October 28, 2020Then There's Getting Eaten!

Did you know that if an alligator did try to eat you that you'd probably be too much for him to finish off in one meal? Probably what he'd do is bite off a big chunk ... maybe a half, or a third, depending on how big either of you were. Then he'd take the leftovers down to the bottom of the swamp and stuff you under a log to save the rest for later.

Alligators don't chew their food. They just chomp and swallow. Digestion takes a while, so he'll just go lay on a log in the sun for a few days. Eventually he'll get hungry again and he'll go back and finish you off ... maybe a couple of times. Depending, of course, on how big either of you were. And how much of you the fish polished off while he was away.

And there are indeed dangerous snakes like water moccasins and rattlers in the swamp. But the alligators eat the snakes, so the snakes try to stay out of sight. The odds of actually encountering one are pretty much stacked in your favor. If you do encounter a snake, your last fleeting thought might be, I probably should've went to town today and bought a lottery ticket! But by then it will be too late. And the alligator will be the real winner, because the snake not only provided his dinner, but his snake appetizer as well! Lucky gator!

And of course, there are always the panthers and the bears ... and black widow spiders ... and scorpions ... check your shoes in the morning!

But there are other ways to get eaten in the Okefenokee.

In south Florida they have bugs called "no see 'ems". That just means you can't see them. You can't hear them. But you will feel the chomp! And when you splat this invisible monster you will be left with a 3" circle of blood and carnage on your arm! Where did all THAT come from?! But you know it was real, because it hurt and now it stings and itches! Ouch!

Start heading north towards the southern Georgia border, and the no see 'ems get bigger and bigger and now you can see them coming in for the kill! Some people jokingly say that they can see numbers painted on the wings and landing gear. (Humor is always a good psychological tool for dealing with sheer terror. A coping skill your paralyzed-by-fear brain employs to help you survive.)

But I'm here to tell you ... forget the alligators and snakes, the bears and the panthers, spiders, bugs, and mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds – did I forget to mention the 2" yellow deer flies? – there is something much, much worse lurking out there among the cypress trees. An invisible enemy. I tangled with it ... just once ... and survived ... but only just barely ...

A ten hour day in a canoe sounds daunting, but it's actually a lot of fun. You're not paddling non stop. It's paddle a bit, drift a bit. Pull over to the shore or wedge yourself amongst the lily pads and take pictures, draw, have some lunch and perhaps even a nap. The only real worry is to pay attention to how far you've gone, so when the sun gets low in the sky you'll know how much time to allow to get back home.

Still, it's nice if you can find a spot once or twice in a day to stretch your legs.

The refuge has places they maintain here and there along the trails where you can pull your boat up onto the shore or even a small dock and get out on solid ground for a bit. A few of these spots even have port-a-potties. And some have covered shelters. The shelters are especially nice if you get caught out there in a rainstorm. These are bare-bones-basic. No benches. No tables. Just a floor and a roof. But still a safe, quiet spot when you need a break from the boat or the weather.

One of these spots is a personal favorite of mine. Everytime we go back and end up there, it's like seeing an old friend again. It's in a little cove tucked off to the side. Except for the markers pointing to it on the trail, you could glide right past it and never even know.

It's so beautiful there ... dark and cool ... moss-draped trees leaning out over the dark water ... just beautiful!

But beware! To quote Capt. Barbosa, There be monsters there! Monsters that aren't readily apparent ... they lie in wait for you ... waiting for the perfect moment to pounce ... and when they do pounce, you won't even know it!!! When the real suffering begins days later, it's too late!!

All the times I visited this place with no problems ... it only took the one time. The one time I lingered there a bit too long. The one and only time I got the bright idea to sit my bare-legged, shorts-clad bottom down on the bare wood, feet dangling over the edge, and sat there just a wee too long, chatting away with friends and strangers, and probably stuffing my face, which is a sure-fire way to drag out the time spent in one spot ... I probably sat there for an hour or so ...

Of course you know I'm talking about chiggers. As a native Atlantan, having spent my entire life in in the mild-wintered, hot, humid south, I'm very familiar with chiggers and I've had run-ins with them in the past. They like the warm dark spots on your body where things bend and they can burrow in and hunker down ... behind your knees, around your waist and the tops of your legs, the inside bend of your elbows. After a day or two, a little rash will appear that will itch like mad. Not comfortable, but survivable with a dab of anti-itch cream and some Benadryl. I'd had chiggers before ... but not like this.

A couple of days later the rash appeared. From just below my waist down to my knees, and all the real estate inbetween – use your imagination – I was covered! "Itching like mad" doesn't even begin to explain ...

I would say that if you used a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being dragged down to the watery depths by a hungry gator, I'd rank my case of chiggers about 9.9999999999999! At least a gator attack would be a quick end. Though I suppose ultimately that actually surviving is the best outcome, no matter how long the suffering lasts ... well, maybe ... it depends!!

I've been told that chiggers are bright red. I've never seen one. You would think you'd be able to see them on your skin, if not the wood. They're just too darn small! So don't think you're safe because you don't see anything. How they survive baths and showers is a mystery. My guess is that they're probably already burrowed into your skin before hot soapy water can reach them.

So if you need to sit, bring a folding chair, or a sheet of plastic – NO blankets or towels! – or sit on your cooler. Or just stay on your feet until you can get back into the boat. Even then, on wood or walking through tall grass, you can end up with a case of chiggers around your ankles.

So take heed of the silent, invisible dangers in the swamp!

Happy Halloween!

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  • Dixie says:
    2020-10-28, 18:05:58
    Great information and a little too many chiggers for me.
    ONE chigger is too many!!- Sherry A Mitcham
  • Kathy McDonell says:
    2020-10-28, 13:25:59
    Having been the Thanksgiving meal for zillions of chiggers, I feel your pain ( or should I say “ itch”?). I think I’m going to take a couple of Benadryls in sympathy.....
    HaHaHaHa!!! My true friend!- Sherry A Mitcham
  • BILL MITCHAM says:
    2020-10-28, 10:24:07