Sunday, June 22, 2008

Clowntime is over

Lately I've been clowning around, taking the easy shots with various clown-themed posts. I haven't been visiting other blogs much, and when I did visit I probably didn't comment.

I apologize.
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You might ask what's roused me out of my early summer torpor. I'll tell you what:

Alligators.

While I've been plodding along, ignoring my duties, there have been terrible developments in the ongoing struggle I like to call World War G. And I'm convinced that at least one of these incidents is due directly to my own lack of attention.

On Friday I decided to take advantage of a friend's offer to spend the afternoon canoing down the upper Des Plaines River in Lake County. I'd just worked the annual carnival detail for two nights in a row and I figured I could use the time relaxing in the outdoors. It sounded like a simple proposition: throw the canoe on the car, quick drive north up Milwaukee Avenue, put in, paddle, hop out and drive home.

Ask anyone in my family and they'll tell you I'm a hyper-prepared traveler, especially when it comes to outdoor trips like camping or canoing. I make checklists, I lay out the gear for inspection before packing, I spend hours going over weather reports and maps. I have never gotten lost in the woods, I have never had a tent blow down or leak in a storm, and I have never gotten dumped out of a canoe.

My preparation for yesterday's paddle consisted of looking at the weather.com website and cutting the tags off a camping hat that MizBubs gave me for my birthday. The thunderstorms that hit the area passed by around 1:30, the sun came out and we were on our way.

So here's what happened. I dumped the canoe the instant we put it into the river. I fell out sideways, cracking the side of my ankle on the gunwale, and went in up to my armpits. My partner who was already seated in the bow got thrown in headfirst, directly down into the brown water under the canoe. He bobbed up quickly, spitting water and gasping for air, relieved that he didn't get brained by the canoe.

We righted the canoe, drained the water out, and started over.

Pretty soon I noticed that there were a lot more mosquitoes than I'd thought there would be. I was not wearing repellent. Within 20 minutes we arrived at our first obstacle--dead tree limbs and debris totally blocking the river. We got out, crawled over the logs and dragged the canoe over without incident and resumed paddling. The current was fast, faster than I'd expected, and it had a way of whipping the canoes across the river every time you rounded a bend. There were quite a few strainers and submerged logs, and it was a more challenging experience than I'd expected.

We ended up having to get out of the canoe two more times, at one point wading through knee-deep water and muck for about 100 yards before we could get around the deadfall and back into the main channel. Ironically, we were able to get in and out of the canoe and maneuver through all these obstacles without tipping the canoe once. I helpfully pointed out to my companions that at least we didn't have to worry about alligators or venomous snakes.

Then the storms came. There's nothing like paddling by a golf course and hearing the lightning warning siren sound as you sit, exposed, in a boat out in the water away from any shelter. Since I was already soaked and half-caked in mud from our initial dumping, there was no need to put on the rain suit I brought with.

We saw a lot of nice birds, though--herons, waxwings, woodpeckers, a Cooper's Hawk and some goldfinches. And when I got out I was miraculously free of ticks and leeches. Still, throughout the afternoon it seemed like something was out of whack, and I couldn't figure out what.

Until I got back in the car and heard the news item: an alligator was discovered in the Chicago river. You heard me right. A marauding scout gator, right in my own backyard.



I've gotten sloppy, letting them get this close. Rest assured, it won't happen again.


14 comments:

Johnny Yen said...

The Evil Dictator took a spill in a canoe-- his first-ever canoe ride-- a few weeks ago in the Chicago River. No alligator in sight.

Dale said...

That's quite an adventure Bubs and all without repellant?! Oh my. Glad someone else discovered the gator.

kirby said...

Some trips are just cursed, there's no two ways about it.

SkylersDad said...

Try not too look too tasty.

GETkristiLOVE said...

Thank god you escaped with your life. Let's be more careful next time and bring your Gator spray.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Gators? Oh no!

Bubs said...

Dr, oh yes!

GKL, I know. If we'd only paddled another 20 miles or so and then portaged into the Chicago river and paddled some more, I might have encountered that gator!

Skylersdad, that's always been one of my goals when outdoors.

Kirby, I know. I felt the tear in the gator/Bubs continuum, but didn't know what it was until later.

Dale, in addition to the swollen and bruised ankle I have some fine bites blooming as well. Ah, the suffering.

Johnny, tell him he's lucky. Better do it young than when you're middle aged and worn out 30 years later.

Mnmom said...

And this was fun because . . . . .??????

Writeprocrastinator said...

I'm glad you're strapped, yo, because it seems like those gators have a beef with you.

justacoolcat said...

They sense your distraction and are probably planning to deal crack in your back yard.

Grant Miller said...

I've only been camping once. Unless you consider living in St. Charles camping.

Jewgirl said...

Ya know, Bubbsie, my pops is the same way. He makes check lists, tests the gear before it's packed and anticipates every need.

What a trip, oy vey. How's the ankle? I can't believe you were just a heartbeat away from a gator.

I'm glad you're okay and that you had a, dare I say, good time.

dguzman said...

How nature-y! I've been that close to a gator before, and it's not fun. Luckily, I didn't realize it until I'd already turned around and walked away. That's when Mama Gator made a weird noise and slipped away into the water. And I almost fainted.

Bawb the Revelator said...

Damn, Bubs! Ain't "Cop-ing" 'nuf of an Adrenal-Rush WITHOUT sticking yo' ankle in a Gator's mouth?
Belated Birthday felicitations an' 'at!

Tell Miz Bubs I'll swap King- an' Queen Hell walking access to the new gigantic, expanded LA County Museum of Art - IN EXCHANGE for a Fed-Exed Straw-Rhub pie.

Forget the Architecture reviews. Of COURSE Eli Broad and Renzo Piano screwed 'em! It's Bev Hills fo' Chrissake!!! As in "Trust me." However, the joint's heretofore unviewable contents ROCK!