Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Don't have a hisss-y fit

You have to visit the snake pits at least once

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Here is how it happened: the night after partying into the wee hours after the World's Largest Social, I was awoken at 11 a.m. "We are leaving in an hour." The army was called in and a caravan of 15 people in four cars including two individuals from England was on its way. Destination: The snake pits at Narcisse.

Why in the world would I want to go to see thousands of snakes writhing around in snake pits? Well, here are my reasons why:

-- Because people from all over the world come to see the snake pits and I only dare to watch them on TV -- maybe.

-- It's just over an hour's drive from where I live.

-- I'll only have to go once.

-- They were going to leave without me.

-- A chance to pretend I'm in a real live Indiana Jones movie and be braver than him.

-- Red-sided garter snakes are not poisonous.

-- To say I did it.

-- I'll never have to go again.

-- No admission fees.

-- There was a barbecue and picnic afterwards.

What did I learn? There are around 80,000 red-sided garter snakes in this area, making it the largest concentration of this particular type of snake in the world. Why here? Because the limestone makes for great cracks and crevasses the snakes can slither down to hibernate below the frost line but above the water level. There aren't too many places in the world like this. It is a zoological oddity that makes these snakes happy to live in freezing Manitoba. I guess the rest of us are zoological oddities too, but that has never been explained. Maybe it's because of the socials.

The parks staff said the best time to see the snakes this year is this weekend, so get moving.

How to get there:

The dens, on Highway 17, six kilometres north of Narcisse, are marked with a large sign. Head north on Highway 7, switching to Highway 17 at Teulon.

http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/wildlife/spmon/narsnakes/index.html

What's next?

Sat. May 29: Canoe trip from St. Charles at the west perimeter down the Assiniboine River to The Forks. Call Doug @ 334-2108 (this is a change from the original date, so if you thought you missed the boat... nah). Mountain Equipment Co-op, 943-4202, rents canoes for $30 a day including paddles and PFDs.

Sun. May 30: Here's your chance to try a triathlon. Call it a 'tri a tri.' This mini-triathlon is an all-girls event. There are various levels, but the shortest distance is a 100-metre swim, 5-km bike and 1-km run. You can do it! I have already recruited six in my group, including my eight-year-old niece. I am so pumped! It's at the U of M at 8 a.m. and registration is only $22. Register online: http://girlstri.mb.ca/

julesonenewthing@gmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 22, 2010 D9

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