Puking in the panhandle: norovirus fun

I don’t often get to take vacations these days. I left on Friday for a quick four-day trip to the panhandle of Florida to do some paddling I have long wanted to do. By Friday night on arrival, I was ready to vomit. I thought it was exhaustion coupled with the idea I might have to go to breakfast in the morning but, as it turned out, no, I really wanted to vomit. Troy did not take my threat seriously. I collapsed at 1 a.m.

At 8 a.m., Troy was insisting that I get up to go eat breakfast with his Mom before she left to go home. It seemed rude not to go considering she owns the beach house where we were staying, but she offered up a place to eat known as the “Donut Hole” and I wanted to vomit. I got in the car because civility trumps common sense and reason. Within ten minutes of arrival, I excused myself to head to the bathroom. There are very few things that will make me lay down on the nice cool tile floor of a public bathroom. One of those things apparently is the well-placed fear that I will spew in public in a packed restaurant on a Saturday morning. I must say that the Donut Hole on Highway 98 has one very clean bathroom. As soon as I realized I was about to pass out on the tile floor of a public restroom, I pulled myself up and staggered back to the table. Troy’s Mom took one look at me and we went out the door to go home. I think she stills harbors hopes that Troy and I will spawn and that was morning sickness, but at my age, I think she should have been thinking less about pregnancy and more about contagious issues. Troy and his Mom left me to sleep which I did until around early afternoon.

This was a trip in which we were supposed to paddle both Ecofina Creek and the Wakulla River. I was very determined to do this. So I got up and convinced Troy I was OK because I am a moron. We drove to Econfina Creek and thank God the livery service that picks you up to return you to your car refused to take us since it was after one. We returned home. And that’s when the fun started. I will confess to you that at my age, the thought that I might puke on myself without being able to dash to the bathroom never occurred to me. Nonetheless, over the course of the next 18 hours, I think I threw up on myself no less than three times. I can now say without question that if I ever get too ill and will require someone’s round the clock care, I will simply swallow enough pills to make my sleep permanent. There is no reason to live if you are pretty sure you want to die, but can’t guarantee you will.

Because I am incredibly stubborn and stupid, I went paddling the next day and managed with the aid of medicine in combination with severe dehydration to paddle 7 miles of Ecofina Creek. Here is Emerald Spring in all it’s loveliness:

emerald springs

I will talk in detail about this run later for those paddlers that care, but I can tell you that I did not puke once in the two hours it took to paddle this run. I saved that fun for later. Never one to let a virus completely kill off my plans, I went ahead and toured the Gulf Shores National Seashore while Troy shot inspirational and beautiful shots of dunes and oat grass with crystal clear waters and spectacular sunsets. While he took awesome photographs, I puked in the sand. And thus ended the last night of the vacation, with me on my knees, on a deserted beach with my husband, while I puked. As an fyi, there is zero romance to anything with sand for those who expect some romance. Sand sticks to everything. Find a nice sand-free spot for romance. Also puking. You’re welcome.

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I have now toured every bathroom from Perdido Key to Rosemary Beach along Highway 98 and am contemplating posting a field guide to bathrooms to puke in or developing an app. Troy does not think this will be a big seller, but I beg to differ. This was crucial knowledge I would have paid to have had.

There are no words

OK fans, if you have made your way over here it’s because you want the NSFW version of my update on Holden and can stomach graphic pictures.

Let’s get the pictures over with:

His poor face is blown to smithereens

His poor face is blown to smithereens

And this:

This is Holden's face head on. The damage is obvious.

This is Holden’s face head on. The damage is obvious.

And now my opinion:

On a scale of what the fuckery from 1 to 10, this is an 11. Whoever did this shot him in the face and intended to make him suffer. In short, someone utterly without conscience or empathy is out there and will probably do this again. His xrays are lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree. I wish pain and suffering on whoever is responsible for this and frankly the world would be a better place without the human who did this.

For now, Holden is resting comfortably and is jacked up on pain meds. Despite the horrific wounds, he will live to bark another day. The use of his eye is in doubt and we are not sure about his jaw, but surgery is in his future. This puppy who is around a year old spent his time with the vet today pawing the vet demanding petting. It is amazing how forgiving these animals can be. Holden is more gracious than I am and while he’s wagging his tail, I’m sharpening my sword. I will likely never know who is responsible for this, but since I am unlikely to be the instrument of karmic justice, I can only hope that karma does indeed work its magic.

For those that want to help, you can donate here.

Attention Wolf People: We get it, so simmer down

Well, it’s April Fools Day, which is the one day of the year where I reaffirm just how incredibly gullible and, occasionally, stupid people can be. As some of you know, every year I post a wolf for adoption on our page. This year was no exception. People lost their ever-loving minds and many took us to task for either removing a wolf from the wild or, alternately, for having a wolf and not placing it with wolf people. Seriously. They did. Just check the 500+ comments on the thread at the link above. This begs the question who the fuck seriously thinks a dog rescue has a dog for adoption that hates animals, eats small woodland creatures, wants to eat your granddaughter and took off three fingers of a trainer trying to teach it to not be food aggressive? The reply email on the post is “itsawolfpeople@gmail.com” (which by the way is not a real address) and should have clued people in to the fact it’s a freaking joke. People: it’s not real so get a grip. Not everything you read on the internets is true.

This is an actual wolf Troy photographed. It does not need rescue.

This is an actual wolf Troy photographed. It does not need rescue.

I would like to take this opportunity to pass along a message to our passionate friends in wolf advocacy. Simmer the fuck down. We aren’t advocating that anyone adopt/capture/trap wolves and putting up a fake post about a wolf is in no way harming wolves. You know who is harming wolves? The dicks running the states of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho who think it’s OK to slaughter them so elk hunters don’t have competition. I suggest that you all dedicate yourselves to the admirable and Herculean task of saving wolves and back off a friendly rescue who supports your cause.

Let me offer you some friendly advice. I have some experience with dealing with morons who indiscriminately kill animals. Try dog rescue for a week in the South if you want to be truly depressed/need experience with mass slaughter. However, even with that depressing fact underscoring every single thing we do, we’ve managed to build a pretty big fan base and we save a lot of dogs because we get how to do it. There is a right way and a wrong way to advocate for an animal. You don’t get that big of fan base if you alienate them with spite or if you drown them in gloom and doom. There is a way to advocate for wolves without looking like a prig or a self-righteous jackass, even in the midst of the horror and carnage. Trust me. I do it everyday.

So wolf people, I’m here if you want some advice on marketing these animals to the public to give them a voice and I will offer my services to you to help out the wolves. I love wolves and I want them to have a place, too. They have every right. Just stop taking the bait when I post about magical direwolves on our Facebook page. You look stupid when you do.

Tennessee postpones rising again

Our legislature here in the fair state of Tennessee in its infinite wisdom has decided that the proposed bill (House Bill 2120) which would make attending a dog fight a felony offense needs to be sent back to the lovely folks on the Agriculture committee. Where they know it will die. One can only speculate that legislators in Tennessee are afraid this may affect their friends and family.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the geniuses who continue to insist that Islam is not a religion are now trying to ensure that there will be no Muslim cemetery in Murfreesboro. Watch these loons flip out on a reporter. I am especially fond of the old man who can’t manage verb-noun agreement with this gem of a sentence: “You’re the ones that’s lying”. Folks I think we need to worry less about where Muslims want to bury their dead and more about where we can find ten educated people. I fear we might not be able to scrape that many together in some parts of our state.

Meanwhile, the good people of the State of Maine managed to convict someone and send them to prison for eight months for shooting a dog with a BB gun. Seriously, prison. Here, the legislature would probably send them a medal. Now all I need to complete the perfection is some redneck to tell me I need to quit bagging on the South because it’s gonna rise again and they don’t need uppity women telling them what to do. So even though I am a Southerner, I must wave Dixie and pretend this state is not run by backwoods, uneducated idiots. Suck it. Feel free to let me know when you want to schedule our public debate. I’m totally happy to do that to give you a chance to make your point, but my money’s on me in that battle.

March is sucking

OK, so I know March comes in like a lion and is supposed to go like a lamb. Kids, it’s March 23, and the forecast frankly sucks ass. This year, I think March is going out like a rabid badger. I am officially not amused. It’s almost hiking season for the love of God. Anyway, to remind me of warmer climes and happy paddling, here’s something to tide us over until spring is actually here.

Cudjoe Key

Cudjoe Key

The young and the reckless: alligator wrestling in Big Cypress

Big Cypress National Preserve is one of my favorite haunts over the winter. With the water levels up and the mosquito population as low it gets, this is a good time to visit. We’ve been many times and it never gets boring. We decided to do the Loop Road Scenic Drive off of the Tamiami Trail. This is not particularly close.to anything as you are about halfway between Miami and Naples. Scenic drives can be a relative term, so we proceeded with the knowledge we might be wasting our time.

This is a 25 mile dirt and gravel road that in wet weather would be a disaster. It is not easy on the suspensions either. We drove it weighted down with kayaks because we roll like that.  If you complain about the ride in a Lincoln on an interstate, you will freak out on this road so don’t drive. It will take a minimum of 2 hours to drive, so plan accordingly. 

The first few miles are boring. You will begin to despair. Finally, just as the road begins to curve, you will come to a low water bridge with open vistas into the cypress forest. Park your car and get out. Do not be a jack ass and drive by and miss out. The water is absolutely clear and loaded with fish. You will see lots of birds – egrets, ibis, anhinga, herons, etc. You will see lots of alligators.

This is your view:

Image

 

What you can’t see is just how clear the tannin-stained water is. If you peek over the edge of the bridge into the water, you will see alligators hanging out waiting to eat fish. 

While we were admiring this view, a beat up car drove up. Out came three guys with a DSL camera, an old man and a guy wearing a wet suit and a mask. Looking suitably self-important, they announced that they were filming a show they couldn’t talk about, but that they were going to film wet suit guy getting in the water with the alligators. Troy and I shook our heads as these people were clearly not rocket scientists. Then they said to us that we should not call the police or anything (side note: there’s not a phone signal to be had for love or money here, so whatevs) and that they were not going to “molest” the alligators. What he meant by that I think was that he did not plan to have sex with the alligators, because he sure as hell fucked with the alligators. This dumb ass jumped in the water and proceeded to chase a 7′ alligator all over the place, finally grabbing him and lifting him out of the water. It was somewhat hard to believe.

Image

Image

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Then one of them told him to say something for the camera. So he intoned, in what he felt was a voice of suitable gravitas, “The American Alligator. This animal is not dangerous. As you can see, he just wanted to get away from me.” Yes, as do we all. As do we all. 

I hope someone recognizes him and he gets nailed with the $5000 fine for fucking with wildlife. The days of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom when Marlon Perkins would sit in his jeep and make Jim go out and fuck with hyenas with a turkey baster are long over. It’s not really cool to mess with an animal that just wants to hang out and eat some fish. Just take a picture for the love of God. 

 

 

Fisheating Creek in Florida: dragging the yaks

It’s December and the older and more arthritic I am getting, the less jazzed about cold weather I become. A trip to God’s Waiting Room, otherwise known as Florida, was in order. We arrived late in Naples to spend the night with Troy’s Mom. Naples is a ludicrously over-privileged enclave for trust fund larvae and retired old people. You can tell precisely how annoyingly pretentious the subdivision is by the size and number of fountains at the gatehouse. All subdivisions are gated. Troy’s Mom lives in Tiburon which is a Ritz Carlton resort and it is heinously pretentious. Once you get through the gates, you have to go through a second set of gates to get to the multi-million dollar homes on the golf course. I guess it’s important to keep the riff-raff at the Ritz our of your private street. I did enjoy parking in the garage with our kayaks. It went Mercedes, Mercedes, Mercedes, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes, Ferrari, Ferrari, Mercedes, Honda. Guess which one was my car?

We decided that a run on Fisheating Creek might be called for. Creek is kind of misleading as a name for this waterway. This is the main flowing waterway that feeds Lake Okeechobee which in turn feeds the Everglades. It is a huge body of water moving through a swamp with one main channel. In high water, it actually runs fast which is a rarity in Florida. It’s certainly not whitewater, but it has a noticeable current. It consistently amazes me that given the sheer abundance of fantastic kayaking/canoeing locations in this state, there isn’t a single really awesome source of info for paddlers. We decided to do it based on the sole recommendation of a guy who drove us insane at the Turner River put in.

Let’s talk about the logistics of getting there. This is in southern Central Florida. This means that there isn’t a whole lot there. It runs roughly parallel with Ft. Meyers, but you are headed inland off I-75. The biggest town nearby is La Belle which has a whopping 4000 inhabitants. Plan accordingly. Once you are there, you have no choice but to go to the Fisheating Creek Outpost. This is the Fisheating Creek outpost:

fisheating creek outpost

As you can guess, this is a redneck paradise. Consider yourself warned. The people that man the outpost are not helpful, it’s packed and it’s mega-expensive. We called before we came to check water levels (always necessary) and were told it was runnable. It wasn’t really. They stated the water level was 1.5 and that below 2.0 feet, you have some low water levels where you will have to port your boat. We were told to expect it at the very end for maybe a couple of hundred feet. This seemed doable so we decided to go for it. However, what they thought we wanted was access to the river to put in. What we meant was we wanted portage to the top of the river 8 miles up. Part of the problem was a sheer lack of speaking the same language. When you want them to drive you to a start point and leave you to float back, the term they use is “livery”. You are duly advised to use this term. We called and asked for portage. They said no problem and $5. On arrival, after having waited in line in the shack for 30 minutes, we were handed a pass for $5 and told to drive through the gates. We asked who we needed to talk to for driving us to the put in and they looked at us like we were aliens. Once they realized what we wanted, then they said that there was no portage and we could just paddle upriver for $5 if we wanted. I did fear Troy was going to start the killin’. We finally managed to locate the very amiable owner of the campground who realized we had been lured by morons and he fixed it for us. He offered to take us to the put in and we took him up on it. We were charged $85 for the 6-mile drive. This is an all-time record for portage. The high cost may have something to do with the legal settlement between the State of Florida and the cattle ranching Lykes Brothers related to access, but it is very, very steep.

The creek itself is a ribbon of thick cypress forest in a sea of grass. Driving up on it looks like hills in the distance, but it’s just the tree tops. The put in requires a drive through several sets of padlocked gates so this is not something you can do on the sly. Also, there are cattle. The put in is very easy and you head straight into a waterway. We got in at Burnt Bridge which is an 8 mile paddle. You can also put in at Ingrams Crossing which is a 16 mile paddle. In high water, the 16 mile run would not be difficult. On arrival, it looked a lot like Okefenokee with clear, dark, tannin-stained waters and moss-draped cypress, but that’s only for a 1/4 mile or so. The grass carp were leaping out of the water everywhere which is very cool. There are signs marked with blue arrows that tell you which way to go and they can be confusing, so pay attention. The section near the beginning where the stream is only 6-8 feet wide and twists and turns was the best part. Sadly, I have no pics as I was busy trying not to run into alligators which are all over the place.

Unfortunately, the water levels turned out to be so low that we ended up slogging through the water on foot dragging the kayaks for hundreds of yards at a time. In several locations, it was completely impassable due to alligator flag (water plant) and we had to drag up the bank and through the woods. I was less than jazzed. The older I get, the harder it is to jump in and out of the kayaks and by the end, I was bitchy, sore and exhausted. Less than one-half mile from the end, the skies opened up and we had to get out once again and hide under a saw palmetto to wait it out. It rained hard enough that we had to dump the boats out. We got back soaked and cold.

Is it worth it? Absolutely, but only with water levels ideally above 2.5 feet. Less than that and you are going to hate your life in several places. The bugs are out and you will need serious bug spray and there are lots of really huge alligators for those that freak over that sort of thing. This is about as rural as it gets and you may very well have the entire run to yourself until the very end. It is the last remaining waterway feeding Lake Okeechobee and it is worth seeing for that reason alone. Also, not a strip mall in sight and Florida is overrun with them. Wildlife is plentiful and we even saw panther tracks when we stopped for lunch on a sand bar.

Since my pics suck, check out this video which shows what the run on Fisheating Creek looks like when the water is higher. Turn off the sound as it has a terrible soundtrack.

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