Scarpa North America Blog

Trail Running From Snakes in Baja Sur

May. 14th 2014

Based in Anchorage, Alaska, Matt and Agnes Hage take pride in producing authentic photography for outdoor brands around the world. This time, they took off to Baja California, Mexico for some adventurous trail running with some rad shoes.

Having lived my entire life in Alaska, I’d never really gotten to know snakes. But, as I learned, there’s something primordial embedded in my DNA that kicks in during a snake encounter.

We were cruising a stretch of cactus-lined single track when we turned a bend and a rattler stopped us dead in our tracks. Measuring about as long as my arm, the snake was stretched out across the trail, sunning itself. What were we supposed to do? Could we just jump over it? Should we try to scare it off the trail? Going around it wasn’t an option as spiny cactus and other sharp desert shrubbery hemmed both sides of the trail. It would have been no problem if it were a charging grizzly (stand your ground) or bull moose (run like hell), but this was something entirely different. Suddenly, it flicked its forked tongue and we nearly turned around to sprint the five miles back to the car.

Our stalemate happened on a network of locally maintained trails just outside the quaint Mexican town of Todos Santos. We were putting the finishing touches on a week of trail-running photography for a magazine feature and apparel brand. Starting in San Jose del Cabo, seven of us in two very average rental cars braved the rough and tough coastal road to Cabo Pulmo. Azure Cortez waters and a scrappy little range of mountains full of twisty single track surround the tiny community. You can get a hand-drawn map from the locals. We continued up the coast to the colonial-era capital of La Paz for a night on the town before crossing the peninsula to Todos Santos. First on the docket was to check out a rugged coastal track along the Pacific followed by exploring some trails popular with mountain bikers. This is where we encountered our not-so-little friend.

The rattler, called a Baja California rattlesnake (as we learned later), wasn’t budging. I got on the radio to call someone in the know – ultra runner Meghan Hicks. She calls her home Moab, Utah, so she certainly has ran into a few snakes on her big distance days. However, she was currently with the rest of our crew on the opposite side of this 12-mile loop, running towards us.

By this time, the rattler had slowly woken up and has tightened into a coil, looking right at us. I asked Hicks what the strike range is on this thing. Thankfully after some 15 minutes, the snake tired of us and slinked into the brush. We gave it an extra five before racing through the section at a dead sprint. I did think for a moment how cool it would be to send back one of our SCARPA trail runners with a snakebite in the midsole.

For this weeklong adventure south of border, our crew was outfitted with the latest shoes from SCARPA’s trail running line. We had men and women’s models of the Ignite, Spark and TRU. Every model held up well during the 100-km week of gritty, rocky trails. Everyone was able to get a good lock-down fit and appreciated how the uppers managed to be a tight-enough mesh to keep out debris, but still breathable in the 80-degree temps. In this kind of terrain, grit in the shoe can be a major culprit to blistering, but our crew went blister free, which is saying something on this kind of trip. The “do-it-all” treads were also appreciated, as over the week we encountered a lot of different trail surfaces – everything from rough metamorphic crag to pea gravel to soft ’n dusty. The shoes braved some broken glass on a morning run around the back streets of Cabo San Lucas. Verdict: no problem.

We wrapped up our trip with an all-day mountain running adventure to the top of Picacho de la Laguna. At 7,090 feet, it is the highest peak in the craggy Sierra de la Laguna that is the backbone of southern Baja. We ended up in the back of a rancher’s pickup for the rough four-wheel drive road that led to the trailhead. It was still dark and our gang was a bouncing sea of headlamps making their way up the 12-mile trail leading to the top. (Some of us were still on the lookout for snakes.)

The 6,000-foot climb took us through several vegetation zones until we arrived on the cactus-studded summit. There was just enough room for the seven of us on top of the rocky pinnacle. From here, we could see both the Pacific and Sea of Cortez. It was a good mental keepsake for the epic quad hammer back down. Dropping 6,000 vertical feet is tough on the body and the gear. Having high-quality footwear on something like that can mean the difference between drudgery and downright painful. I’m happy to report that everyone emerged unscathed and walked just fine to the cantina that night.

Nice work, guys! Check out the Hages’ work at hagephoto.com.

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