LaRue Pine Hills; a natural area of great biological diversity along the flood plains of the Mississippi river in Southern Illinois. Twice a year, hundreds of snakes migrate from the high cliffs to the swampy wetlands of the floodplain. The "snake road" is closed to vehicular traffic for a period of a couple weeks.
I have been to LaRue Pine Hills a couple of times, but never for the snake migration. Saturday my friend, who is a zoology student nearing graduation, called to ask if we wanted to go with her to look for snakes. The plan was to have a yard sale that day, but the dark clouds and off-and-on drizzles allowed to abandon that plan in favor of a rainy day adventure.
Snakes like sun and warmth, so we had trouble finding any. We peeked into rock cracks with our flashlight (which was not nearly bright enough) and saw a couple of cave salamanders, but no snakes. On a May-Apple (I love those plants! They cluster together in tiny villages of leafy umbrellas) sat a green tree frog who sat completely still no matter how close we came ("I'm a leaf! You don't see me!"), but no snakes.
The last leg of our adventure involved climbing a BIG hill for the lovely view of the floodplain from the top. Our leg muscles burned (or at least mine did) as we hiked up, and suddenly Lauren stopped in her tracks with a "woah--" The head of cottonmouth (one of four venemous species in the region) stuck out from under a rock warning us to take a different path.
Most people would not think it fun to find a venomous snake in their path, however we were quite happy. All my life I was afraid of snakes until a few years ago. I remember I was hiking and a black rat snake (really big, long, docile snakes which are abundant in our region) slithered up into a little pine tree to watch me. At that moment I suddenly knew that he was not curled in those branches to wait for me to pass so that he may strike-- it was more like he was curious about me and scared enough to get out of the way so that I may pass without harming him. Ever since then, I have gotten some excitement out of seeing snakes. It's always excitement mixed with a tiny bit of fear since I am usually taken by surprise.
Dudo has been really interested in snakes lately; studying our Illinois Snakes poster, drawing pictures of each species, and expressing great interest in wanting to see snakes while out in the woods (Dudo was not with us on the snake expedition and so has not seen any yet this season). Yesterday he was telling Na and I about which species were endangered and other snake info that he soaked up from casual conversation with Lauren the zoologist.
I'll leave you today with some picture of snake-related creations and projects.
Wishing You Adventures Beyond Your Comfort Zone,
mama randa the snake hunter