An unexpected encounter

Stephanie and I were out hiking the local Placitas NM hills today, mainly looking for signs of springtime growth — found interesting flowers, cactii just beginning to wake up. And while approaching the top of a low, rocky hilltop, I almost stepped on this:

No worries, I didn't get bitten or anything. Rattlesnakes are usually very good about giving warnings, and fortunately I had the same reaction as the last time I encountered a rattlesnake on the other side of the Sandias. I jumped backwards and stepped well away.

Needless to say though, this rattler maintained its guarded strike-ready posture for as long as we were within sight of it, staying put long enough for me to get a few decent photos.

Anyway, this is a fine specimen — no idea if it's male or female, but it certainly was big. Easily as big around at its thickest part as my forearm. I'd estimate at least five feet long, maybe six.

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