Turkey Pen Gap – Black Mountain and a Rattlesnake with anger issues

Turkey Pen Gap >> Black Mountain

Of all the trails I have ever rode, and all the (minor) accidents I have had, I have never been as scared as I was on this trail, and it had nothing to do with steep downhills, or jumps or baby heads, dragons teeth, nope, it was all due to a massive beefy rattlesnake with anger issues!!!
I was dropped off on SH 280 at the beginning of TurkeyPen Road, I then cycled to the trail head to start my Turkey Pen Gap and down Black Mountain Adventure..  As I arrived at the Trail head, a couple was just leaving, and with a very sadistic smerk, the guy jokingly said that ” That’s a nice trail for the mountain bike” pointing to the “Turkey Pen Gap Trail”.. both he and his partner were very amused when I said that, that was the trail I was going to do… within 5 minutes I knew why they were amused.
I started the climb from the trailhead at about 11am, the first section was lung busting, but nothing serious, and I was pleased that after 20 min. I was screaming downhill on a very smooth if what narrow single track. The fun lasted a whopping give or take 5 min. and then the shit really hit the fan, the climb in front of me was ferrocious, and after almost 2 min. of busting my lungs, I gave up, and started walking, even the walk was tireing!!

But I kept going, telling myself “What goes up, must come down, and after a long steep walk, I finally reached Sharpy Mountain, and the path took a dive, and I needed it!!.. from here all the way to Wagon Gap was sweet fairly smooth fast single track, and I was having fun.
At Wagon Gap I took a break and a snicker and looked at the trail, that again started to climb, although nowhere near as steep as the climb to Sharpy Mountain.. I started the climb, and although it was very slow, I just switched off and crawled up, then down, then back up, then down etc..etc.. It was very tireing!!.
Now, this was going to be my 4th descent of black mountain, and in all the rides I had done so far in the Pisgah i had never come across any mountain bikers, so the chance I was gonna see any on this remote trail was zero!!.. Now I always wear a thin absorbent base layer under my T-shirt, that is tucked into my shorts,every now and then, the baselayer crawls up over my shorts, and on one of my breaks just past Deep Gap, I undid my shorts, pulled them right down to my ankles, I was just about to pull my baselayer down as far as possible, when out of the blue not ONE, but THREE mountain bikers came screaming around the bend, all they saw was a 6.2ft fella with his shorts at his ankles holding a mountain bike!!.. I felt a right plonker to say the least!!.
Luckily they dissappeared as quickly as the appeared.
After sorting out my baselayer and shorts, I carried on, I was cruising on a straight, where less than 10 min. previous, 3 mountain bikers had just passed, and my eye saw something, at the time I did not know what it was, but my hands must of, ‘cos they both gripped the brakes as hard as they could, and the bike came to an immidiate stop, throwing me off the side, and landing on the floor, still gripping the brakes. In front of me, about 4 feet was a friggin massive RATTLESNAKE!!, it was massive!!, at least 4 feet, and as thick as my arm!!.. i was so scared, I couldn’t have shit myself even if I wanted to, my arse muscles were cramped in fear!!.. This beast was curled up in a Z position, and he was showing of his rattle skills like it was no ones buisness!!
Now whoever says “Stay Calm in a situation like this” has obviously never been 4 feet away lieing on the ground looking at a beefy rattlesnake that needs some serious anger management and is in striking position!!! Stay Calm Bollocks!! Like a greased whippet with a fire cracker up his arse, I jumped to my feet, left the bike where it was and took my distence from the beast. This monster was so beefy, I actually feared he might have eaten a fellow mountain biker!!.. was there 4 mountain bikers, and the others had not yet realized their mate had been swallowed whole??.. I looked around for a second bike, but there was none.. Now I know Jack Rabbit about rattlesnakes, except they are poisonous, and it was obvious that this beast wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry.
I found a large branch and tried to pull my bike closer to me, but it just snapped.. so from about 15 feet away I started throwing branches at it, hoping it would mosely along, but it did not budge. I then very slowly got close enough to just reach out and grab my back tire and slowly pull my bike towards me, and away from the beast. Finally I had my bike back, but I still needed to pursuade “Rattles” to let me pass.. I tried everything anyone could do from about 15 feet, but he did not move, so in the end I walked my bike a very long way around it.
I was back on the path, but I was really spooked by the whole thing, and I just wanted to get onto the Black Mountain Trail. I rode like the mad man from Borneo, untill I reached Black Mountain. Glad to be on a long fast downhill, and just 20 min. from my campsite, I screamed back to civalisation, to tell everyone about my breach with death. But, it seems that everyone who I tell my story to, has had the same happen to them, only the snake was bigger, fatter and more viscious, I even asked one fella if it was a snake, cos the way he told it, it sounded like a friggin Great White Shark!!
Maybe lying on the ground 4 feet away from a massive rattlesnake with anger issues in striking position might be an everyday occurence in North Carolina, but I sure as well hope I never see a rattler again in my life!!

>> Stats <<

Ride : Turkey Pen Gap >> Black Mountain
Total time : about 4.5 hours
Traffic on Trail : 3 riders on Turkey Pen
Wild Life : A Massive Rattle Snake, a few wild Turkeys ( I think)
Scenery : Not much at all
Other : Very steep climb from Simpson Gap to Sharpy Mountain, and excellent downhill from Sharpy to Wagon Gap

My Trail Rating :  6.5 / 10

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  1. Nice story, and I’m glad you didn’t kill the snake as many in your area tend to enjoy doing. All you needed to do was just do as the snake is asking and back off (well off) for a few minutes. It wasn’t “angry”, it was defensive, and was only staying there because it had the impression that if it did not hold ground right there, its life was in danger.

    Good story, thanks for the post!

    • I know what you mean about a lot of people would have killed the snake. No matter how shit scared I was, I knew “Rattles” had more right to be there than I did, killing “Rattles” never entered my mind, that would have been the easy and cowardly way to have been able to continue my ride. I’m sure Rattles was just as shit scared as I was.

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