Hiking (or not) in Cottonmouth Heaven

The remote mountain cabin where my sister and I were staying was smack dab in the middle of cottonmouth heaven and we were oblivious.  A framed snake skin on the wall (my first clue?) didn’t give me pause.

I was tying my shoelaces when my sister called down from the loft.

“Are you sure you want to walk on the trail?”

“Well, yeah.  Why wouldn’t I?”

“Because it says here that this area has the highest concentration of cottonmouths in Tennessee.”

I sat back in the chair.


My imagination kicked into gear.  Back home we had rattlesnakes and copperheads but in all my years trompin’ the woods I had only seen black snakes dangerous just to their dinner.

But the middle Tennessee mountains were unfamiliar territory.  Heavy rains had swollen the Cumberland and Harpeth Rivers and created new streams that washed out roads and filled ditches.  Water lovin’ snakes are everywhere; my imagination filled with the images.   Maybe the hand carved walking sticks in the cabin were to beat the bushes along the overgrown trail and scare them away.

The voice from above:  “It also says that tourists–like us–need to be aware of poisonous snakes here because there are so many.”

I took off my sneakers.  The risk could be small but my imagination had created too many pictures to ignore.   I stepped on a chair to check out the real snake skin.  It wasn’t a cottonmouth, but a rattlesnake, killed years ago near where my car was sitting.

Maybe I was right to follow my imagination after all!

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