This past summer I traveled to Mexico with my friend, Mike Rochford, to look for various rattlesnake species. My primary goal was to find the last two subspecies of a species that I am particularly fond of, Crotalus willardi. This small montane species ranges from Zacatecas, Mexico northward into southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Our trip began by traveling to the Sierra del Nido Mountains of Chihuahua in an attempt to find one of my missing subspecies, Crotalus willardi amabilis.
We pulled up to a rancher’s house and after talking with him were allowed to park on his property and walk into the mountains. After pairing down our supplies to save weight we set off excitedly assuming (I seem to remember assumption being the mother of something) we would return in a day or two having found plenty of our target species.
Upon cresting the first ridge we became very excited. We were at the proper elevation and all the proper plant species we had heard of this species being associated were present. After eating lunch and quickly setting up our camp we began our search. This did not last too long however as the clouds built and it started to rain. No worries we thought, some of the best times to herp are right after rain showers. The rain subsided after a bit and we resumed our search but darkness quickly fell and we made our way back to camp figuring we would start the next morning off well rested and ready to go. Our rude surprise was only hours away.
We made dinner and the usual herper BSing began. We reminisced about old trips together, talked about our hopes for this trip, and planned future trips. As we settled in to sleep we were pleased at how we had consolidated gear in order to maximize food and water space. Both of us opted to leave sleeping pads in the truck and I had brought only my sleeping bag liner while Mike brought his actual sleeping bag. The misery was about to begin.
As the rain started nothing seemed out of the ordinary. As the storm picked up strength I began to feel the water flow underneath our tent, as we were on the slightest of slopes. This sucked the body heat right out of me as I had only brought my thin sheet of a liner to sleep in. As the rain pounded off our rainfly I began to settle in for what I realized would be a long night, one that was soon to get worse.
The rain continued to increase in intensity I began to feel my shirt getting damp. “What the hell?” I thought. I figured my water bottle top had come off, as I sat up it quickly became evident that this was not the case. I could see the water pooling along the seam on the floor of my tent. This was awful news as it meant I would be in water all night since I had left my sleeping pad roughly 6 km away. I turned on my side in the hopes that minimizing contact with the floor would maximize my dryness and I would be able to sleep. The minutes turned into hours and the rain did not let up. Mike was having no better luck sleeping and due to my shivering he unzipped his sleeping bag and spread it over the top of both of us. This stopped my shivering but did not allow either of us to fall asleep.
The rain finally began to subside somewhere around 4 am. As the stream of water below our tent subsided warmth began to return to my body. Puddles were still to be found along the floor of the tent unfortunately and their chill kept me from falling asleep so I simply lay there staring at the walls. Not until the sun rose was I able to drift off for a quick hour or so before getting up to resume herping. I wish I could tell you that the clouds broke and we found tons of snakes that day but that was not the case. The weather decided to foil us again and thunder clouds soon materialized so after a brief search we made our way back to the farmer’s house defeated. We planned to run south to escape the rain, but the farmer informed us that flooding had made it impossible to leave. How we managed to get out is another story though and I need to get back to reading.