Tag Archive: wild


In the beginning, there was John. I am not going to type the last name, just suffice it to say – if this becomes popular, he will want me to put it in. John had these amazing ideas about streams in Florida. He wanted to put together a team to study these streams and them formulate all sorts of amazingly technical data and documentation and formulation and general science that I probably can’t write here so – just some really cool stuff!

John had me – Jacque – and I could do anything. Yeah, I know it’s hard to believe, but that thing you are thinking that I can’t do – well you are dead wrong buddy! I can do anything and I have and will continue to do anything. You see, my dad told me as a young girl that I could do anything…anything in the whole world, as long as I could find out how to do it! So you see, liar I am not!!! I go around doing anything all the time by the way!

So, John needed a team and  he had Jacque. One person is not a team so then he found Kristen, she was a student at a college and she would be mini-John and Jacque would do anything and together they would stomp around the wilds of Florida collecting information and having a blast all for science. John’s idea was that they would do all of this in a day or so (slight exaggeration) and that they would learn some cool stuff.

John was a genius – he was both right and wrong! Aren’t they all! Not only did we spend 3+ years in the wilds of Florida, we learned some really cool stuff. Now, at this point, you, the reader, might sit up and say “What really cool stuff did you learn, Jacque?” and I would say – well, let’s start at the beginning – hmmmm let’s start….in Lakeland. We will start in the office where John is very busy, Kristen and Jacque are eager to start their adventure into the wilds, and time seems to have stopped. The team is waiting for something. Kristen is waiting for instructions on what it is she and Jacque are supposed to be doing exactly – right? I mean, like who the hell just walks into the woods on an unknown wild property, gets to some stream and just starts learning cool stuff……?

The answer may shock you – Chicks With Ticks do!

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.

Raging River

Raging River.

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

As you might expect, we see a lot of wild things. I mean wild in every sense! We see wild flowers, wild animals, wild people, wild encounters, wild weather, wild places, and just wild things in general. It’s hard to imagine, but I much prefer wild things to anything else.

Somewhere along the path we lost our fears of most wild things. We forgot about the scratches and the thorns. The dangers were just dangers. We became more in tune with what we were doing. We became in tune with each other. We became in tune with nature. We became wild things.

It wasn’t apparent just how wild we had become until I got laid off recently and was removed from the wild places for a while. Don’t go sniveling now about that – it’s a story for another day. I look back, even right now, and it’s hard to believe we had become that wild. It’s a little scary actually and a lot exciting. I can’t wait until the day I truly become wild….through and through.

We stopped thinking in terms of us in a wild place – instead the wild places were comforting. It was as if we couldn’t breathe, grow, think, or operate if we didn’t go into the wild for a while. We would mope in the office. Send emails about our next adventure. We would talk about only how we couldn’t wait to get out into the wilderness. It seemed only natural that we should want that.

What I didn’t realize was that the transformation was much more complete than I could even know. We had grown roots. That reached in the soil when we exited the truck. We touched plants as we walked and smelled things. We didn’t talk as much. We just were. We knew some of these wild places well. We started taking a lunch and exploring. Sometimes we would lay in the weeds under a tree and just listen and talk quietly.

We started talking about things we didn’t want to. We started sharing pain. We started letting out those things in us that needed space – wild space. We talked about life and death. We relived moments best forgotten. We let leaves stay in our hair as we cried and screamed out those things that hurt us or made us feel angry. We vented. We gave it all to the wild things….and they absorbed us and our hurt. They absorbed our sorrows and our tears fell on fertile, willing soils. We became freer, lighter and more eager to let things out.

Next came the joys. We laughed and sang more. We connected in our work. The work was better and so were we. We knew more, we lived here. We felt things that needed to be done. We realized how happy we were out in the wild. We loved the wild things. We wanted to stay here. Every day it became more difficult to drag our gear into the truck. I would touch one thing more before raking myself out of the grass. We became something amazing.

I can’t say when or where exactly. I only know that we became less of what most people are and more of what most wild things are. We were something new and old. We weren’t just working. It became personal and we became passionate about our work. It stopped being work. We stopped just working. We started feeling it, breathing it, and it coursed through us like the blood through our veins.

It would have been so easy to keep going. One day, just keep walking into the woods. Grab handfuls of grass and leaves and just lie down in the mud. Float downstream and laugh at the fish watching the wild girls float by. There are days I wish we would have kept going, kept floating, kept breathing…Kept going wild.

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

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!

Most of you think that this is a page for women by women. Sure, it can be. I am definitely a woman! But we work and play with and around men also. In fact, we have a following that is strictly male and they are The Honorary Members of Chicks with Ticks. They even have their own logo! That’s right – they rock. We love our men!

Anyway – Tyler, my field partner for the day, and I were headed down south to Grasshopper Slough. Nothing special about that, except that we LOVE Grasshopper Slough. It’s on private land that is maintained about as well as any conservationist could ask, even though it’s a working cattle ranch – we love the way they alternate fields, manage forestry, and generally have a love of the land. It makes our job easier.

We got to the stream and it was about 2 feet deep. Now, I had been coming to this spot on this stream for years….mostly alone. I had Tyler today which is sweet because he is like my ninja man….studies budhism, meditates, is smiley, and an amazing friend. We got to the stream bank and I put my junk down where I always do. Then…something wasn’t right.

I told Ty (yeah – sometimes I call him Ty) that something wasn’t right. I scanned the area and make sure nothing is gonna eat us and then go about my business. I felt like I was being watched. I’ll tell ya it really creeped me out because there are some very large gators upstream from our site. Anyway, I laughed it off and then asked Ty if he minded being my ninja guardian and walk through the water to the gauge with me – which is sooooo not me because the water is only 2 feet deep and I go there all the time alone. Silly girl.

So, he remarked that was weird but that he would, of course – after all he is my ninja guardian. And he did. We came back with the logger (measures the level of the stream) and I sat on that bank and just looked at that 18 foot wide, 2 foot deep brown tannic stream and thought that I was crazy for feeling the way I did. I was being unreasonable. I told Ty I was being girlie! So, we did our thing and left.

We returned a week later to the same spot to do the same thing. I felt the same way. I might have even felt a bit worse. Something was there. I told Ty that I thought it might be a turtle or otter and I was just sensitive. We started work and I continually scanned the stream (spotted) as Ty went into the stream to measure flow. I still felt uncomfortable. I can’t explain it. I asked Ty to be careful.

I turned to scan the stream one more time. I saw something in the deeper pool just upstream of our site. I couldn’t say what it was so I asked Ty to stay out of the water until I could identify it. This is one of my safety protocols! I hoped to see a large fish or piece of wood floating. I turned away to set up planning to figure it out once I was finished.

Tyler - Honorary Member of Chicks with Ticks & Ninja

I started opening my laptop and setting up the equipment as usual. For some reason, I looked back over my shoulder at the stream just where I had seen the “something”. Headed straight for Ty was a huge gator. It was moving fast and even making a wake. I bent back and grabbed a stick as I yelled to Ty, “Gator, big gator, out of the water!” I splashed the stick around and the gator turned toward me and slowed.

Oh my. At this point, I have to tell you how bad it was. Ty was supposed to be out of the water, right, because I asked him to. Instead, he was bent over pulling grass so he could use the doplar equipment we use to measure flow. This meant that his head was at the surface of the water and the gator was about 5 feet away when I spotted her. You can imagine how we both felt. Now Ty is on the other side of that stream. We had to get him back on the side with me and the truck with a gator in the middle! I tell you what. That gator was every bit of 9 feet and the stream only 18 feet across.

That gator followed us as we walked up and down the stream trying to find a good place for Ty to cross. It snapped at anything we threw. We decided that the marsh upstream was our best bet as I could swamp the truck halfway and at least he wouldn’t be stranded, just the truck would be. He hiked down and I drove. I didn’t see Ty. He didn’t come. I started to panic. I had driven the truck deep into the mucky maidencane marsh. I climbed out the window and stood on top of the truck. Where the hell was he?

I didn’t see him for what seemed like forever. All of the sudden, I see a figure in white (Ty) crouched down sneaking through the grass. Well, let me tell you, he looked like gator bait all bent over and easy to eat. I yelled for him to make himself big and run to the truck. I realized how close we had come when he collapsed in the bed of the truck next to me.

We laid there for a long time cursing and reliving the moment he almost got eaten. We still relive it. It was the most intense experience I had ever had and it changed me for a long time – changed us for a long time. Hell, it even changed the way we worked for a long time. I was afraid. Afraid that every pool had a gator in it ready to eat my field partners. I had never been afraid. Wary, cautious, yes, but not afraid.

Actual photo of gator that almost ate Ty!

That feeling passed, at least mostly. I still think about it when I stand next to that creek. The gator? Oh, a trapper came back a few weeks later and shot it after he roped it. He said the gator didn’t act right. He though it was crazy. I don’t know much about that – I only know that its not there anymore.

I only know that I haven’t felt that same feeling I felt the week before the gator almost ate Tyler! I do get that feeling every now and then at other sites. Sometimes it’s everything I can do to make myself go where I need to go. Sometimes, I don’t go at all.

You hear about sixth sense. You talk about intuition. I trust mine. Sometimes I look into that murky water and think I am going somewhere I know I shouldn’t go. I am entering a world that doesn’t belong to me. I am intruding. Most days I know I will be forgiven. I know I can pass without paying a toll. Some days I wonder when my time will run out.

Yes – that’s right, sometimes you have to go where no man or Chick with Ticks has ever gone before. And, out in the woods, there isn’t always a path. Oh sometimes you get a path but there is something that makes using it a bit challenging…like a creek…in the wet season…in the Florida swamp! Well, Chicks with Ticks don’t let that stop them. No!

In the event that you find your path heading straight across water “of an unknown depth” (a popular safety meeting topic line), you should probably know a few things before you try to cross it.

Question 1 is obvious,

  1. Have you done this before? If the answer to this is no – DON’T DO IT! (although you might still) If yes, continue to question two.
  2. Is your vehicle four-wheel drive? If not – DON’T DO IT! If yes, proceed to the next question.
  3. How deep is the water? Now, there’s only one way to find out for sure. Oh, you may see a gauge with numbers on it – I wouldn’t rely on that one totally. You have to get out, grab a stick or pole (trusty yard stick works every time). Walk back and forth across the path until YOU COMPLETELY HAVE AN IDEA OF THE ENTIRE PATH’S DEPTH. “Jacque, why are you shouting at us?”, you might say. Well, I happen to have a lot of experience in doing it both right and not so perfectly right. The important thing to note about the depth is – will it float or flood the truck? If it will – DON’T DO IT! If you are not sure – DON’T DO IT! If not – keep going….at your own risk!

    Testing the depth is important!! ha ha

  4. What is the bottom like? If the bottom happens to be mucky, slimy, silty, organic (debris), or anything other than good old sandy dirt – DON’T DO IT (unless, of course you have done so before and are willing to suffer the possible consequences)! If it is good old sandy dirt – onward ho!
  5. Are you willing to get across without stopping, chickening out, listening to squealing field partners, risk the worst case scenario (floating or flooding), and just go for it? If not – DON’T DO IT!

    Floating without flooding is a skill!

    If so, put steady pressure on the gas and DO NOT GUN IT. That creates ruts that other people (like these photos of Kristen and me at Colt Creek) will get stuck in. This is rude and unprofessional….it also slings a lot of mud – roll up windows. Neeexxxttt…

    Winching out the Wenches!

  6. Did you make it? If not – hope you have a few boards, a winch (not wench), some rocks, or a friend to call, like we did. If so, congratulations, you will now want to cross every damned creek you come to and even some wet rivers! Enjoy it.

I hope you will keep in mind that safety is always first – but fun actually comes before safety so is easier to come by….combine the two and it makes everything more fun! And, we all know it is fun out there! Chicks with Ticks GO ANYWHERE!

As an added note: do not enter water that is flowing too quickly, is too deep, is filled with alligators (oh -we do that, nevermind) or otherwise poses a threat to you – a vehicle can become a death trap in water and it is no joke….please follow all safety recommendations.

Transformation

You stand by the edge of the water, it mimics the answers you seek

Only fingers beneath the glass surface lurk the things that inhabit the creek

Fragrant Lily - Oak Beach

So you wade in just up to your kneecap praying warmth shares her blanket of wet

but  your skin tingles white in the moonlight as you lay deeper just to forget

So the stream washes gone all the tear stains and the sand scrubs away all the sins

and your gills flutter pink with the current as you wiggle to test your new fins.

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