Tag Archive: fear


Tropical Tromping….

I know you are wondering what is going on in the world. You are asking why the Chicks with Ticks haven’t been around.

Kaleigh and Allison exploring the sand flats

Kaleigh and Allison exploring the sand flats

Well, IT’S SUMMER SILLY. That’s right – kids are out of school and adventures abound. So, in honor of summer I thought we would begin to tell you what AMAZING places we have been adventuring so far.

View of the shore.

View of the shore.

We are going to start with Caladesi State Park https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Caladesi-Island. It is only the most beautiful island ever…well at least one we can paddle to.

Alex relaxing near an old log.

Alex relaxing near an old log.

So, we load up paddle boards, coolers, kayaks and 4 kids….me with 4 kids isn’t that unusual. In fact, I almost always travel with 4 kids. Just so happens that this trip included my two biologic kids and each of their best friends. IT also included loads of silliness at Wal Mart to get food and stuff, bouncy balls that flew out of the window (another story for another time) and an amazing parking spot.

Allison searching for adventure....and creatures.

Allison searching for adventure….and creatures.

We loaded up and paddled out to the tip of the island from the causeway. I recommend this for above average paddlers as there is a boat traffic pattern, channel, sand bar, and sometimes a strong current and winds. This paddling is very east most times – but occasionally it is a little tiresome for beginners – none the less – it’s a blast.

There are mangrove trails to paddles, crystal clear shallows to explore, lots of sea creatures to selfie with, clean sandy shores, bird watching, shelling, relaxing, and – our favorite – ADVENTURING. SO – don’t miss out. You can rent kayaks and paddle boards on the causeway. Also, if paddling is not for you – take the ferry – it’s affordable and fun. Bring your lunch – camera and RELAX and enjoy the amazing natural habitats of Florida beaches.

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For advanced paddlers (and drinkers) there is a marina and beach well into the islands that has amazing lunch and sangria. The beaches host tortoises and beautiful rare plants. You can paddle with porpoises sometimes and see some great mangroves.

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Raging River

Raging River.

With spring fast approaching, I thought to let you all re-absorb this one!

Unknown depth of water.

It’s no big surprise that we work in and around water almost every day. We stay wet and muddy most of the time and, quite frankly, we prefer it that way. Why, just last week we spent two days on a river and opted out of waders just so we could feel the rush of flowing water again after an office confinement of some weeks. So, it’s not out of the ordinary for us to walk into the wilds and up to some water and need to get in.

We care about each other. It’s just a factor (that’s a joke for some who know Reggie). It makes the days better and the dangers less creepy. It also makes safety a critical thought in everything we do. Now, some might say, “Jacque, I have never really heard much talk of safety.” Well, that’s just a damn lie. We talk about safety every day in some shape, form or fashion and some days, we talk about it at every turn.

Now what we call safety talk may sound a little different to another Chick or Hick with Ticks (Yeah – we are gonna have to just go ahead and make the men a part of the club now – they are starting to whine!). We might say, “Entering and unknown depth of water,” and laugh out loud. That’s code for – I am entering water and I have no idea what’s in there or how deep – watch my back, be ready to jump on something creepy and stop me if you see something I don’t.

I can’t stress enough the need for a stick! You just STICK IT IN!! It helps you know how deep (up to a point) and if there’s something creeping. It lets us know about the mud or muck we might step into and how deep or dangerous it might be. If the water is deeper than the yard stick – well hell – you might reconsider walking to another spot to try to get in.

We talk about how the temperature affects animals and what we need to look out for. We talk about wind storms and thunderstorms, lightning and insects. We talk about scratches and eye protection. We talk about who is looking where and if you have my back or I yours. We talk about the times things went wrong and what we would do to prevent that from happening. We talk about people who broke our rules and almost suffered serious consequences. We talk about snakes and snakeboots, machetes, knives, and blood.

Something may lurk in pools.

The one thing we can never escape (and thank goodness for that) is an unknown depth of water. That means that we are probably somewhere wild. Somewhere that has secrets lurking in each pool that plays host to things large and small that could hurt us but probably won’t. It means we might see something rare and wonderful. It means we might make it through one more adventure together without anything happening that would make us hurt or scared.

There are times when the hurt and scares happen anyway. Oh, nothing major, maybe a scratch while trying to avoid a strange-looking log or deep hole. Maybe you were listening to some strange sound in the distance and forgot to watch your footing. You know then that you need to focus. There is something exciting in stepping into the wilds and making your way through to the banks of a hidden stream. You look upstream and down and see what you can. You brace yourself for the next step into an unknown depth of water.

Lie here beside me while I spin a tale of sorrow. Of demons stalking in this forest deep.

Darkness crawls.

The time is late and darkness crawls from crypts acrumble. Shadows lengthen, shutters barred, their souls to keep.

But once I braved this road in youth and folly. Alone ‘cept my trudging steed.

I’ve witnessed moons of blood and cries of madness, Wicked beauty moving through the trees.

So Jacque and I were to become surveyors and survey dozens of streams around the state for our nerdy research project. We had this fancy total station that Jacque had figured out how to use and we were ready to begin our adventures shooting streams and floodplains through crazy vines and branches.

But then time stopped… John was really busy, and if we wanted to keep the project rolling we were just going to have to survey on our own. You are probably thinking that you have already heard this story, and that’s true. When I read Jacque’s story about how she put a smile on her face even though she was scared and felt like she had no idea what she was doing, it was news to me, and so I felt compelled to admit that I too was feeling the same way! I couldn’t let Jacque throw that admission out there and not share my side. We are a team afterall!

I was the grad student, which apparently meant that I should have some clue as to what I was doing… but in reality, I didn’t! Sure, I had plenty of textbook knowledge, but I had very little field experience at that time. But Jacque expected me to know what I was doing and she sure as hell seemed to know what she was doing, so I pretended. I just kind of did what I had seen John do, which meant I would hop right into a stream without a care in the world, without giving much thought as to what may be lurking beneath the waters. To Jacque, I was brave and experienced (or stupid), but in reality I was just naively doing what I thought I was supposed to in order to get the job done.

Back then I wasn’t aware of the danger we were putting ourselves into each and every time we left “the real world” and stepped into a world that very few humans had probably ever been. Each day brought new experiences, some amazing, some terrifying. We shared these experiences together. I don’t know quite when the pretending became true knowledge and understanding, but I do know I will never forget any of it and that I have been forever changed because of it. I applaud Jacque for taking the initiative to share our stories and to hopefully inspire others to discover the world around them!

 

This guy blends right in!

The creek was long. You all know that. The creek was wide. The day was passing and the water was gross and we were working hard to get the survey done without messing it up and praying we would never have to come back and redo it. Funny thing about daylight and this chapter – both have an ending.

Some of you might be disappointed that the ending is coming. Some of you might be sitting on the edge of your seats. Well, what began to happen changed, forever, the way I would look at what we did. We had completed the survey and were packing it in when I noticed that the sun was beginning to go down behind the cypress trees in the distance.

The silhouette of the black tree line against the orange ball that was the sun was both beautiful and awful. Immediately I said to John that we should hurry. John, once again sharing words of wisdom and horror, said that we were lucky we didn’t have a flashlight – that alligators were nocturnal feeders and that the eyes lined up on the banks would scare us to death. John is such a comfort.

John - Our Mentor

I wondered to myself if he meant to say that out  loud. John knows more about working in swamps than we do but he also has a story about getting bitten by a moccasin that we don’t. You see, we were chest deep in nasty water pushing the canoes filled with equipment upstream as the sunlight faded. My initial reaction was to call my husband.

Usually Scott doesn’t worry too much about me – or at least that’s how it seems. I was more worried that I would not make it whole back to the canoe launch. I was really scared. I called and told him what was going on and that if he didn’t hear from me in an hour – I just wanted to let him know that I loved him and to kiss the kids for me. I wondered, as I hung up, if he had taken me seriously. I wondered why I decided I could do this. I also wondered how much life insurance I had.

The funny thing about darkness is that it is just that. It’s dark. We all know from our childhood that very terrible things lurk in the darkness. It doesn’t matter how old you get, you still believe in some things. I believed that this was a very serious situation and that I was sincerely afraid. I tried to sound flippant and keep Kristen laughing. I knew she was walking in holes over her head. I knew that every other footstep brought an unknown bottom that might hold a fallen and rotting tree and its branches.

I knew that the darkness was coming and we weren’t going to make it back before it fell. The fear that gripped me was overwhelming. I found myself gripping the side of the canoe even harder. I began trying not to touch the bottom. I started to make funny comments in a nervous voice. I started to panic.

It’s pretty obvious that we made it back. It’s probably not as obvious what followed us back to the launch. I can’t say when I noticed it. I only know that it is here, with me now as I write this chapter. It has been with me ever since that first survey. It seeps into the room when I am otherwise occupied. It takes me over some days.

It’s what followed us back to the launch that day that I miss the most sometimes sitting here at the kitchen counter writing. It’s that notion that anything could have happened and didn’t. It’s the feeling that you escaped, and cheated death. It’s knowing that there are two people who you don’t have to ask to watch out for you. It’s a part of me that is slowly dying. A part of my soul that is starving. A corner of my heart that is crumbling slowly and rotting.

Here, on this Halloween night, it’s what scares me more than the ghouls and monsters. It scares me even more that the fear of the things I couldn’t see as that sun went down behind the tree line. I can’t face my fear of it.

That I might lose the Team! Forever! Does that ever scare you?

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