About the second mile out on our Dodson Trail hike,
We were working up the switchbacks before the summit prior to the Smokey Creek drainage, when I happened upon a poor draught-stricken prickly pear plant that had collapsed into the trail from the uphill side:
I turned around to warn my son that he would have to step over it, but he was a ways back, so I glanced back and suddenly my spidey senses kicked in and told my eyes to zero in on a certain spot:
My brain ordered a complete halt to forward motion and then I eased back a bit. I pointed the spot out to my son who had just caught up:
Snake! Perhaps he is waiting for his breakfast to come scampering along the trail, we thought. Excitedly, we discussed the best way to deal with Mr. Snake. The Son wanted to chunk rocks at it, so Dad threw one that bounced right in front of Mr. Snake, but that left him unphased. Another one ticked him off and produced a brief rattle. The Dad then tried moving him along with his extended hiking stick, but that attempt failed. Mr. Snake liked his spot between the pads. Another rock annoyed him enough that he slithered slowly off, stopping under the larger prickly pear pile and holed up there. This was on the trail still, right where we wanted to go. While he was crawling away, we noted that Mr. Snake had a distinctly black tail ahead of his rattle. At last, it dawned on us that perhaps we might try another path:
We backtracked about 20 feet and headed uphill above Mr. Snake, working our way through just about everything that poked, scratched, clawed, or grabbed until we were about 25 feet above him. Then we angled back downhill to the trail again.
Next day, on the return trip back to Wilson Ranch, where indeed was Mr. Snake? Why right back in his cozy little spot between the two prickly pear pads! Again we hiked up and over, this time we didn't bother trying to mess with him.
Later in the day, at the Basin Visitor Center, a Ranger guessed it might have been a northern black-tailed rattlesnake as seen in this picture from Wikipedia: