Tag Archive: fluvial


Itchy and Scratchy

That’s right, I’m itchy….and scratchy. No, silly, not the cartoon characters from The Simpsons….SERIOUSLY! I have discovered what happens when you wear far too many layers in the hot Florida sun.

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Prickly heat – heat rash – or whatever you wanna call it! I was trying to be smarter than the average nerd working out in the Florida sun (104 degrees). I wore layers so that I could shed them as I needed. Only problem, you know me, I got caught up in my work and forgot to shed layers.

So, instead, I have this amazingly sexy rash ALL OVER! I hate to admit it – but now is the perfect time – I was wrong! Yep, make your calendars folks and watch the icebergs grow – cause Hell just froze over. I was totally wrong to even think for one moment that I was going to remember my clothes.

“Why, Jacque? Why would you forget something so important to most gals?” Well, I am definitely NOT most gals. SO, while I was busy looking at my survey gear and constructing a designed creek plan, I just wandered around in way too many clothes.

So, lesson for the day, wear the minimum and bring the maximum. Pack it and keep it handy. Remember, weather changes all over the world at any time! Even MyRadar can be wrong….so make sure you have what you need to stay cool, warm, dry, bug free, sun free, and safe! If you aren’t sure, pack more! If you don’t need it, so be it – but if you don too much or pack too little, you might get caught in a storm, or you just might get heat rash!

For those who are unfamiliar, heat rash is simply sweat trapped under your skin. Sounds harmless…

Image result for heat rash

Now, someone give me some tips for how to treat it!! PLEASE…

 

Forget Black

The cracks, even the cracks of her feet were black with earth.

Her hair matted with black and hanging limp and wildly at her ears.

Her hands were stained black and there were small scars where the work showed through.

And just when it seemed she couldn’t get any blacker,

her heart stood still with the black mud.

Her eyes shed black tears that smudged her filthy cheeks.

Her mouth oozed.

She had stayed too long in the dark wet. She was one of them.

Yet there she crouched. Sobbing and shaken.

Her precious work torn asunder by those who spoke sharp words of machines.

All she knew lay raped and stranded in the bright sun.

It would be theirs tomorrow. Neat and shiny.

It would be organized and proper and clean.

It was always so sad to see them like this. Naked and lost.

No words would come to stay them from her treasure.

She would silently suffer.

It might kill her….

Yes, she would die if not for the others. They always come.

They take back their own into the dank woods.

Who knows what horrors lie there.

God it must be dreary and strange.

Oh, look, it must be time to go. The sun is sinking.

 

 

She did WHAT?

Plunder Branch Hwy 62

It’s Perfect! Go Anywhere!

That’s right, settle down, I left. Yeah yeah – I left the amazing team that has been my family for almost 10 years. I had been….well – it’s complicated. Let’s just leave it at – I was ready for something new! The bad news is that we are all scattered a bit. Good news is – well – we still all work together.

“How the heck do you work together if you work at different companies, ” you might ask -well – that’s a very interesting story…so here it goes.jac+kristen+logo

We build streams. You know that – we study, create, monitor, design, and build streams (among a million other things). We work with some fairly awesome contractors. Last year, we built a stream in an undisclosed area with a small firm from a nearby city. They were amazing. The stream was almost 10000′ long and turned out beautifully.

Sadly, we lost more than Jess last year. We lost a great colleague who worked on our stream with the contractor. So, long story short, I now work for the owner as his stream guru. I will literally be building the streams my old team designs!

Yep – we are all lucky people. Not only that, I also get to do some pretty awesome “save the world” stuff too. Oh – add onto that I work for a great guy and have an amazing crew! I IMGP8439will tell more about that later….so don’t worry – the Chicks with Ticks (and John and Josh) will still have wild adventures and stories to tell. You will just have to keep up with us!

Get out there – and GO ANYWHERE!!!

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?

You know, my daughter’s name is Allison. She loves to hear all about my Chicks with Ticks adventures. She especially likes it when I relate an exciting story and later she and I share a similar experience. I am proud to hear that she wants to grow up to work with animals and possibly wildlife in particular. She likes to get dirty, but appreciates bright nail polish. She is the epitome of who and what Chicks with Ticks stand for.

This is Allison – The first Official Young Chick with Ticks

I thought it would be interesting to interview her and ask a nine-year old young lady what she thought being a Chick with Ticks was all about and how she felt about me blogging while she swims in the pool at the hotel on our Venice, Florida vacation.

I was pleasantly surprised, a little taken aback, and somewhat humbled by her responses. What I thought would be a cute filler about my daughter turned into an eye-opening exchange that made what I do here much more than just “filler”.

I first asked her what she thought of being a CWT. She quickly did a backflip in the pool and answered that she thought it was cool that you can be funny and naturee. She remarked that it is cool that you can be any age to be like naturee and do outdoorsy stuff. You love that you can be any age and be a scientists.

I asked her what her wildest adventure was. She recalls going to Tennessee to visit my parents last year. She liked that we hiked the waterfalls as a family. She remembers hanging over the ledges and the forest being so beautiful. Her other favorite was caving. She has a friend Rhiannon, and together they create fairytale places in the Withlacoochee forest while we hike and find lime caves to explore.

I asked her who is a Chick with Ticks. She tells me she gets dirty. She doesn’t care what other people think of the outdoorsy things she does. She takes risks and does things that others don’t understand the reason for. Chicks with Ticks are beautiful because they care about our earth. Being a daredevil and taking risks is exciting and makes them amazing – “Like You!” She said to me.

She says she thinks it’s really cool because other people wouldn’t think of making a blog and giving it out to the world. She thinks it’s cool that we share adventures with people who may not be so brave. “Maybe you will inspire others to go out and do amazing adventures some day.”

Off on an adventure…..Allison heads into the forest.

I guess this wasn’t just filler….and, Allison, I hope that one day I inspire even one person to go out and have an adventure. Even if I never hear about it – it will be amazing.

What’s that gator doing in that tiny stream!?

That’s right! We have written about bombing ranges before. I know, I know, everyone has heard the one about how I drove across a 6 foot bomb and never knew it until after a flood….but you can imagine how Josh and I felt when….

So, Josh and I needed to visit our Avon Park Bombing Range sites. This is fun! We got our radio with some critical information – they were detonating unexploded ordnance (like the ones we have driven over and found all over) on one of the tracts we needed to get to. CRAP!! They let us on anyway as we would call on and off and only be a short while.

We exited said tract and got stuck in the middle of two sites by other military activities on our other site of interest. So, knowing us as well as you might by now – you know what we did next! We took the buckets and nets and went into the ditches to catch fish to identify!! NERDS….I heard you scream!

So – then we watched as two of the detonations went off without much ado and proceeded to our second site. You can well imagine the looks on our faces when detonation number three went off……KABOOM – shaking the very ground!! I am standing there with my mouth hanging open.

So we were working with that feeling you get when you escape just in time or just miss a bad situation. The feeling that something horrible COULD have happened. What if one of those were the pieces we have found? We will never know.

As if that’s not enough – we are working in a tiny clear creek that is less than 2 feet wide and 6 inches deep. It’s so cute. There is a little pool just upstream of our gage. I told Josh that it was a great place to catch cool fish while I downloaded the logger.

Josh headed through the palmettos 12 feet away to the waterfall pool……how lovely! He came crashing through the palmettos with a strange look on his face….I said – “What did you catch?” thinking it must be something really amazing. He hollers out….big gator!!

He said there was a huge gator hiding in the pool less that 12 feet away. I went up to look and CRAP!! An 8 1/2 foot alligator was snuggled up in that tiny pool! Josh had noticed it when he dipped his net in to see what fish were in there…..imagine how surprised he was when he realized it was an alligator tail.

I took photos and we both gathered our nerves and finished. We left property feeling like we needed to increase our life insurance! We also felt pretty lucky to be able to see such amazing things while working. Needless to say, we will never look at that creek the same.

Yes we follow safety protocols, yes we have JSAs, yes we do a site inspection – but where we work – you can’t see everything! If you could – it would be boring!! We haven’t had a

This is in the palmettos near the gator hole!

lost time incident and we are happy and healthy. We do, however, occasionally have near misses!

Raging River

Raging River.

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

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!

Morphology

I stand just knee-deep in the water

Watch and smile as the current flows by

And I ache just to think of the fishes

Swimming by as I ruffle their sky

Lake County Illinois

 

How I long to be one with the riffles

Lilting wetly and moving the sand

Making fun of the footsteps of mortals

Whose futile work falls on the land

 

Then I spy in a pool small swamp darters

Smiling keenly and moving about

Knowing nothing is ever forever

As my hand moves the lilies about

It’s so temping to join in the living

Feel the tug of the algae beneath

Lose myself to these waves of abandon

Sink my soul, sink my hands, sink my feet

 

I lie down in the life-giving wetness

Let it slide over my tired life and limb

Close my eyes to the bright rays of sunshine

Grab a fistful of muck in the dim

From Professional Bow Hunters Society website

 

I grow roots fins and gills as I lie here

I breathe rain and the muck warms my scales

Then I wriggle away with my soul mates

As a bowfin nips hard at my tail.

 

I escape to the pools and the thalwegs

I give over to point bars and runs

Leave behind all the worry and sadness

To the men toiling hard in the sun

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!

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