Friday, April 15, 2011

What Really TICKS Me Off...

I finished my fourth packet for school this week and sent it off, and decided that the fact that I am now ahead in both writing and reading for the semester, as well as the gorgeous 70+ degree spring weather, deserved some celebrating. And what better way to celebrate than to grab a great friend and go on a photo shoot to a brand new and much talked about wildlife park?

Oh yeah! Photo therapy!!

You'd think.

See, when I take chances and go places I've never been, my odds of things turning out well are pretty much 50/50. And, as my friend pointed out once we got there... you can't believe everything on the internet.

So this park - called Merrimac Farms - is not that far from my house, and this week is hosting a Virginia Bluebell Festival. I didn't even know Virginia had bluebells, and the pictures were so reminiscent of Texas Bluebonnets, which I get homesick for every spring, I decided I HAD to go get pictures. The website says the park looks like this every April:

The quality of the photo leaves something to be desired, but you get the idea, right? Fields of gorgeous flowers amid a nationally protected forest. They also have posters that show tons of pretty and unique birds, and they advertise a big pond where you can fish all kinds of fish.

So we trek off and this is what we find.

The trees are so old and bare and scraggly, despite the fact that just outside the park, all the VA trees are blooming and full of spring-green leaves. And do you see any flowers? Any at all?? Nope. Me either.

We drove to where the "parking lot" was, which was basically the end of the road, where there was enough room for one vehicle to park. I was thankful (although I should have been suspicious) that we were the only ones needing a parking spot.

At the "parking lot" there was this sign:

Apparently the path to the pond is very steep. And people have to walk sideways.

That is... if there were a path. Which there wasn't. There was just ugly scraggly trees. We'd landed in the middle of nowhere.

Debating and trekking for a few feet through the bare woods, we decided to try the other parking lot.

Which had exactly the same space and no discernible path, but did have a very small orange sign showing us the way to the pond. So off we hiked.

We did find a very old, old barn, which was cool to take pics of:

See the path that leads right up to it? Yeah, me neither.

Eventually a path opened up, and we followed it alongside a person's private horse farm. 

Isn't that pretty? Yeah - well, I had to climb through scraggly tree branches and barbed wire to get this shot - to even see it actually. Heaven forbid we should see something pretty ON the wildlife trail.

Then the path diverged in a wood and I... was confused. 

Because - you probably can't see this - in the tree in the very center of these two paths is the orange "sign" showing the way to the pond. Seriously?? 

So, being all poetic, we chose the path less traveled. Which, as it turns out is less traveled for a reason. It ends right past the view of this picture in a field that looks like elephants have come through and trampled it (that's what my friend said, anyway, and it was an apt description).

So we backtracked and went down the path more traveled, and finally found the pond.

I do have to say this is one of the best pictures I took all day, and makes this pond look much bigger and prettier than it was. It's a swamp. Shallow, mostly muddy water swarming with algae and mosquitoes.

And also, no flowers.

We finally gave up and turned to go back. What a bust the picture taking had been. But the day was beautiful, the friendship great, so it was worth it, right?

We drive back down the road home and suddenly I stop! LOOK!! It's a bluebell!!

I drew a black arrow to show you in case you can't see it. There, in the mud. A single flower. It's much prettier close up:

Well, sort of. It's no bluebonnet, and it lacks something all on it's own, but it was the only color we got, so we took it.

You'd think this is the end of the story, right? Except I have gotten to the title of this post.

On the way home, I looked over and saw a TICK on my shoulder!! I freaked a little, tossed him out the window, and ran my fingers through my hair, thinking, "I should have worn a baseball cap." Two seconds later, there was a tick crawling on my finger. 

I screamed. And tossed him out the window.

I felt a tickle at the base of my ponytail and reached up and pulled another off.

Can you say meltdown in the car?

I was barely home and out of the car before I was stripping off my books and socks and running upstairs to shower. Under my long sleeved shirt I found three more. On my legs I found two more. There was one crawling on the inside of my jeans. 

Totally. Freaking. Out.

I feel like I'm in an episode of Infested. I pull my hair out of the ponytail and start scratching at my scalp, yanking my hands through my hair, head tossed over the sink waiting for them to rain down. 

I turn on the shower as hot as it will go and hop in, and scrub my hair so hard I think my scalp is going to peel off. I shampooed three times. I find two more ticks, which result in hilarious jumping, screaming, water spewing all over the bathroom antics. I shampoo again, and have to condition twice to get all the tangles I've caused out of my hair.

In all, there were 11 ticks. ELEVEN!!

I've lived in a house in the middle of the woods for eight years and haven't gotten a single tick.

So the verdict? Ugly trees, no paths, no flowers, no color, and a welcome gift of tick infestation.

Yeah - I won't be going back there again!


  1. but what a great story we now have!!!

  2. LOL Jen! Sometimes having a great story to tell is better than a perfect experience. :)

    And it probably made for more entertainment on the blog than my previously planned rant on people's rants on publishing. :)

  3. OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is really really awful. As if the place wasn't disappointing enough, add TICKS?? YUCK!! So sorry it was an awful day...hope you made up for it somehow.

  4. I would have so been freaking out. I had a tick once in Egypt of all places, and it totally freaked me out.

    On the plus side, you got some pretty great photos.

  5. This cracked me up, especially the sign: "And people have to walk sideways." You missed your calling as a satirist.

  6. Ticks?

    NONONONONONONO thank you!

    *curls in fetal position*


    Yeah, I would have FREAKED out.
    Me and bugs?
    Not friends...

  8. Sounds like you're ready for a nice, tame weekend. ;-)

  9. Good gracious, this was too much. You poor thing! Everytime I take someone out to shoot somewhere I'm afraid of ticks and spiders. YUCK! Being a photographer has really tested me with some of my phobias because all too often the shot I want requires me to be in waist length weeds or something like that. I just go to another place so I don't imagine a snake slithering up my leg.

    Sorry this place was a major bust!

  10. When I say "another place" I meant in my head. I get the shot darn it!

  11. You were freaking me out about those ticks!!!AHHHHHH!. I have never had one!!!

  12. I grew up next to woods and had my fair share of ticks in my life. I am a pro at pulling them out with the head still intact. (No lymes disease yet.) Anyway, it sounds like you have a good attitude about a disappointing hike. I have seen some bluebonnets in Texas, but my husband says there are usually more wildflowers. It's been a dry year. However, I have seen quite a few primroses and found out that I LOVE the smell of mountain laurel.

  13. For all the tragedy within, I did giggle through this post. Yes, satire is a strength you possess! Besides a Brad Paisley song called Ticks, I have never heard about the critters. Sound worse than the northern mosquitoes!

    The close-up of the blue bell is nice, and I like the lines and reflections of the pond picture. Hopefully your next celebratory photo shoot will be in a better place!