Slate Run Biking

July 26th. bike ride - Dave Kagan

July 26th Ride of 117 Miles
David Ira Kagan

At 8 a.m. on this beautiful summer day, I bicycled from my Torbert Village home northward, with the intent of going all the way to the northern terminus at Stokesdale Junction. Two flowers were blooming profusely all along the trail—Queen Anne’s Lace and Woodland Sunflower.
Shortly after noon, I came across Paul S. Schmitt, from Big Flats, New York, above Blackwell Village just south of Benjamin Hollow and mile-marker 128. He was hunched over his tripod-held camera, aimed at a rock formation just on the eastside off the rail-trail.
“A rattler?” I asked expectantly. “Two,” he replied. “Both a black-phased one and a yellow-phased.”
And there they were. Perhaps only 10 feet from us. During the next half-hour of so, we watched and photographed these glorious creatures, seeing the black one crawl from below the rock to join the yellow one on the ledge above it. We counted the rattles on the longer black—twelve of them! What a sight to behold! Tongues flickering, bodies moving, both heads coming together. And never a rattle from either of them the whole time! A quiet, peaceful, wonderful communion with Nature for lucky us for 30 minutes.
Reluctant to leave, I finally did, arriving at the Pag-Omar Farms Market at the northern terminus about 2:30 p.m., where I wolfed down a large hot-fudge sundae, with raspberry and butter pecan ice cream. I then purchased a water and a vitamin drink for the ride back south, knowing that no stores would be open during my return cycle home.
At 5 p.m., just north of Steel Hollow Run and just a bit north of where the two earlier rattlers had been, I came across another black rattler right on the trail ahead of me. Only about two feet long, its velvet black glistening in the late afternoon sun, it remained motionless and quiet the whole time I stopped right in front of it, only about five feet away, with my bicycle placed between me and it. With my camera steadied on my bicycle seat, I took several photographs. Then, backing away a bit first, I mounted my bicycle and then rode by it on the other side of the trail. It still never moved nor rattled at me.
Home by 8:30 p.m. A hot shower. Some food. A great day. A day during which I had felt fully alive. Fortunate to have my health, to be able to travel through and witness the glories of nature in north-central Pennsylvania.
To check out some of Paul Schmitt’s great “natural world photography” (including his rattler photos of July 26) go to To contact him, e-mail him at

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