Now before anyone sends me a membership card to Open-Carry Texas, I didn't take my rifle out just to intimidate people or get another business out there to make a new anti-firearms policy; I took it because Organ Pipe is on the Mexican border and they get a lot of drug smuggling through the park.
It was over a hundred degrees again and the sun was scorching, but I had more covering and sunscreen on, and two pocket bottles and a full camelback because there's no water out there. I headed down to Victoria Mine and figured that if the hike went smooth, I might go all the way to the Mexican border and maybe even across it a little bit.
The terrain is as rugged as it is beautiful though, and that's true even when the heat isn't borderline lethal. Two hours into the hike, the water level in the camelback was getting low and I decided to turn around and start heading back. And that was when I saw the pile of waste mine rock about half a mile off. I had to check that out of course, so since I was going off-trail, I took a compass bearing on the pile and headed over to it. Climbing to the top of it, I found the holy grail: an accessible mine adit. I got my lights out of my pack and looked into the opening. I could see back in a ways and make out some timbering and what appeared to be at least one side tunnel. Even though I really didn't have all of the equipment that I generally use for this sort of exploration, I figured it still warranted at least a quick look. I threaded my way through some ancient barbed wire and I was in, savoring the cool air and waiting for my eyes to adjust. And then I heard it.
It sounded like someone just punctured an aerosol can, only it didn't stop. What the hell is that? Then it dawned on me: RATTLESNAKE!
Yep. I was in a mine tunnel in the dark with an angry rattlesnake. It was close by, but I couldn't see it.
Where the fuck is that thing?! I froze in place, not wanting to move in any direction until I knew where it was. I shone my lights all around the tunnel but I couldn't see it. OMFG! TAKE THE DAMNED SUNGLASSES OFF!! I'd forgotten that I was still wearing my sunshades. Snapping them off my face, I immediately saw Brer Snake on the floor about six feet ahead of me. He looked to be about three feet long and he was not happy.
I could see farther down the tunnel now, and this mine looked like a great one, but common sense dictated that I cede this one to the snake. I got a few pictures of him, or at least I think that I did as my hands seemed to be shaking just a bit, and then I backed out of the tunnel. Hopefully when I get back to the lair, I'll have a couple that I can post. He was a beautiful snake even if he was deadly as hell. I am so glad that they give warnings. I'm also glad that my store-bought leg was the one closest to him. And if you've never heard one before, they don't sound like a baby's rattle like the rattlesnakes on the old movies. They sound like a pressurized can that just sprung a leak. And if you're not sure if it's ahead of you, behind you or on an overhead beam above you, it's definitely the scariest sound in the world.
Then it was time for the walk back. Now more than fifty percent of my water was gone so I started my return journey. But the adventure wasn't over yet, not by a long shot. The rifle was about to come off safe. But that story's for tomorrow.