It was the prospect of snake bites in the deep backcountry that first led me to taking this course. After a couple of close encounters with large venomous snakes earlier this year, I realized how unprepared I was in the event of a wilderness emergency. Unable to find any definitive protocol for snake bites, other than “ER”, I started looking in to wilderness first aid courses. On the AT and other trails we’ve hiked so far, I felt relatively safe from true life-or-death emergencies, since it is rare to go more than a couple of hours without seeing other hikers. But leading up to last summer’s BMT hike, the depth of the wilderness was a bit intimidating. I was unable to schedule a class before the BMT hike, but was glad to find one right here in Atlanta taught by NOLS.
….Only to find out that snake bites are not on the curriculum. (Not that I didn’t want the other stuff too!) Fortunately, the instructors were kind enough to have an off-the-record after-class discussion of snake bites. The short answer is “don’t play with snakes”. Most severe venomous bites, they said, start with “hold my beer” followed by “watch this!”. In the backcountry they are usually far less common and less severe than most would think. All you really can do is start walking towards civilization, which is usually enough. Turns out they are very low on the list of bad things likely to happen out there.