Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

SOURIS: Great getaway

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WHEN my family first proposed the idea of taking a trip to Souris, Man., I was neutral, at best. All I really knew about the town was that it was the home of former NHL defence­man Jayson More, thanks to my penchant for memorizing the vital statistics on the backside of hockey cards.

My first reaction to the town of just under 1,800 residents was to be a bit put off, as I didn't see a sign commemorating the veteran of 406 games. But as I experienced more of the town, which lies about 50 kilometres southwest of Brandon, a bit more, my slight disappointment slid away and happy memories began to take its place.

We stayed right across from the Souris Swinging Bridge, which, according to the town's website, is the longest historic swinging suspension bridge in the country. At 177 metres (582 feet), it's 40 metres (132 feet) longer than the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver.

As a 13-year-old with a developing dangerous side at the time, a dash across the bridge topped my agenda.

With the bridge sagging in the middle, you're sure to give into the gravity for the first half of the trek, and curse it for the second half. Fortunately, stopping in the middle allows for a gorgeous view down the Souris River, where you might see the Senator II cruising along the water.

Aside from being a relaxing ride down the river, a river cruise aboard the Senator II comes complete with a tour guide who dispenses tidbits about the town's history -- including just why one of the early residents, Squire Sowden, built the bridge in 1904. Fees are $8 for adults and $6 for children 17 and under.

One other must-hit spot for families is the Agate Gemstone Pits, where you can rustle through the rubble in search of some unique-looking stones, which can be found in brown, red, and yellow, among other colours. First-time hounds like ourselves didn't need to be experts going in. The Souris Rock Shop gives a lesson at 2 p.m. every Monday through Saturday, if there are employees available. The best part is that the lesson is included in the cost of the $10 permit, which allows a carload of people into the pits for a day.

I can't remember exactly if my rookie rock-hunting skills led me to any igneous masterpieces, but I do recall looking over the 12 acres of pits, and excitedly turning over stone after stone in search of rock-scavenging supremacy.

It's been nearly a decade since my family came to this western Manitoba town intending to stay only one night, but booked in for another. We came there on a lark just to avoid the hustle of Brandon after a hectic soccer tournament schedule, but the trip bore some of my favourite Manitoba memories, and ranks up with some of my all-time favourite getaways.

daniel.falloon@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 1, 2009 E1

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