I suppose that all adventurers go through an anticipatory mindset before setting off on their journey. First there is the exploration and research done of everyone else that has traveled in the area that you are going to traverse through, there is the equipment checklist, the mandatory needs check list and the what ifs checklist. Being fourteen and not going on any adventure like this before, I had not developed these kinds of checklists or even habits if you will of researching and knowing what this trip would be like. In fact, looking back on it, it didn’t even dawn on me. I just had faith and trust.
Faith and trust are something that every adventurer needs. It can’t just be something that exists in your brain, it really has to exist within your soul as well. It has to be a foundational rock deep within your heart. Why you ask, because at some point in every adventure, it is faith and trust that will see you through the tough days. The days where you sit reflecting into the pool of water and wonder what the heck you just got yourself into and wonder why you didn’t bother asking more questions before you left! Faith and trust also teach you to do your homework for any future explorations or adventures. You realize that it may mean the difference between being prepared or not being prepared.
In this scenario, getting ready to paddle at the end of a long portage, I was not prepared. I had the cute little shorts outfits that my parents had gotten me and they were great if I had been at a domestic camp where mosquitos, leeches, black flies, deer flies and no seeums (a very tiny black bug that bite like the dickens and can seep through anything short of the most dense of nettings) seemed to exist at every turn on the trail.
We loaded the canoes and paddled down the Nina Moose River which I am sure had a current and probably was spring fed but definitely was filled with reeds and shallow and narrow in many places. The outset of this was the fact that in those narrow shallow areas, someone had to get out and pull the canoe or line the canoe through the water. We all took our turns.
The downside of this were the black leeches that I’m sure have grown in my memory from the half inch or inch to the “really long thick” images I have rolling around in my recollections to this day. What I do remember from this experience is helping burn or salt them off of each other. You just take a match light it and hold the burnt end near the leech and it releases the grip on your body. If it has already firmly attached there might be a blood spot left but nothing that won’t disappear in a few days.
Leeches are in the same family as earth worms –while structurally different, it is hard to fathom that they are related. I never felt threatened by an earthworm, but a leech stuck to my leg or knee or ankle, hmmm, now there is an image that still sends chills up my spine.
It’s not hard to see why the medicinal field used them to literally leech blood from a person – those suckers literally suck blood. Slimy, soft, slippery blood suckers. The only place I care to see them is on the end of the fishhook much like the worm.
An experience that taught all of us on that trip lessons, look in the water first, carry salt and extra matches and especially for me – do some research before you go careening off into the unknown.