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Wheeling in Rattlesnake Country 
It was another fun weekend up in the Pennsylvania mountains with a few un-expected surprises.  We had great weather, bordering on the warm side, warm enough to bring the rattlesnakes out of their dens as we discovered with a close, high pulse encounter while scouting out some new trails.  Our friend Dick, an experienced excavator by trade, kept warning us that we might run across rattlesnakes.  Nah, we haven't seen any yet over the years up here, what would be the odds of that.  Well... we know better now. 

Over the weekend we had a great opportunity to get familiar with a 2007 Jeep JK  Wrangler Rubicon and a 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser, both of which were recent purchases by a couple of the regulars on these trail runs up here.    With a weekend of offroading on the moderate trails of the area, we wanted to gt the run down on the pros and cons and our offroad impressions of the FJ Cruiser and the JK Wrangler Rubicon.  We were not disappointed.



We made the long trek up to our mountain destination and arrived around the lunch hour on Friday.  We had planned to meet at a cool place for a burger and a beer, a placed called Denny's Beer Barrel Pub or the Rootbeer Palace as it's been known by a few.  As Mike and I pulled up in the parking lot, we noticed a Toyota FJ Cruiser parked along the side of the parking lot where we usually park.  Knowing that our wheeling buddy had mentioned the idea of "eventually" buying one of these, I recall saying out loud, "he didn't go and buy one and not tell us, did he?"  Then I saw the dealer license plate frame, a local dealership to his home and mine.  Yeah, that's his.  And of course we then saw him sitting on the Rootbeer Palace's porch with a big grin on his face.  This is going to be a fun weekend.  A JK and an FJ showdown.
A few of our comrades arrived shortly after we had our share of Denny's specialty burgers. 



Scouting out New Trails

We talked about doing this for a while now.  The big boss-man owns a large track of land on top of the mountain here on which the cabin resides.  The land has only a few trails running across it and they only reach as far back as about half way, maybe less.  The land has a lot of acres of forest and varying terrain that is only accessible on foot.  Prior to being sub-divided and sold to individuals, the land had been owned by a mining company and logged periodically like much of the land up here that stood outside of state owned land.  We knew there was a few really nice clearings back there and some old, over grown logging trails that were no longer passable by vehicle. The plans were to make them passable once again but that meant we would have to scout it out on foot and mark it off for our friend Dick, who would later come back with some heavy equipment and clear a nice path to the back of the property for us.   First we would have to scout out and mark a path for his bulldozer to follow. 

Surveying the property was a bit of a challenge.  We drove down an existing trail that bordered a stream cutting through the property until the trail ended.  From there we walked, following the south side of the stream staying on or near an old, overgrown logging trail, marking the path along the way for later reference.  We had an old map that somewhat pointed out the boundaries and suggested something about a pile of rocks and a post that marked the northwest corner where the property met state owned land.  After passing through a couple of nice large clearings and near what felt like the back of the property, we searched for this referenced pile of rocks with a post in the middle.   We had no luck locating a pile of rocks however knowing the property had been logged over the years, and seeing a distinctive end to the tree cutting and a sharp beginning of thick underbrush and larger old growth trees, we figured we had to be near the back corner.  So we searched a little more for any state land markings and marked the location on the GPS.  This is where the trail will emerge in this clearing then turn south, following the west border of the property.  Meanwhile Dick was mumbling something about about snakes and if it were any warmer, or something like that.


Rattlesnake Encounter!

Stephen wanted to check out the stream down here at the lower end of the property so we were off to the side of the clearing, walking over some rocks. 

Suddenly out from under Stephens feet came the distinctive sound of a Rattler.  Like one of those cats on America's Funniest Home Video that got spooked by something under foot, Stephen Jumped about 3 feet in the air and 10 feet forward as the fat, stocky Rattler curled up in a defensive stance shaking it's rattle.  We all gave it plenty of room as we reached for our cameras. 

Luckily he had not stepped directly on it and the rattlesnake was probably just as spooked as he was as it quickly retreated under the rocks.  From that point forward we were closely watching where we stepped.  I think we just might name this new trail Rattlesnake.  What do you think Stephen?

We trekked back to our vehicles, passing some bear crap along the way.  Maybe we should have listened to Dick's comments about rattlesnakes.  Apparently he knows what he's talking about, having been out in similar locations as this doing excavating work in the past.  It was our first encounter with a rattlesnake up here but apparently they are common in this area.

Back at the cabin, we discussed snakes and the plans for the trails, referencing a large satellite map we printed out years ago.  Jeff and his gang had pulled up as we were hanging out.






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