Rattlesnake Ridge, by Helen Nicole Hill

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I have hiked this hike since 1997 when I was young, agile and fit. My mom named it rattlesnake ridge the first time we went to the summit. We looked over the fields and off into the distant hazy hills. A sudden rattling sound took our attention from the sprawling vista. Two rattlesnakes were slightly coiled about 10 feet away. We stepped away quietly and swiftly. 

An encounter with wild creatures always makes me wonder . . . Snake medicine says we shed our skin and come anew from arising from the challenges life presents us. The fire of transformation is great when it’s your choice, like an amazing yoga class. But it’s harder when things come up out of the blue and change everything for you. You have to squeeze around and press against obstacles to get back on your feet. Or maybe it’s looking at the snake and overcoming the fear of its poison. Maybe it’s realizing the poison is actually medicine.

But nothing happened to me and my Mom that day. We just smiled at the thrill of untamed nature. Yet, my favorite part of rattlesnake ridge is another spot on the trail. It’s the part which I named. It’s the part which keeps me coming back again and again. There is a huge section of massive boulders splayed in an abstract maze. I call it the rock garden. 

The boulders create a path that twists and draws me forward. I put my hands on the rocks as I scramble through jagged formations. I can feel a purr of playful, grounding energy emanating from the rocks. Somehow it feels like I am climbing through an enormous Cheshire cat. I feel free, like I was when I was a kid.

I say to this trail and I say to this hike, this is what I love to do. This is what I have to do. I thank the forest for her beauty and don’t want to be disrespectful by being too loud or stepping on tree roots. Soon I will be at the summit. I crave the sacred silence up on the edge of the cliff where the hawks enchant the wind and make it their own.

I know I won’t see any rattlesnakes today. I only saw them once, over 20 years ago with my Mom, when we first tried the hike. I laugh at the symbolism of the snake. As I climb and hike, I have just recovered from a debilitating ski accident which left me down and out for about 18 months. I see it as a form of snake tapas (burning transformation); being in pain and stagnant. 

The whispering lens of today meets the nostalgia of my young legs and the adventures they have tread over this trail so many times before for so many years. I remember who I am. Where I have been and what I have to give. I have healed from the rattle of an accident and reconstructive knee surgery. By golly, I can hike again. Looking over the horizon, I smile deep inside just like a Cheshire cat.

by Helen Nicole Hill

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