The Rest of the Chinese Snake Story

Have you ever had a close encounter with a snake?

Tell me your story! Mine is probably not so great… but, it is a “snake story”.

Daily Photo – The Rest of the Chinese Snake Story

I had climbed up and down the spires of Zhangjiajie twice, which is twice more than my legs wanted to go.

I foolishly went up one of the spires at sunset trying to get a photo. I got to the top, and there was no good sunset. It was still awesome and everything — just no sunset photo. And getting up is not easy. There are little stairs caved into the sides of the mountain that spiral up and through inlaid cave systems. There is occasional ducking and a lot of worry about slippery bits.

So the time had come to descend. It was dark. Bear-den dark. I had a little light on my camera strap (not really a full-on flashlight like I should have had). I kept it on as I walked back. It was about a four kilometer back through these spires alone. I never saw another human, and I didn’t expect to see anything — until I almost stepped on this snake.

There he was, thick and sinuous. He was right in front of my path, and there was no way around him. I tried my best to ascertain his attitude, and I was pretty sure he simply wanted to rock my face off.

So I kept the light on for a while and wondered what to do. It was super-jungly around me and there where no rocks or any decent projectiles. I could have thrown a granola bar, but maybe he would have thought it was just an appetizer before me.

I started getting my tripod ready and fully extended so that I could just flick him out of the way. No, this didn’t seem like a good idea at the time either.

I got it fully extended, but I was still a pretty long way away. I was trying to figure out how fast the snake could go, and I envisioned many possible routes that involved the tripod, my feet, jumping, and escape vectors. All of them had this questionable (but important) variable of SnakeSpeed.

While I was running through a scenario, the snakes head popped up and he flew across the path faster than a cheetah. I mean — this snake was so goddamn fast that I could not believe it. It was like a fully-loaded slingshot released black bolt of shadow across the path.

I waited another few seconds before continuing on, feeling very foolish for even considering any of my previous scenarios…

The Rest of the Chinese Snake StoryI had climbed up and down the spires of Zhangjiajie twice, which is twice more than my legs wanted to go.I foolishly went up one of the spires at sunset trying to get a photo.  I got to the top, and there was no good sunset.  It was still awesome and everything -- just no sunset photo.  And getting up is not easy.  There are little stairs caved into the sides of the mountain that spiral up and through inlaid cave systems.  There is occasional ducking and a lot of worry about slippery bits.So the time had come to descend.  It was dark. Bear-den dark.  I had a little light on my camera strap (not really a full-on flashlight like I should have had).  I kept it on as I walked back.  It was about a four kilometer back through these spires alone.  I never saw another human, and I didn't expect to see anything -- until I almost stepped on this snake ...- Trey RatcliffRead the rest of the snake story here at the Stuck in Customs blog.

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  • http://www.heathcarney.com Heath

    Not sure if it’s because I’m Australian, but I’ve had plenty of close encounters with snakes.

    One was on a field trip for a university geology course. Standing by some bushes, I heard a rustling behind me. Someone in my class whispered “Heath, don’t move!”. I kept my feet planted firmly where they were and swivelled my head to look around. There was a red-bellied black snake slithering past, brushing against the back of my shoes.

    Most recently though, this one – http://heathcarney.com/day-6

  • Susan

    Wonderful shot Trey….and super good story- am still laughing at the ‘appetizer’ line!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryfter/2981935789/ Rifter

    I’ve never really had a close encounter in the wilds. If you click on my name, you can see my closest encounter. :-) Found this little guy at a local park. You can see my reflection in its eye. It held still for several pictures.

    When I was younger, I worked at a local pet store. We have a 13′ python. I can remember getting him out of his cage for a customer. It took 4 of us to keep him under “control”. That is, 4, strong men… to kind of control this beast.

    At another point, I got in to open the store, and found about 6″ of a 4′ tangerine tail boa sticking out of the wall. After trying to pull it back out… it finally escaped, never to be seen again. It was a pretty friendly snake, so that sucked.

    Finally, the scariest… I was holding a young Burmese python that had just come in. Our vet was looking over the snakes in the order to make sure they were healthy. Well, I held on to this one long enough that it decided my thumb looked quite delicious. One moment I am standing there, minding my old business, little snake in hand… the next moment I yell out in alarm. I shake my hand, flinging the little snake across the room. The two vet techs let out screams and run to the cabinets, jumping up on them, trying to avoid the floor where the stunned little snake now twitched. We put him back in the bag, and let the vet be the one to handle it next.

    That is the extent of my encounters with snakes.

  • http://www.tlinn.com t.linn

    Cool shot. Great story—part of the adventure! I’ll bet you do more for Chinese tourism than anything its government has going. You have yet to post an image that doesn’t make me want to explore that country.

  • http://none louis

    A nice adventure story. I was busy taking a photo of a poisonous snake called a night adder ,when a shot rang out behind me. The people there shot it with a shot gun and i’m still half deaf today.I do have the picture to prove this. the snake is only about half meter in length and has a frog by the foot which when it can will try to swallow it. The frog mind you was large, and when it jumped the snake went through the air as well.It was a site to see and believe. Sad to say only one picture.I’ll try making a photo of it and send it to you as proof. Never been to this part of China but believe its beautiful nice pic.

  • Luis

    Great story Trey, the appetiser line is a great one too.

    My closest encounter was while hiking through the Gold Coast Hinterland in the state of Queensland, Australia. I was walking with another mate, and he was leading the way. As I walked about 2 metres behind, I see him step on what at first I thought was a snake but immediately disregarded it as such and kept walking, until I took another step and it moved! I quickly took a few quick steps back while yelling at my mate for not noticing it first. It was small, about 50-70cm long. This was during winter so the snake wasn’t active. We got it to move out of the way and I got through, and that was the last we would see of it. So we thought.
    On the way back, we got to where we had seen the snake before. While my mate in front was looking around if he could see the snake, I was behind him having a drink when I turned around to see the snake next to my feet, enjoying the bit of sunlight getting through the rainforest.

    We took a few photos of it and sent them to a museum to get identified. It turns out it was a Tiger snake, quite a venomous one. They also noticed how thin it was, and said it must have been starving for a while and probably didn’t have long to live. I think if that hadn’t been the case, we might have seen it more agressive.

  • Andy Bird

    Another Indiana Jones moment for you Mr Ratcliff! I haven’t had a wild animal incident that involved any beasties as dramatic as a snake however I do have a great story that happened on an Australian golf course back in 2003. I was lining up for an approach shot to the green when I heard a thud that sounded like another golf ball hitting the sun-baked ground. The thud came from nearby which made me think some other player had maybe hit a wayward shot that had landed near me. I shrugged it off and carried on but after the 4th or 5th time this happened I got angry and asked my fellow players if they had seen anyone else around that might have been responsible. My cousin who was also playing told me to look up, I did, and I saw the culprits – a flock of black cockatoos who had been taking giant nuts from the palm trees and dropping them on to us. Apparently they don’t take too kindly to golfers infiltrating their territory and this was their primary defence mode…..

  • http://catchthejiffy.com Adam Allegro

    That’s crazy. Glad nothing bad happened!! Have you ever done any night/astrophotography?? I can imagine that place would be AMAZING for it. Was it regulated in any way? Were there entrance gates or anything? I would love to go there. I will have to make a trip! Don’t you usually travel with an assistant?? Some crusty local would have dealt with that slithery snake in no time!

  • http://photo.toothbrushnomads.com/ Toothbrush

    I’ve spent 3 years traveling around Australia. I used to dislike snakes and to be afraid of them, I now think they’re beautiful creatures and get pissed when people talk about “dealing with them”, meaning “crush’em good with that shovel”. I’ve come across dozens of snakes while hiking, sometimes several in the course of one day (ah, late summer in Tasmania). It’s Australia so you can be pretty damn sure most of them were venomous and deadly. Nonetheless they always slithered away peacefully. Sometimes they just go lightning fast and you only see a flash of scales, sometimes they laze around a few minutes before moving away, sometimes they might even watch you curiously from undercover. And that’s it.

    Of course snakes should always be treated with appropriate caution and respect, but in the end it’s very rare for them to bite unless the person’s been asking for it (trying to kill them with that shovel maybe).

  • http://eeyoresramblins.blogspot.com/ Larry

    My wife and I were hiking in a nearby state park. I was ahead by about six feet as we went down an infrequently used trail. Suddenly I heard the unmistakable sing of the rattles, but I was having trouble locating the snake because of the exceedingly loud screams coming from my retreating (rapidly) wife. Finally I spotted it a couple of feet off the trail. I had walked right past it and never seen it. I gingerly backed away on the other side of the trail, coaxed my wife to come around, giving the rattler wide berth, and we proceeded on the hike, hearts racing and adrenalin pumping. It was about 100 yards down the trail that I remembered that hanging around my neck was my camera with a 300mm lens mounted. I could have gotten some great shots, but I wasn’t going back to see if the snake was still there.

  • Patrick Ahles

    Nice rendition of the spires! Haven’t met any snakes in the wild, only in the zoo… :P

  • http://www.stuckincustoms.com Trey Ratcliff

    hehe thanks – a lot of other snake stories… Yes Larry that rattle sound is a freaky one!

  • http://www.pixelstoproveit.com Eric Pearson

    Great story, Trey. Stay safe out there. Not sure if I could handle the absence of a good “StuckInCustoms” read every morning.

    Also, the closest thing we have to a snake here in boring Illinois are the garden hoses running through our yards.

  • http://sdehayes.com/blog/ Sharon DeHayes

    Good story, for sure! The day I almost had a heart attack – returned to our house in Florida after a trip. As I opened the door to the backyard, a snake fell ON MY HEAD. My heart stopped. The snake fell to the ground and wiggled away. I finally started breathing after what seemed like an hour.

  • http://williambeem.com William Beem

    Never underestimate the speed of wild critters. A local snake expert told me that snakes don’t attack people – ever. The only time people get bit by a snake is when the snake is defending itself. It would much rather prefer to escape than battle with someone towering over it.

    On the other hand, I remember water moccasins coming after me on several occasions, and my general distrust of anyone labeled as an “expert.” Still, I’d rather leave a critter be than give it cause to take offense with me.

  • http://www.exposedworldphotography.com/ Jeremie Schatz

    When you said you were extending your tripod I thought you were going to pole vault over the snake using the tripod. Maybe next time your telling stories to drunken sailors you can tell it that way!

    I’ve had many snake encounters (especially rattlesnakes here in Colorado) but one of the most memorable, and dangerous, was when I ran over a coral snake on a bicycle in rural Costa Rica. I thought those things were supposed to be in the water!

  • http://timetotakepictures.blogspot.com Keith Moyer

    Story#1 When I first got a real camera (with a lens) I was at a local lake practicing. I started trying to get some close-ups of a dragonfly that kept landing on a rock nearby. It wasn’t until I downloaded the pictures later that I noticed the rather large snake in the corner of one of my shots!
    Story#2 When my oldest son was five, my brother and I took him camping in the Badlands of South Dakota. We found the remains of what used to be a town on a rather deserted road and began to walk around….The only thing remaining were some foundations and several sets of concrete steps leading to now non-existent front doors.
    As you would expect a five year old to do, he would walk up a set of stairs and jump off the top.
    On one of the sets of stairs, as he reached the top, the silence of the desert was split by the rattle of a rather unhappy rattlesnake!
    Without that rattle my son would have jumped and landed within inches of the snake!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/erimenta/sets/ Dana Bishop

    A friend and I decided to go geocaching on a hiking trail in the hills not far from my house one day. I had never been there before and it seemed like it wasn’t often traveled. It was hot, and the path had thick brittle brush on both sides of the trail. There was a sign warning of rattlers, but I often see those in California, and had never come across one. Not far up the path we heard one off in the distance shaking it’s rattle, but it seemed far away so we continued on. Soon we heard another on the opposite side of the path, and then another and another. They seemed to be coming from the path behind us at first, so we kept moving forward, afraid to go back towards them. Soon there was a symphony of them. The rattles seemed to be coming from every side of us. Clearly my friend was fixated on the sounds because she clearly wasn’t watching the ground right in front of her and stepped right over a long black and green snake stretched across nearly the entire width of the path. I was behind her and saw it the moment she stepped over it. I screamed and involuntarily threw my phone that was in my hand to the ground. She of course freaked out and spun around in time to see it’s tail disappear into the dry brush. They were even louder now, and we had enough. We nearly ran the whole way back to the trailhead, to the constant sound of rattlers rolling across the trail like waves. I don’t know that I’ve ever been that terrified before.

  • Paul Garrett

    I’ve been 4 feet from a rattlesnake in southern Arizona. We found him on the road while we were driving through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. He was more afraid of us then we were of him. We took some photos and then he slithered off the brush.

  • Christin

    I had a close encounter with a snake, but it wasn’t nearly as exciting as yours! I was hiking from Glacier Point to the valley floor in Yosemite and there was a big ol’ rattlesnake right there in the middle of the trail sunning himself. It was neat to see a real live rattlesnake, especially given that he was kind enough to be on his merry way when we approached!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/firozeshakir Firoze Shakir
  • Miss Charley

    I woke up one Sunday morning on the farm to the sounds of my Jack Russell chasing something downstairs in the house. It was a long venomous brown snake. That sucker whooshed straight under my bed & hid there, followed by the Doggie, who was trying hard to catch it. From the bed I grabbed a hockey stick and while bouncing on the bed wondering what to do, I jumped out of my bedroom window, ran to the side stairs, whizzed upstairs, grabbed someone who could help and we both ran downstairs to the commotion – him with a shovel & a golf putter, me with a hockey stick.
    I shan’t divulge the gruesome details except to say the outcome was satisfactory to all involved – except, quite likely, for the poor snake.

    Be not sad for him tho. His relatives came to visit us often enough after that ;)

  • http://dthorpephoto.com David Thorpe

    I was hiking in the Smokey Mountains with my friend Mike, and we were on a path that leads to a waterfall that we had planned to photograph. We went around a little bend, and there in the middle of the path was a huge snake. It was black, but I have no idea what kind it was. But it was big. As thick as my forearm and probably 5 feel long. Just laying there in the path. We both stopped when we saw it and just stood there staring, about 30 feet from it. It wasn’t facing us, and it didn’t move, so we wondered if maybe it was dead. Mike picked up a rock about the size of a baseball and tossed it. The rock hit the snake in the middle section of it’s body. It slowly lifted it’s head and turned to look at us. This snake seemed to be thinking, “Really guys? You think that rock is going to save you?” We backed away and forgot all about photographing that waterfall. It didn’t pursue us, and it might have been in bad shape since it barely moved after being pelted by a rock. But it also might have been a snake with a badass attitude, and we didn’t stick around to find out.

  • http://dthorpephoto.com David Thorpe

    Another long-winded snake story. I was photographing an amateur model at a trainyard where they store old train cars for a train museum. There’s an abandoned track that leads into the woods, and down the track a half mile or so is an old metal bridge that spans a little creek. I’ve photographed models there several times because it’s a very cool location. This day the model and I had gone to the bridge and done a bunch of shots, and we were on our way back to the trainyard. She had worn boots with heels on the way there and it was tough going for her because of the overgrowth, so she wore flipflops and a short dress for the trip back. So we’re walking along, her being several feet in front of me, and I saw a really big snake laying across the tracks. Copperheads and cottonmouths are common here, and this thing was kind of cottonmouthish looking. She didn’t see it, and she was right next to it when I noticed it. I was concerned that if I said something to her, she would scream and the snake might get scared and bite her. She had bare legs and feet and would have been an easy target. So I let her keep walking, and when she was about 20 feet from it I said, “Hey look what you just walked past.” She turned and looked, and of course let out a loud scream. A real scream queen kind of scream. The snake immediately took off into the bushes. We were about halfway back, and the rest of the way she walked practically backwards to make sure that snake didn’t sneak up behind us. Of course she scared the crap out of it with that scream, so there was no chance of that. He probably went home and told his family about his close encounter with that scary lady…

  • Emily

    All that time pondering escape routes and no picture of the snake??

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