Tag Archive: adventure


Go Anywhere!

As adventurous gals, we like to go to new and exciting places. Sometimes, it’s a lake right behind the office, and others, it’s a remote stream after a miles long hike. What we really like to do is encourage others to take time to go outdoors and see something or experience something that gives you that sense of adventure.

Sometimes, it’s just a walk in a local preserve or park. Some of us are trapped in a concrete jungle and a plastic cube and that’s about as adventurous as it gets. Others of us will take it to the limits and climb rocky peaks or dive the deepest rifts. The important thing is, get out there and see what we see.

The wild isn’t all filled with danger and mystery. There’s a beauty in nature that we can’t fake, print, pixellate or 3-D. The only way to know what tar flower smells like when it’s sticky and blooming is to see it and smell it in the air.

So, as Spring is springing – let’s remember to get out the and GO ANYWHERE!

Then, tell us about your adventures…the good, the bad, and the ugly!

Wild Women

Co-Creator Jacqueline Levine expressing her excitement as Chicks go live

Taunting us from outside our window...

Jacque and I were moping around the office the other day, wondering why we were more unmotivated than usual. And then it hit us: we had spring fever, a BAD case of it. Not only had we been stuck working on projects that required us to be in the office rather than in the beloved field, but we had also just pushed our clocks forward giving us an extra hour of daylight. Yet here we were, trapped in the artificial light of the office. So we decided to do something about it. We vowed that the next day we would spend our lunch hour (also known as “Lunchingtons”) actually going OUTSIDE.

Murky waters

What a novel idea. Our office does, afterall, sit right on the shore of Lake Bently, a little lake that we had completely taken for granted as it stared at us through our office windows for YEARS now.  While its water is more green than blue and its shoreline is highly developed with storm water drains jutting out every few hundred feet (it has a high LDI for any limnology nerds out there), it is home to birds, gators, fish, and even otters! So why not call it our home as well, at least for an hour?

Happy Jacque!

The excitement of our looming adventure got us through the morning grind, and at noon on the dot we grabbed our lunch (that Jacque had deliciously prepared) and our craigslist-purchased kayaks and off we slid into the murky waters. Within moments we were in another world. Just yards away stood our office building, staring back at us with its mirrored windows, hiding the sterile lights and jealous faces of our co-workers (actually, they probably just thought we were crazy). We paddled happily towards wood ducks and pelicans and ibises and limpkins and cormorants and ospreys and turtles and cypress trees and butterflies. We soaked up the sun and felt the breeze on our faces.

We returned to our offices 59 minutes later, refreshed and more than a little stinky. But we didn’t care. We had cured spring fever, at least for an hour. Do you have any tricks for curing spring fever? CWT would love to hear about it!

We study them to make sure they behave!

When you’ve been doing this as long as we have the way we have, you sort of forget that you are actually practicing science/art! In the beginning, we worked hard to read until our eyes bled. We wanted to know what other scientists had found that worked. We wanted to absorb the data, feel the methods, develop hypothesis…then, we went out on our own and began to attempt to regurgitate it all out into the world.

It was amazing what we found that didn’t work. It sounded so sure on paper. It was cool what did work – some of it just intuition. I think we mostly have more water and mud in our veins than blood and now we think and breathe streams. We can walk up, smell the mud, catch some bugs, have Josh look at the fish, and know which ones need us the most.

Sometimes we go through a lot!

Most people have no idea what we do. What we do is, in Jacque talk, very simple. We study streams. We see what’s wrong and we prescribe a sort of medicine for them so that they function better and make the world a better place. I like to tell people that, not so many years ago, it was normal for some company to have a guy drive a backhoe in a wiggly line and then let the water meander. That was stream restoration in the past.

We found all those wiggly ditches. Companies spend millions of dollars fixing them now because they don’t work right. That’s what we do – fix wiggly ditches and make them act like proper streams (or as near as we can) and we don’t build streams with backhoes much anymore. We like to do things a little differently.

So, here’s my attempt to explain some of the ways we do things.

We start by studying real pristine streams of all kinds. We study them to death. We live them, breathe them, smell them, taste them and generally go to sleep with them until we are them! We take what we learn and literally build streams that will look just like them. We fix sick streams to act more like the proper ones.

Things that should be there.

Don’t beat me up all you nay sayers….we don’t put back microbes and every grain of frigging soil….this is reality! We aren’t god…

We put things in the streams that should be there so the living things can be there too. We help simulate many years of flow that would have carved a new stream. We try to mimic as much of what nature gives to make a new stream! We can’t do it all, but every day we try to give more and more.

We watch the baby streams and the streams we’ve fixed. We make sure that they are behaving and not acting up. We fix them more if need be. We count things like bugs and plants and trees. We take out nasty things that could ruin the place. We love them, nurture them, care for them, are proud of them, and hope that one day – you will too.

That’s what we do. And it’s really cool – and we love it!

In the beginning, there was John…..(and he wanted to play God)..

 

Here’s one of the first and best! Enjoy!

We have recently been nominated for several peer-to-peer blogger awards. These are always a real treat as they come from those who live, work and play here in the blogosphere and it means a lot that we are noticed among millions of blogs!!

 ClaudiaJustSaying…..nominated us for the Kreativ Blogger Award – Thanks so much!

Cindy at Enclosuretakerefuge…nominated us for the Versatile Blogger. She is so sweet!!

I know there were duplicate nominations so I have proposed that we graciously accept the nominations and thank you all for such warm recognition from such amazing bloggers. We are among royalty.

Please continue to enjoy what pour out of us….it’s real, not fiction! This is our lives digitally recreated in type and we hope you like.

You know, sometimes bad things happen to good people. Yeah, I know good things happen to bad people too but this story isn’t about that, genius! Didn’t you read the heading? Anyway, I wanted to address some of the sucky things that can happen and what you can do to lessen their impact. Being an adventuring woman of the outdoors, I have recently had some pretty darned sucky things happen and I want you to know what to do so you don’t look as stupid as I did trying to take care of them.

  1. Pack for all occasions. – Yes, I failed to pack long socks and wore no-show footsie socks with my snake boots. There are OH so many reasons this sucks. I looked like I had a staph infection or poison ivy on my ankles for weeks. Also, I got a stinking blister where the sand rubbed my bone. Also, feels really nasty – take an extra long pair of socks and stash them everywhere – glove box, backpack pocket, office drawer, anywhere. This will prevent you from the nasty rash and stinging blister I suffered.
  2. Where a tight undershirt under a regular or over shirt. I witnessed this horrid scene….Josh looked crazy and made a weird sound or series of incoherent words of distress. I knew something was wrong and he said – “There’s a scorpion in my shirt and it stung me.” Holy crap! Those are words I never want to hear again. Sure enough, there was a very small scorpion trouncing around in Josh’s shirt. It stung him and, much to my dismay, he suffered a minor sting and no crazy things happened. I wanted there to be pus and ooze and terrors….no – just  a little sting is what he said. Too bad – makes me feel like a baby! Wear a tight under t-shirt – you can rip that over shirt off if a scorpion gets in there!
  3. Gloves are for every occasion! I found this out all too well this past weekend. I got a hedge trimmer for Christmas. I have hedges (duh) and I began to trim them. They are 7+ feet tall and I was working above my shoulders and leaves were a flying….cool! UNTIL – I felt a sting in my t-shirt (and I did NOT have an undershirt on). I reached into my shirt and a GIANT green spiky caterpillar stuck onto my right hand. The damned thing stung all three of my fingers and my left boob!! The pain was such that I was immobilized on my knees weakly calling for someone to help me. My daughter and husband came out and I could hardly tell them what happened….I only whimpered for duct tape. They brought me scotch tape (which actually worked great) and I began to shakily rub tape onto my fingers to remove the hairs….it was excruciating pain. I have never felt that before – WEAR GLOVES!!!! The IO moth caterpillar is what got me – it’s nasty – you never want to feel that pain!
  4. Sunscreen isn’t for babies! I have a 3-4″ scar on my face to prove this one. Of course, as a child of the 70’s we wore iodine and baby oil to get tan. My mom still cries when she looks at my face because she feels responsible – whatever! I never wore sunscreen as I surfed, hiked, biked, beached, swam and whatever – it just wasn’t cool! The basal cell carcinoma was a harmless little flesh-colored bump on my face that annoyed me – the dermatologist informed me that it was cancer and I had it removed in a HORRIBLE SURgERY!!! The doctor was amazing – they just don’t put you to sleep – they operate on you while you watch – the smell of cauterization is awful….the scar is horrid and I will probably have more later in life – sunscreen everyone always – you dog, your self, and remember your neck, hands, and everywhere!!
  5. Shorts with snake boots. There are times when fashion is crap! I have to tell you that there are many place where you should wear shorts with your snake boots. I know – you are saying, “But Jacque, that just doesn’t look or sound right!” Who cares! You can feel all the little creepy crawlies coming up before they get into your nether regions! Plus – you have on snake boots so are protected!! Just consider it! I think it looks rather sexy!

I am not going on further – I think you get the picture. Protection is important. When you leave the safety of the home or office – you must consider what you might encounter – whether it’s in the garden, or in the swamp – you should take a moment to make sure you have what you need to enjoy it safely. Also, having some extra provisions in extra spots ensures that you will be better prepared should you make a mistake and forget a key element. Take good care of yourself out there – You can GO ANYWHERE – but just go safely!

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!!

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!

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