A rattlesnake makes its way across the Six Flags Magic Mountain parking lot. Katharine Lotze/Signal
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Everywhere I go the snakes always find me.

When I was a kid, my brother would chase me around the yard with garter snakes he caught, and that’s probably where it started: my irrational, overwhelming fear of snakes.

And they follow me, wherever I go.

I tried to relieve my fear of snakes through education. I watched nature documentaries on National Geographic, and read all about snakes via the dial-up internet when that was still considered pretty fast. I truly did want to make them less scary by learning more about them. But it didn’t work.

One summer, I started up my car in the driveway, and went back inside to hurry my mom along. When we returned to the car, there was a baby rattlesnake curled outside my driver’s side door. I’m not sure where he came from, but he wasn’t there when I’d come outside the first time.

My mom decided, since we were in a hurry, and the snake wouldn’t move, and instead was moving into a striking position, that we’d dispatch him the old fashioned way. She grabbed a large rock, and threw it down at the snake as hard as she could.

On hikes, vacations, and sometimes just at work, the snakes find me. I’m sure, at this rate, that they can smell my fear. I’m also sure that if I were to be sorted into a Hogwarts house, I’d be mistakenly put into Slytherin instead of Griffyndor.

The first time I hiked Towsley Canyon, a big, black rattlesnake made his way across the trail just feet from me. He didn’t pay me any mind; he just moved slowly uphill, presumably on his way to sunbathe. I was on the clock, hunting for feature art of wildflowers and hikers, and lugging two heavy cameras around. I was so frozen with fear that I’d be stuck for hours with an immobile snake across the trail that I didn’t even think to take a photo. He did move though, and I leapt over the spot in the trail he’d used with a personal record in the long jump.

The first time I traveled abroad, I went to Bolivia. And not just to La Paz, which is probably so high in elevation that there aren’t any snakes. No, we went to the jungle. To look for jaguars. And sail the Amazon. If there was a place that you could pretty much guarantee a snake would find me, that would be it. In fact, when we arrived, our guide informed us that his group had seen a very rare, very poisonous albino viper just the week before, right outside the camp!

We didn’t see a single jaguar in our four-day trek, but sure enough, a snake found me.

During a short hike in the dry jungle of eastern Bolivia, I saw a branch that looked just too shiny out of the corner of my eye. Lying on a branch and reaching down to the ground was a shiny, black snake. I shouted. Our guide turned around, and I could barely get the words out to tell him what it was.

I pointed.

“Snake!”

Our guide attempted to grab the snake, but it was too quick, and disappeared into the forest in seconds. He assured me that those kinds of snakes do like to bite, but they aren’t poisonous.

But I don’t need to travel to exotic tropical jungles to be snuck up on by a snake. Nope – they find me just about anywhere, including on my way to a photo assignment at Six Flags Magic Mountain. No jungle walks, or canyon hikes; just a stroll from my car in the parking lot, to the gate, and they found me.

Just across the parking lot came slithering one of their legless sentinels, headed right for me. I didn’t let fear get the better of me this time, and I returned to the office with proof that, yes, snakes are following me.

 

 

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Katharine Lotze
Katharine Lotze is a photojournalist and columnist at the Signal, and can be found photographing daily life in Santa Clarita, or writing personal essays about her own daily life.
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