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Unearthing Idaho - Surprise on the Snake River

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- It was pitch black. Darkness surrounded me save for the dim light of the rising moon. I stumbled through the desert bent on making my way back to camp. It wasn't far; I could still make out my fishing poles glowing in the firelight. There were no crickets chirping or even the sound of tumbleweeds blowing in the dust. It was silent. That's when I heard it, what could have been the last thing I would ever hear, and a lesson I won't soon forget.

I didn't just wake up in the middle of the night in the desert. No, I was on a fishing trip. My co-worker and I were on a mission to catch one of the most prized game fish in the region, a White Sturgeon. There are plenty of places in Idaho to catch such a fish but why travel far and wide when you can practically throw out a line in your backyard?

Senior Airman Jaye Legate, 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs broadcast journalist, sets the drag on his fishing pole July 6, 2015, at Crane Falls, Idaho. Legate was hoping to land a White Sturgeon, one of the more elusive fish in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Connor J. Marth) So, we headed out to Crane Falls just up the hill from Bruneau and only a few minutes from C.J. Strike Reservoir. Crane Falls doesn't offer watercraft rentals or cabins like the Air Force Marina, but it's a close spot to get away from the crowds and enjoy what the Snake River can offer.

Armed with topographic maps, 50 pound fishing line and plenty of poles, we had everything we needed to catch the big one. We set up camp and baited our hooks, dragging our lines out to the perfect spot using my kayak.

And then, we waited.

A lot...

The sun fell as day turned to night and we hadn't seen so much as a tug on our lines. Our hope began to fade so I grabbed my camera and decided to make the best of the situation.

Photography has evolved into one of my passions over the years and Crane Falls definitely gave me plenty of excuses to exercise my camera.

At this point there was nothing but the moon and the camp fire I had built to light my way. A timelapse of the big rock in the sky was my target, so absolute darkness was just fine with me. I wasn't far from camp and somehow I thought it was a good idea to wander through the desert at night without a flashlight. I found the perfect angle and set up my tripod.

A Great Basin Rattlesnake coils its body, ready to strike at any moment July 19, 2010, in Nevada. It is the only venomous species of snake found in the Treasure Valley region. (Courtesy photo by Jaye Legate) As I trudged through the sagebrush an unexpected noise set my hair on end and I shot into the air, terrified of the deafening sound.

I was inches from stepping on a rattlesnake.

I had no idea what to do but luckily my co-worker, and apparent snake expert, was there to walk me through the situation. He explained the best way to escape a confrontation with a snake is to freeze. Any sudden movements can convince the snake you're a threat, tempting it to strike.

After what seemed like the longest pause in my life, the snake slithered away to continue its hunt. I narrowly escaped a most unfortunate and untimely death.

I never thought a simple fishing trip would turn into a life-threatening situation. Ensure that you're being safe when enjoying Idaho's outdoors. I know I will definitely be bringing a flashlight and a friend next time I decide to walk through the desert.

Editor's note: This is the second installment of a weekly blog highlighting attractions and activities around Idaho. Stay tuned to learn more!

Download the top photo at this link.