The Blue Spring Experience

Salutations! It’s me, the poet on blueberry street.  I ‘ve upgraded to a new domain. All part of growing as a writer, I’m told. To those of you who have been following me, thanks. You’re in the right place.

Welcome back to part two of our camping season finale. In last week’s post, I shared how Herb, Buddy, and I arrived at Blue Spring State Park after driving three hundred miles out of our way. I have to say Buddy, our beagle, did very well in the car. He’s a good traveler. IMG_3707

Our campsite was dry, but not level. The fire ring looked like it was sliding off into a ditch. Herb did the best he could with the leveling jacks on the Viking, but when I sat at the dinette to eat, I felt like I was sliding off my seat. Oh well, we thought, at least we can sit outside without swarms of mosquitos buzzing around our ears.

We like to hike in the mornings when we’re on a campout. At Blue Spring we walked the Pine Island Trail with Buddy. The trail coursed through a beautiful shady hammock into an open field. When we returned to the campsite, we sat down to enjoy our second cup of coffee and discuss our plans for the day.

“How about renting a canoe?” I asked. Herb thought that sounded like a good idea. When I changed into my swimsuit, I noticed a tick on my leg. “OH NO!” I panicked.

Herb tried to get the tick out with tweezers. Unfortunately part of its body was still attached to my leg. I felt upset with myself.  I realized I’d let my guard down regarding hiking in Florida in the summer.

I wasn’t wearing clothes sprayed with Permethrin.

I didn’t spray my legs with insect repellant.

I didn’t check myself right away when we returned from the hike.

I didn’t take a picture of the tick.

I was a bad hiker.

So where did all those mistakes lead me? To the ranger station, of course. I walked up to the window and told a ranger about my problem. “You better get medical attention,” he said, “You could get an infection if the rest of the tick isn’t removed. We’re also seeing something new in the southeast now. People are getting the meat allergy disease from ticks.” He directed me to a walk-in clinic in the area.

Herb and Buddy waited in the car while I sought out help at the clinic. Can you believe it was my first day on Medicare? Luckily I had my card with me. I signed in at the desk and told the receptionist about the tick. “Glad you came in,” she said. “Have you heard of the meat allergy? It might not be all bad, you could become a vegetarian, and be hip.”

I liked her humor, but I didn’t laugh. I filled out the forms and waited. Two hours later the rest of the tick was finally removed. No, it didn’t cost me an arm or a leg in the process, thanks to Medicare. The nurse practitioner prescribed an antibiotic. So far I’m still eating hamburgers with no adverse reactions. Follow this link for more information about ticks. This trip was not our first experience with ticks. The pests tend to be more active during the Florida rainy season.

It’s not really fair to only write about ticks without sharing the beauty of Blue Spring. The campground is a five minute walk from the spring. One morning we saw a manatee. Campers have access to the area before the park opens to daytime visitors. Our last day in the park I rose early. When I arrived at the water’s edge the sun was beginning to light up the scene. The water changed to a brilliant emerald color.  Every time a fish surfaced ripples radiated through the still water. All was quiet except for the call of a great egret on a limb.  This sight helped me forget all  of the bugs, heat, and humidity of the past few days.

IMG_3786I can’t leave without sharing the photo of the egret.

HBUF5523

I’d love to hear from you. If you enjoy nature, or want to share any tips about ticks, leave a comment.

Nature’s Classroom at Faver-Dykes State Park

Camping during the Florida summer is not for wimps. Our trip to Faver-Dykes State Park challenged us in ways we have never been challenged before. Located in a remote area fifteen miles outside Saint Augustine, the park is known for being “off the beaten track.” We pulled our Viking trailer over the bumpy dirt road to the entrance of a small campground. As the campsite was not level, my husband, Herb made several attempts before he successfully parked our trailer in the soft sand. Soon a park vehicle stopped nearby and a ranger stepped out to welcome us. The ranger took an interest in our dog, Buddy, the best beagle ever.

Faver-Dykes Trip 028

Early the next morning we decided to hike the 2.6 mile Hiram-Faver Trail. Guess what? The trail was named in honor of Hiram Faver, who donated the land to the state for a park. Go figure!  On our way to the trailhead we walked by the park office. The friendly ranger who  welcomed us yesterday came out of the office to say hello. He asked where we were headed. I told him the Hiram-Faver trail. “Oh,” he said, “you better watch out for ticks out there.”

“We’re prepared, ” I boasted. I wore long sleeves and long pants and tucked my pantlegs into my socks. I also sprayed my legs with bug spray. The ranger focused his attention on Buddy. “I always put a tick collar on my dog. Then the ticks never bother him.” Suddenly I realized that Mr. Ranger was more concerned about Buddy than we were.

“Buddy is on special medication to prevent ticks from harming him,” Herb responded. At the time I wondered, how bad can it be out there?

Faver-Dykes Trip 063

We began hiking with Buddy in the lead. July is hot in Florida. Herb and I kid each other that real Floridians can handle the heat. But we forget that we aren’t real Floridians. We’re actually transplanted Buckeyes from Ohio, and Buddy hails from North Carolina.

Faver-Dykes Trip 053

As we approached Pellicer Creek, we felt a delightful cool breeze off the water. We saw a bench and sat down to enjoy our granola bars and bottled water. Buddy had a drink, too, and relaxed in the grassy area at our feet.

Faver-Dykes Trip 056

I took out my cell phone to take pictures.  I noticed I had phone service. (Something not always available at the campsite.)  Herb looked across the river and spotted a cell tower. What luck! We had a great time sitting on the bench, texting pictures and checking our email. I even posted a couple of photos on Facebook.

After about twenty minutes, I noticed something crawling on the front of my shirt. “A tick!” I yelled. Herb rushed over and brushed it off. Then I spotted a tick on his pants. I brushed it off him. “Let’s get out of here.”

We hiked back toward the campsite. I still wasn’t very worried. So we saw two ticks. Big deal. We’re only a mile from the campsite. All will be well.

When we reached the campsite, we sat on the ground with Buddy and examined his belly. I lost count of the numerous ticks attached to his legs and stomach. I felt terrible. What did I do to my dog?

I grabbed the tweezers from the first aid kit and Herb and I combed through his fur with our fingers. It wasn’t easy to remove the ticks from Buddy’s skin. They were small, brown, shiny, and wanted to stay put. When I pulled the first tick out I didn’t know what to do with it. It latched on to the tweezers and wouldn’t let go. Then it started to crawl onto my hand. Yikes!

Finally I got the idea of dropping the live tick in a cup of water. It worked. I removed at least thirty ticks from Buddy. We covered the cup with a second smaller inverted cup to keep the ticks from crawling out. If possible, we wanted to keep them out of our campsite. We wrapped the tick filled cup in a plastic bag and dropped it in the nearest garbage can. Hopefully they didn’t escape.

Buddy was a trooper. He didn’t complain, and relished all the attention. Ticks are strange. Unlike other pests, you don’t feel it when they dig in to your skin. No sting, no itch. Unless you check yourself and your family from front to back and head to toe, you don’t know you have them.  I know, I removed three from my ankles.

Hikers beware! July is peak season for ticks in Florida. Nature has many lessons to teach, but we will not attend the July session of the school of ticks again.