Archive for November, 2011


Plants

Found this and am loving it@ Thanks

Jacque was covered in ticks at Blues Creek!

Ticks are nasty little buggers. Actually, they are arachnids, not bugs at all, with eight creepy little legs. Some ticks are bigger than others — seed ticks are teeny tiny, while deer ticks are a little bigger. They all make us cringe!

Sometimes we discover ticks on us while we’re in the field, which is preferred because that usually means we’ve found them before they’ve had time to imbed themselves into our bodies! Every so often though, a few hours after leaving the woods (or even a day or two later) we’ll feel a little itch… and there it is, a damn tick! How did we miss it?? We always do a tick check, afterall! Those things are just plain devious.

Last time I found a tick on me, I was driving to work and felt something on my head… it was an imbedded tick! I pulled it out immediately! I know they say to light a match on its butt or use nail polish and this and that, but after all these years of getting ticks, I’ve found all of that to be a major pain. The first time I was covered in ticks was after a visit to Ocala National Forest (that place is wrought with them). I immediately went to the doctor, and this is what he told me: 1) It’s rare to get Lyme disease in Florida. 2) A tick has to be imbedded for at least 24 hours to transfer the disease. 3) There is no way to actually test for Lyme disease, it’s just based off of symptoms (flu-like ones such as dizziness, headaches, fever, sore throat, joint pain) and the level of probability that you could have contracted the disease based on answers to a questionnaire.

So I was sent home, Lyme disease free (supposedly!). Ever since then, I haven’t worried too much about it and have learned to embrace being a CHICK WITH TICKS!!

You know, some of you are saying, “Jacque, we know how to swing a machete!” Well, I seriously doubt it. I am not trying to be rude. I just know what I used to believe….that I could swing a machete. I also used to believe that, in the movies, that ringing noise that people made chopping things with a machete was a foley sound….NOPE! That’s the sound of chopping properly with a machete.

That’s right. You haven’t been doing it right unless you hear that RING when you flick the tip of the machete through some vines (or your finger John). The rest of the machete is for hacking or chopping wood….not swinging like Indiana Jones through the jungle. So, here are some helpful pointers on machetes and their uses (or not uses).

It's a jungle out there - iStock photo

  1. A dull machete is a piece of useless metal. The only thing you can do with it is hurt yourself or embarrass yourself.
  2. A sharp machete in the wrong hands is a useless piece of metal (and you know the rest….)
  3. If you are going into deep thickets, a machete can save you a lot of scratches (or be a pain in the arse!)
  4. Carrying a machete around in the wilderness with all that other crap is a BAD idea. You will either…..you know!
  5. Most small shrubs and trees have branches that can be snapped off easier than hacking poorly with a bad machete.
  6. Machetes are not the best tool for woody vines….fire is best for that, or giant rabbits, or magic! Nothing else seems to work for us.
  7. Machete holsters are stupid and so are you for trying to pretend like you know how to use one….get a real one that straps to your leg and your belt….otherwise – there is a distinct possibility that you will trip and stab yourself with that blade….sounds fun huh!
  8. A sharp machete will cut fingers….right John!! If I tell you to be careful and that I just sharpened the machetes, I probably did and you probably should!! lol luckily we all know first aid!
  9. Rubbing oil on your machete will keep it from rusting – WD40 works too….this is serious….rub it carefully!
  10. You can probably put the machete down and do what we do – stop almost stabbing yourself, cutting your coworkers in your swing radius, and just MOVE THE CRAP OUT OF YOUR WAY!!! We have saved countless hours, many serious injuries, and maybe even a life but doing completely away with using it in the field. And, yes, we survey! We use a total station and have found that using our hands to move only what is necessary is much more effective and efficient….TRUST ME – we have done hundreds of surveys in extreme conditions….it works!

Machetes are still in our truck. We like to see who grabs one when we take them in the field – this is how we gauge new field partners. For those of you who have worked with us and grabbed a machete thinking that’s what we would do – we still love you but you need some more time in the forest and swamps! Chicks with Ticks Go Anywhere – without machetes!!

My mom and daughter at the homemade cabins my dad designed with recycled materials!

You can order your Chicks with Ticks Shirts as seen in these photos – $20 + Shipping…..just contact me (prepay only – Paypal is accepted!).

Love us some Chicks with Ticks

Chicks with Ticks - Go Anywhere

Well, that was a long time ago. That dread got buried under many more days of unknowing…and defeats. That initial feeling of uncertainty got lost in the brambles and dark shadows of each forest we explored. Each vine we cursed. It got lost under years of experiences and disappointments. It got lost under the Knowing.

We had never finished that initial survey. It had slipped our minds. Leave it to John to ruin a perfectly good forgetting! John reminded us that we needed to go and resurvey the reach at the site. I am not sure what went through Kristen’s mind, but I had a moment of utter shock. What? We had to what? Not that site. It was a nightmare. I don’t think Kristen wanted to go back any more than I did. But, we did.

As we arrived, I mentioned that I remembered the upstream of our reach seemed more visible. It might be worth recon to see if it was more typical of the stream before the hurricane damage. We know now that looking at the site would show severe affectations from the bout of hurricanes. This would have done considerable damage and possibly morphological (big word for shape of the stream channel) changes that wouldn’t be typical before the hurricanes.

Funny thing – hurricanes are natural. Even if a system was destroyed by natural events – it’s still natural – but, it’s not usually typical. We needed to ditch the crappy horror of a reach that we busted that day so long ago and find something that still resembled the original stream. This may not be as horrible as it was! Horrible – YES – but maybe, just maybe not as horrible.

The Knowing - everything has changed!

We packed and began hiking in. Huh? This doesn’t even look like the same site I remembered. The palmettos weren’t so bad, in fact, there was a path of sorts. The vines were just vines. Nothing like a hundred other sites. We got to the stream and…it was so cute! It was a little gem of a stream with some damage that was evident.

This would be a dream come true. A “cake” site. We could shoot this in just an hour or so! What? Had we really changed that much? Had we really been to so many difficult sites that this NIGHTMARE seemed like a picnic. We laughed. We cried….we remembered. We realized that all the years in the field had changed the way we looked at everything. What seemed impossible – was a vacation! We had done so many sites, hiked so many miles, seen so many things – this was nothing!

We finished our recon – the site upstream was PERFECT. We setup the shoot, and finished in a couple of hours. We took our time and went to the original reach – it was harmless. There were no monsters waiting for us. There were no dark shadows hosting our fears and doubts. There was only a stream that deserved better. I can’t explain what happened to us that day. I only know that there are fewer shadows. There are less demons and monsters.

There are more streams that deserve better. I only hope we get there in time to capture them and preserve the story they have to tell. But, I can’t help but wonder….where did all those monsters go? I hope they didn’t find you! If so, just walk past them into the dark murky water. Reach down into the rotting leaves on the bottom. Grab a handful and take a deep breath of them. Look between the ripples and you soon forget they are there!

Well, in the beginning, we really had no idea what we were doing. At least not as it related to surveying. We understood the basic principle but hadn’t really done it right in the field. John wanted to survey a particular stream that he had worked on for another project. Can’t say the name here so we will call it Moon Bay.

John was in a very good mood (at least for now). We parked, and proceeded to the stream to find a reach to survey that represented the “natural” system. Funny thing about Florida, there probably aren’t any truly natural systems left. It’s actually a sad thing. You go miles into the wilderness and voila’ there’s a balloon on a nylon ribbon – deflated and sad-looking – ruining the wildness – making fun of it.

Pristine Creek - by Allison Levine

Anyway, John found what he wanted and we began moving up and down the system flagging each place for survey. John has a back issue sometimes. We were ducking under a lot of trees that had fallen over the stream in the last big round of hurricanes in 2004. He began to lose his sense of humor – this same sense of humor which has us in stitches most of the time.

We finished flagging the reach and went to get the survey equipment. Kristen and I had practiced and thought we pretty much knew what to do. We set up our temporary benchmarks (we are not surveyors so it’s all temporary). We began to shoot the stream survey. John continued to lose his sense of humor. It was hot, uncomfortably messy, vine ridden and lots of ducking and climbing. I remember Kristen and I thought how awful this site was. There was so much to go through, vines, palmettos, and underbrush. This was hell!

Somewhere near the end of the reach, John checked the survey data. There was a problem. A serious problem. At some point someone had made a mistake and now the whole thing was useless basically. John was not happy. I was not happy. Kristen was not happy. This meant that, at some point, we would have to come back. The very thought of fighting this mess of vegetation was too much to bear.

It made me wonder if i could really do this. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I would never want to come and do this with just Kristen and me. This place was too wild. There were too many dangers. I wouldn’t be able to see her at some points in the survey. Would we ever get this right? It was all too much to even think about. We were mortified.

I would and will never forget this day. I was sweaty and scratched to heck. I was upset and doubted myself. I felt like I had let the team down in some way by feeling this way too. I felt that I had wasted a chance to make an impression on John and Kristen too. How could this had gone so wrong? Now, it had to be done all over again. The fear, the stress, the pain, the risk of busting the survey again…..it just seemed impossible to bear.

It was going to be hard to make myself do this again. This was horrid. I hated the way I felt – DEFEATED.

Whenever you leave the safety and comfort of the office, gym, or living room to embark on your amazing adventures there are just a few things you need – and don’t need. I thought it would be helpful to share some of my field wisdom before you really mess up.

THINGS YOU DO NEED

  1. Water. Sounds obvious right? Not just for drinking, you can wash hands, rinse eyes, wash off muddy cameras, and a million other things. Don’t leave home without it.
  2. Other shoes. You will need them. Yours will get muddy, torn, broken, or otherwise not feel good to your feet after months of water logging and mud bogging. They will stink and so will you. Slipping into something dry will prevent heel cracking and make the ride home that much more betterer!
  3. Duct tape. Not just for car hoses anymore. You can make anything out of it. Hell, my son carries a wallet made out of it! Mix duct tape with your yard stick and you have a great tool that will last years. Mix ripped pants with duct tape and you save yourself embarrassment. Mix duct tape with open wounds – voila’ first aid.
  4. Camera. A picture is worth a thousand words. When the truck gets stuck, when YOU get stuck, when you see that one of a kind sunset or insect, you won’t want to miss the moment. Something to keep in mind is that they sell waterproof and shockproof cameras pretty reasonably. They take awesome underwater shots, too. This is especially important when a HUGE bowfin attacks your shoes in ankle-deep water. The photos you can take are amazing. TRUST ME. Olympus and Pentax make great cameras for under $300 and they last everything I have done to them so far. Don’t forget to add a flotation cuff – they are waterproof, not floatable!
  5. Backpack – good one! We have a backpack that we have used for years!! This thing has been abused at hundreds of sites. It has been rained on, drug around, dropped, dragged, and stuffed. It’s filthy and who knows what’s in the bottom of it because I have never cleaned it out all the way as it is always in use. Go for a good one – it will be your best friend. When your cheap backpack fails you in the middle of nowhere – use the duct tape!

THINGS YOU DON’T NEED

  1. Expensive sunglasses. That’s right – you will break or lose them. Get some cheap polarized glasses and go for it. In a thousand years, they will find about 80 pairs of sunglasses in the woods and will think some crazy ritual occurred. Nope – just bent over and off they went. Or, the cord broke, or layed them down, or fell and they went flying never to be found again! Also, get a cord that is bright pink or orange!!! This is experience.
  2. Expensive clothing. This mud stuff we keep talking about – yeah – it doesn’t come out. Some – NEVER NEVER NEVER will. Also, blood that has been sitting in there all day from scratches doesn’t either. Some stuff you don’t want in your washing machine. Just go to the thrift store – get your gear there!!
  3. Snake bite kit – yeah – those are not to be used! Do NOT ever attempt to use a snake bite kit on me! More serious injuries and infections have been caused and they are no longer recommended! PLEASE SHARE THIS INFORMATION. Calm victim, isolate bite site, ice or elevate – identify or photo snake if possible. GET HELP – do not waste the precious little time you have furthering the venom into your buddy’s system and your mouth! GET HELP!
  4. Perfume. You are saying, “But Jacque, I want to look and smell my best in the field.” Listen up! Bugs love perfume, bees love perfume, some mammals love the musky smell of perfumes….that’s right – just stink for one minute…no big deal because we will all stink together!! One big happy smelly family! Get over it…..if you can GO ANYWHERE – you can stink there!

    Alli's Adventure Art.....Tennessee Mountains....ticks abound!

  5. Jeans. If you think jeans are the ideal pant to wear in the field – stay home. Even in cold weather, they are not a choice! They will get wet, pull down, rub you raw, make you sweat in places that already stink because you don’t have on perfume, and generally be a drag. Go for something lightweight that dries quickly – you won’t regret it! You will regret wearing jeans. I won’t remind you twice – I will just smile when I see you picking your butt or pulling them up after wading in a little creek!

This is a short list. Of course there are many things you should and could take – keep it simple and light. Don’t over complicate it – the joy is in the adventure and experience. Some of the best experiences will be when you don’t follow these rules! Please share them! We all learn from mistakes – even yours! Remember – you can comment and share your insight or ignorance….it all teaches us something!

Nice clothes!

Eric, the supportive husband!

Eric, Zelda, and I are proud to show off our new CWT tshirts, since we’ve all experienced having a tick at one time or another!! CRINGE!!

My new favorite shirt!

I hope everyone is ready for turkey day. I know we are!

Zelda, the happy Beagle!

Go Gators! (by Kristen)

Anyone who works or plays in the swamps of Florida has a tale or two about encounters with gators, snakes, or some creepy animal. And we all love to share those tales, like war stories.

I was in a creek with John once (remember John the mentor?). It was a small creek, six feet wide and one foot deep at most, and we’d been in it a dozen times or so. It was the kind of place you wouldn’t ever think anything large could live in. As I walked down the middle of it, which was easier than navigating the vegetated banks, I was stirring up a bunch of sand in the water column (there’s some nerdy terminology for you!). I was coming around a bend when all of sudden a ray of light pierced the sand trail and reflected off of something dark and strange in the water just a couple of feet away from me. My instincts told me to get out of the creek and onto the bank, so I immediately hopped out. As John and I watched the sand clear, a six foot gator was revealed, resting completely under the water! I am not exaggerating when I say that if I had taken one step further I would have stepped on its head, as the glimpse that I had caught was of its back or tail (I can’t say for sure).

What's that gator doing in that tiny creek?!

This encounter turned my world upside down for a few days… I mean, I never thought I’d have to worry about gators in a tiny little stream. I kept replaying the moment in my head over and over again thinking of what could have happened to me if I had taken one more step, if I hadn’t been watching the sand, if the light hadn’t caught the scales at that exact moment. Could I have lost a limb? Could John have gotten me out of the middle of nowhere if I needed rescuing? I still cringe when I think about it. Nothing bad had happened, BUT IT COULD HAVE. And it could have been REALLY BAD.

The weird thing is, I wasn’t with Jacque when she had her experience at Grasshopper Slough, and she wasn’t with me when I had my experience. But our gator encounters actually happened within a week of eachother. Even though our specific encounters were different, we went through the same emotional turmoil together. We feel so lucky to have felt that sixth sense and to have trusted our instincts. We feel lucky to be able to share our tales today.

Well, the Chicks with Ticks aren’t a very military group of gals. We do have to work on military installations on occasion. It just so happens that one, in particular, has been a favorite site of ours for a long time! “Where, Jacque?”, you are asking…..can’t tell ya – would have to kill ya!

We began visiting this site about five years ago. We had to take some training which still sticks in my bean! UNEXPLODED ORDINANCE TRAINING. Well, ain’t that nice? The training taught us how to recognize things we shouldn’t touch! BECAUSE THEY COULD BLOW US UP!!! Of course, there’s no guarantee you will actually see this crap!

Bombs

BOOM!!

Within the first day it was all a joke. We never really expected to see real stuff. Oh how wrong we were. Within the first months we found something unidentifiable. Our instructions were to GPS, tape it off, and report it so it could be removed by the bomb removal squad (who the hell wants that job?). So, it took months for this thing to be removed (implies there’s a lot of stuff to remove). John almost stepped on it the first day so we tease him still about blowing himself up!!!

One morning, driving to the site, I drove along a fence line. Low and behold….my field partner extraordinaire, honorary Chicks with Ticks member, and supa nunja Tyler noticed that there was a HUGE bomb half buried on the drive line. Well, ain’t that special? We stopped. It was very muddy and the soil had washed away enough for us to see….that we had been driving over a 6+ foot BOMB for YEARS. They tell you that there is no way to know for sure if a piece is live or not.

When we drove to report if, I asked what would have happened had it been live. They told us, “Oh, you wouldn’t have felt a thing and it would have taken a team of forensic scientists to identify your remains.” Wow, I really didn’t need to hear that one!! Thanks! Upped my life insurance when I got back!!

We saw all kinds of weird things out there….heard a lot of gunshot and low flying aircraft. We saw a lot of skeletal remains of old military vehicles….but so far, we are all in one piece! WHEW….

 

UXO!

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