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Rattlesnake country ñ Roxborough State Park

ìWatch out for rattlesnakes. Several were spotted this morning,î said the visitor center attendant.Several? There was hardly anyone here … and there had been several rattlesnake sightings? I had hiked hundreds of trails in Colorado and had never seen a rattlesnake.How exactly should I watch out for them. Seems like the rattlers were either on the hiking trails or not. At least, when in bear country, you can wear bells to announce your coming (although that always just seemed like a dinner bell to me). I guess I should have asked about it, but I moved to the literature rack.This was my first visit to Roxborough State Park since moving here two decades ago, and I wanted a trail map to get the lay of the land.Roxborough, just southwest of Denver, is close to 4,000 acres and filled with worldly, dramatic red rock formations. I scanned the pamphlet rack. Surely there would be something about rattling critters.A wide range of helpful literature on display included ìDonít Feed the Wildlifeî (wasnít in my plans), ìLiving with Bearsî (no intention ó no interest, and they make terrible house guests) and ìYour Guide to Avoiding Human-Coyote Conflictsî (just donít start arguments about religion, politics and social issues, I guess). But no brochures on rattlesnake encounters, which seemed like quite an omission, given the disconcerting warning I received.I did learn that visitors can take in all of Roxboroughís geological wonders via a network of interconnected trails for every hikerís ability. I was glad to see that no trail was named ìRattlesnake Gulchî or ìVenom Valley.î Fifty yards into my trail selection, I stumbled upon some kind of youth corps worker lying on the ground, possibly the victim of a deadly snakebite. I learned that she was volunteering her time for trail maintenance, and was simply taking it easy before her turn on a fireman bucket brigade of wheelbarrow loads of dirt.Roxborough State Park reminded me of the red rock beauty of Garden of the Gods in the Springs, but not commercialized, not crowded and carpeted with wildflowers and lush emerald green everywhere. The trails are easy-to-moderate in difficulty; laid out with scenic viewpoints in mind; go from wetlands to prairie to mountain foothills; and weave around monolithic red sandstone formations at 60-degree angles. And I had the place nearly all to myself.This day I saw deer, a rabbit, butterflies, a red fox and a fuzzy-wuzzy caterpillar, but no rattlesnakes. Perhaps that would have made a better story, one of survival in the wilderness (like some of those in my ìTales from the Trailsî book), with me dragging my bloody, bitten, swollen leg for miles on newly repaired trails. Still, I was glad for no snake encounter. Visit to learn more about the park and how to get there.T. Duren Jones spends time in the Colorado wilderness as often as possible. He has hiked hundreds of trails, completed the nearly 500 miles of the Colorado Trail, and has summited all 54 of Coloradoís 14,000-foot peaks. He loves the outdoors. He hates snakes.

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