Ssssscary Phobiasssss and Fearsssss

The plans for my Appalachian Trail section hike are coming together nicely. My group met last week and we talked about gear, weather, food, and mapped out our nightly stops. Our hotel for the night before our hike begins has also been booked.

In addition to logistics and gear, we also discussed fears and phobias after the question “does anyone have a phobia of snakes?” was asked. I nervously laughed and slowly raised my hand while announcing, “I sure fucking do!”

The snakes on the AT are real snakes with rattle, girth, length, and poison. These are not the same snakes that terrified me at Narcisse Snake Dens two school years in a row and these are not the same terrifying snakes found on my grandparents farm. The snakes on the school field trip and grandparents farm were simple garter snakes. The garter snake is the same snake that sent me into a slight panic on a hike last summer.

I discovered that there would be snake encounters on the AT after I excitedly decided to go and planning and training was happening. There was 5% hesitation out of my 95% gung-ho, ready to hike 10 days on the AT. I decided then and there that I didn’t want to live in fear anymore and that I was going to do something about it. I wasn’t going to let an opportunity like hiking on the AT pass me by because of a phobia of snakes.

At one time I could not look at a picture of a snake in a book or on TV. I would scream, cover my eyes, and shake. I would cower in a corner when children played with fake rubber snakes. I can now look at photos of snakes. I force myself to and while it may not be for long, I do it until I no longer feel comfortable. I am changing the way I react.

I had a session with my therapist to talk about snakes. He incorporates spirituality from the Anishinabe into sessions. While I don’t identify with one specific set of beliefs, I do feel spiritual and I appreciate stories and teachings from across spirituality. He says that if the Creator loves me, he will show me a snake early on in my hike so that I can get on with my hike and enjoy my surroundings without paranoia. I’m praying that it is not a Snakes on a Plane type of love that the Creator has in store for me. I do know that the sooner I see a snake in the wild, the sooner I can get on with my life.

I plan to visit Narcisse Snake Dens in the next little while. I will be sure to let you know how that goes.

The only relationship I want with snakes is indifference. I don’t want to fear them, hate them, or even like them. I simply want to be indifferent to their presence, to respect their contribution to our ecosystem, and to go about our own individual business.

Like a Disney Princess, I often talk to animals. What would I say to a snake if I see one? “Howdy…top of the morning to you…righty-o…I have the collywobbles…oh blimey…oh jeepers creepers…!”

Then I would take off running and screaming, thinking that a pack of snakes is going to chase me at full speed for two miles. Then I would have an asthma attack and be left in the dirt.

The Disney Princess movie I am imagining myself staring in would bomb because people like proud, confident, independent princesses and that is not what I would be in this story line.

I am rewriting the script. This hiking boot wearing, dirty finger nail, rock climbing gal is going to conquer my fear of snakes. One foot in front of the other, I’m coming for you AT and resident snakes.

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