" All anyone heard was my girlish scream 'SNA-AAKE!!!! "

Stalking serpents in Perrot State Park

I shrieked “Sna-Aake!” my voice rising mid-cry as my brain processed what I was looking at; simultaneously, I made a comical two-step hop to the other side of the trail and safety.

My sister Frannie, her husband, Dusty, and their two dogs, Nala and Sarabi, had been hiking with Niecie and me along the Riverview Trail in Perrot State Park in Trempealeau, Wisconsin for fewer than 10 minutes when we happened upon this sunbathing fox snake.

At first, my family thought I was trying to scare my sister. She is terrified of the legless lizards.

“We almost died Nala,” Frannie cried,  as she realized moments before she had walked within inches of the creature.

At the time we had no way of knowing what kind of snake it was or whether or not it was venomous. All we knew was it was a snake.

“Eeeheeeeehheeh, It’s alive!” Frannie cried as the nearly four-foot long creature stirred from its nap.

My sister had reason to be worried. She’d had more than one run-in with Timber Rattlesnakes in the last year. The breed has been making a comeback in the region and to our untrained eyes, this snake may as well have been a rattler. But, it wasn’t.

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Even if the snake had been awake enough to be threatened by the dozens of hikers trodding inches from his head, a bite from a fox snake might have been painful, but certainly not venomous.

Like my sister, I don’t much like snakes, but I can appreciate the beauty of the animals, at least from a distance. I hope you guys like the picture. I put my life on the line to get it! (Remember I didn’t know this wasn’t a rattler at the time I took it.)

Hidden surprises

During our short 2.7 mile hike in the dense bluff-country forest, I took note of the wealth of wildlife visible right from the trail. Columbine flowers bloomed along the trail side and great ferns unfurled in the humid spring air.

The snake was just the first of many creatures we saw during the short hike. Painted turtles rested along the marshes, muskrats swam about the algae-thick backwaters and snakes rested trail side.

It seemed there were surprises around every corner if you looked closely enough. However, not all of them were as captivating as the plants and animals. Rising spring floodwaters had swallowed many of the low lying trails leaving them impassable. Consequently, this cut our hike far shorter than I’d hoped. I’d wanted to get in a few more miles in preparation for my big 15-mile hike later this year.


As short as the hike may have been it will always be remembered as the time we were almost killed by a sleeping vicious four-foot eight-foot fox spitting maneater snake. Have I ever mentioned my family likes to exaggerate?

Our hike

Want to retrace our steps? Here’s our route, now with pictures!

Further reading

If you enjoyed this post we know you’ll enjoy these. Check them out.

Comment and share

So tell us:

  • Where have you hiked lately?
  • Any run-ins with snakes lately?
  • Have a snake story?
  • Do you hike with your family?

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  • Boots on the Trail

    Yes, at a distance that fox snake looks like a rattler – enough so that I wouldn’t want to get up close to be sure! We see quite beautiful, colorful (non-venomous) racer snakes quite often – usually sunning themselves in the trail. The only rattlesnake we’ve seen upclose recently was in Texas – it was slithering away from us as fast as we were backing away from it.

    June 1, 2017 - 10:23 am Reply
    • tobiasmann

      That is the only way I ever want to meet a rattler, backing away while he runs away! Yikes. Normally small snakes don’t get me to bad. I can recognize most breeds of garter snake (there are many in Minnesota and Wisconsin) and they don’t bother me. It’s the big snakes like this fox snake that get me. The fox snake is one of the biggest in these parts. I’m sure glad that it wasn’t venomous.

      June 1, 2017 - 10:26 am Reply
  • Customs -N- Classics

    Wow, I get the whole fear of snakes thing. I don’t do well with any snake, any size. (I often scream like a girl and run into walls, or try to claw my way out of wherever.) I absolutely hate being surprised by a snake. (My heart is beginning to race just thinking about it.)
    I use a garage on my church property as a wood working workshop. It has 2 sides to it, one with access via a large roll up door and the other with access via a normal front door. Once the weather turns to spring, I don’t open the roll up door, nor do I go into that side, as “Henry”, our 5′ to 6′ Black Snake resides in that side.
    We have a mutual agreement, he stays away from me, I won’t have a massive heart attack, branding him as a murderer.
    I really enjoyed this article, I love to see the places you go.

    June 1, 2017 - 10:44 am Reply
    • tobiasmann

      I am glad you liked it. With money tight since our move (across town) we’ve been doing a lot more local trips. The camping trips are returning soon too. Niecie is done teaching for the summer today and a summer of fun awaits. Please say hi to Henry the black snake for me. I hope you don’t go and have a heart attack and make him a murderer either. His life is probably hard enough keeping your garage clear of rodents.

      June 1, 2017 - 10:48 am Reply
      • Customs -N- Classics

        The fact that there has never been a rodent in the garage is one of the biggest reasons we have our mutual agreement.

        June 1, 2017 - 11:14 am Reply
  • penncosect24

    You must have been very surprised and frightened! Wonderful photos. Is that a cave you and Niecie are sitting in front of ? Great story!

    June 1, 2017 - 12:56 pm Reply
    • tobiasmann

      Thanks! It was a great hike. No cave, just a big overhang in the bluff side. It was more shocking than frightening. The big guy was sleeping the whole time.

      June 8, 2017 - 8:16 pm Reply
  • Frannie

    Exaggeration? That snake was totally 10-feet long. It could have eaten Nala and killed me. Or, more likely, attached itself to Nala’s nose, which would have resulted in me fainting on the trail.

    Why are there so MANY snakes lately? Can anyone tell us?

    June 1, 2017 - 3:42 pm Reply
    • tobiasmann

      I wish we knew why there were so many snakes. I suppose we are in their environment and we’re doing a better job of preserving and protecting their environment? I hope that is true.

      June 8, 2017 - 8:17 pm Reply
  • usathroughoureyes

    We’ve been hiking a lot lately on many different trails. We absolutely dislike snakes and know they come with the territory so we are vigilant in trying to get over it. Interestingly enough we haven’t encountered one head on yet so either we have been lucky or blind. Hopefully its the former. Recently we were hiking by the water in NC and as I was looking out over the bay Audrey captured a huge water snake on camera as she was taking a photo. In reviewing the footage it was at least 6 feet long, 4 inches in diameter and black. Needless to say I didn’t dangle my feet in the water very long.

    June 2, 2017 - 8:15 am Reply
    • tobiasmann

      Water snakes really freak me out. Probably because if I was in the water they can out swim me. I hope you’re hikes remain snake free.

      June 8, 2017 - 8:18 pm Reply
      • usathroughoureyes

        This was our first experience with a water snake and we can see why they can freak one out. They are fast and creepy.

        June 9, 2017 - 4:55 am Reply

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