He doesn’t look at us or even respond. Images of a variety of single hiking shoes with severed feet in them rush to my mind. The ominous warning we received before leaving for the trip that I had brushed off earlier crashes into my thoughts and fears.  Was that the foot thief? Chills dance down my spine. Again I fear for the girls we cannot hear or see.IMG_20170719_110438007

Stimulated from the hiking, my mind goes into overdrive and conjures many different scenarios. First, the hiker had been watching us through the end of our hike the previous night, paralleling us on the ridge. His steely eyes were the ones I felt on us and wrote off for being animals. Once he found where we were camping, he pushed on ahead. He knew our speed and that we loudly announced ourselves periodically along the trail. He would have no trouble crossing paths with us in the morning. This worked out well for him. He heard us laughing and carrying on as we filled our water bladders a mile down the tail. From his vantage he knew that when we started quieting down we would be spreading out along a part of the trail with nowhere to go but the path in front of us. The bank was steep on one side and the cliff dropped off into infinity on the other. We could scoot out of his way. That was it. As the girls came upon him, he knew he would have time alone with them. He could easily push them off the cliff, attack them without room for retreat, and many other things. Only there was no explanation for the lack of screams. Were they that far ahead? I didn’t think so. Did he scare the scream out of them, or do something to them before they could let out a sound?

He passes us with that grumpy expression never changing. These visions flashed through my mind. Then the feet. The feet raced back into my head. Would the girl’s feet be found on some river shore still bound in boots? Would their bodies ever be found? Unlike the other poor victims, at least we knew about where to look, and he wouldn’t have a lot of time to do anything with them.

I watch him intently as he walks closer to the turn not moving until he disappears where we just emerged from. Getting back on the trail, I am thankful my cousin is behind me. I have a creepy feeling that the guy with the axe is going to sneak upon us from behind.

An hour later, we meet up with the girls. They are sitting on the ground with their packs off, laughing and snacking. A big grin overtakes me. I realize that though I knew the thoughts were fanciful, I was still anxious about the girls and their well being.