Monday, June 4, 2012

I'd Like to Check Brad, Not You, for Ticks

Yesterday, Brad, Rex, and me hiked 5.8 miles in the south district of Shenandoah National Park, our destination: Doyle's River Falls and Jones Run.

As we pulled up to the trail parking lot, a woman emerged from the woods clutching her arm to her chest.  Within seconds, two park rangers pulled up to the parking lot and stepped out of their marked suburban.  The woman's paced quickened as she made her way to the men.  And as we normally do, Brad and I parked the car, put on our packs, got Rex ready, and made our way to the trailhead.  My stomach sank, though, because I saw one of the rangers walk down an opposite trail, gloves on, with a pack on his back.  It was red, with the white medical cross.

When we arrived at the trailhead, two fellow hikers alerted Brad and me that we would be walking through high grass the entire way.  My stomach sank further.  Brad worried about the ticks, but not me.  I can handle ticks.  I can't, however, handle snakes.  No matter the width or the length.

We only descended the narrow trail 20 yards when Brad said there were horses up ahead.  Instead of dragging Rex past the horses, we decided to hike back up to the trailhead and wait it out.  That waiting gave me time to re-think the hike, and I told Brad that.  He had some choice words (not appropriate for this blog) about my hesitance.  I grabbed myself by the ovaries, though, and as soon as the horses rode past, we made our way back to the trail.  And this time, we didn't turn back.

Even when Brad realized that he didn't take his Zyrtec-D.  Lucky for him, we had Benedryl in the medical kit.  Unlucky for him, he had to ditch his contacts approximately .5 mile into the hike.  And this development would make for some very tense moments toward the end of our fun but yet again eventful journey.  A journey filled with ticks and snakes and bears, oh my!

Now here's Brad conducting one of his several tick checks of the day.  How he thought he'd be able to see one I don't know.  He's special. 

All three falls we hiked to yesterday were absolutely stunning.

At one point, I just looked up to the sky in awe of my surroundings.

 I always feel so small in those woods, like such a small part of this big, beautiful world, and that feeling is what I long for during the hustle and bustle of the busy, mundane work week.  

Arrive at work at 8:00AM and start editing
Edit through breakfast at 9:30AM: Choboni and oats
Edit until 1:00PM when I heat up my Lean Cuisine
Keep editing until I get off for the day.

Nothing is ever that predictable in the mountains, including what wildlife you'll see.  Like this guy...

Who didn't freak me out as much because I remembered what I read about fear in Ben Sherwood's The Survivor's Club, which I give a two thumbs up to.  Need I add, I spotted Mr. Snake after Brad and Rex had already walked over him.

It wasn't copperhead or a timber rattler, so I kept my fear under control.  I couldn't keep my fear under control, though, when Brad stopped and asked me if the black mass about 10 yards away twas a bear.  He couldn't see well enough to tell.

"Yes, babe.  It's a bear.  And it's a cub."  Rex postured, and all I could imagine is the three of us getting mauled by momma, who we couldn't see at the moment.  Mauled by momma is not how I want to go, but I do have hope that I could possibly survive a mauling thanks to my book of choice of the moment.  If I would be mauled, I just need to have faith in Mother Nature, fight back, be really damn lucky, stay calm, and have the will to survive.  Plus lots of other stuff.

Brad had to drag Rex past the cub who scampered away.  We scampered away, too, and luckily, we didn't run into Momma Bear.  Regardless, I took lead with Rex in order to hopefully prevent anymore close encounters with the four-legged 300 pound kind. 

Even my corrective 20/20 vision couldn't prevent that, though.  Another friggin' bear, and this one was flat-out huge but 100 yards away.  And that made things slightly less scary.  He did walk toward us a few times in order to get a better look, though. 

Brad and I froze for only a second before acting.  Remembering a show on NatGeo, Brad started talking to the bear.  "Bear, bear, bear!" he yelled calmly, "Go away, bear!  Leave the trail, bear."

As Brad continued yelling, I clapped like an idiot.  I didn't have any sticks to bang together.  I feel like I had learned that in girl scouts at some point or maybe on TV.  A cartoon possibly?  I don't know.  Anyways, this bear, like the cub we saw before scampered away.

And we ended the hike safe-and-sound and tick free thanks in part to what we learned from Brad Paisley.