Mountain Biker Shares Tale of Rattlesnake Bite

A local mountain biker has the following story about a friend who was bitten by a rattlesnake while mountain biking. An attempt to assist the friend was thwarted after the biker found himself locked outside the Pinecrest Gate.

Steve Messer, a local mountain bike rider and member of a local bike advocacy group, shared the following story about a friend whose son was bitten by a baby rattlesnake while riding.

Messer was called to help assist in searching for the victim after his father lost sight of him following the bite (the boy had taken off downhill at top speed to go get medical care). 

Unfortunately, Messer writes, he was behind the Pinecrest Gate while biking down from Henninger Flats on the Mt. Wilson Toll Road and when he returned to the bottom of the trail he found the gate had been closed and locked (the gate is located on Pinecrest Drive, just north of the intersection of Altadena and Crescent).  He could not go help his friend, as a result.

Fortunately, the victim had gotten a ride to the hospital and the search turned out to be unnecessary.

The bite happened, Messer said, after his friend's son tried to move the snake off a trail for its own safety.  Because it was a baby rattlesnake, it had not yet grown the identifiying rattle on the back of its tail, and the victim did not realize it was a rattler.  Messer writes:

I received a call from a friend whose son I often ride with. He and his son were riding on Brown Mountain, and the son had been bitten by a baby rattlesnake he was trying to move off the trail. Rolling downhill was the best option, so the victim did just that, riding out to the bottom of the trail. He's a much faster rider than his dad and by the time his dad got to the bottom of the trail, there was no sign of the son.

The dad called, asking me to come and help search for him since I knew the trails well, and the dad thought I'd be the best person to help track him down if he had gone off the trail. I was on the Toll Road not far from the gate when I received the call, so I came down the fire road to find the gate closed. I called a friend who I knew had a key, and 15 minutes later he arrived to open the gate for me. The gate had been open when I started the ride, and it was well before sunset when I received the call. 

As it turned out, some friends of the rattlesnake bite victim were just starting to ride from the JPL parking lot at the bottom of Brown when he showed up, and they immediately took him to Verdugo Hills Hospital without waiting for (or notifying) his dad. His bite turned out to be a "dry" bite with very little venom. Only his fingers swelled up and he never had any tissue necrosis. He was released from hospital later that afternoon and was fully recovered within a week. 

Regular readers know that many biker, hikers, and outdoor advocates have raised concerns about people being trapped behind the Pinecrest Gate, which provides access to Eaton Canyon when it is opened.  

The gate is generally opened around sunrise and closed around sunset, but there are no posted hours, and thus, no guarantee of the gate not being closed early.  Several local homeowners have the key and the local authorities rely on them to open and close the gate.

For Messer, the moral of the story is clear:

It does serve to illustrate the potential for problems if the bite had happened on the toll road, or if (as the dad feared) the victim had gone unconscious and gone over the side of the trail somewhere and a real search was needed.

For more on the Pinecrest Gate and stories of people getting stuck behind it check out the following links:

Stuck Behind the Pinecrest Gate

Young Woman Trapped Behind the Pinecrest Gate on Christmas Night

Bikers and Hikers Want Gate to Eaton Canyon Open After Dark

James Stoker February 21, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Be sure that both sides of this story get told. The side about mountain bikers and hikers entering late in the day and having to be rescued on the dangereous Eaton Canyon trails is simply being ignored. Given the number of deaths and rescues in Eaton Canyon in recent months I wouldn't blame authorities for locking the gate permanently.


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