Saturday, April 9, 2011

How to Get Your Foot Out of a Bog

Many years ago my husband and I lived in Utah. Our son wasn't even a spark in our eyes when we ventured out on this trip. Come to think of it, my D300 wasn't a spark in Nikon's eye yet. I was shooting with my Olympus 620 at the time. Fortunately I did everything wrong that day and survived to tell more tales of harrowing excitement.

The particular target for this day's trip was Utah Lake. I believe we picked that spot because it was supposed to be an excellent place to bird watch. True to this promise, I was quite entertained for awhile, photographing yellow-headed black birds as well as all kinds of bees and other insects. Still boredom began to beckon about half an hour in, and we began to look around for more interesting subjects. Our eyes settled on a field behind us with bits of debris littered throughout the grass. Hum. I love abandoned things. Don't know why. They speak to me.

In the blink of an eye, we were off to investigate. Mistake number 1 had clearly been made. We had gone off the path. Technically there were no paths around there, but we had left the gravel road that circumvented the lake. At first, I couldn't complain. I was finding thistles. Huge Russian thistle with those beautiful purple flowers. What I found crawling on the flowers was equally amazing. Flies, some I've never seen before or since. Vividly colored bees called Augochlora Green Metallic Bees seemed to love this thistle the most. I couldn't have been more ecstatic. That's when I began to notice that some of the discarded junk looked like encampments. Great. I couldn't see anyone else around, so I figured they were older and abandoned as I had originally presumed. Still, not a good feeling.

Desptite this somewhat red (pink?) flag, my husband wanted to press on so we walked through the field and began working on mistake number 2. At the back of the field was a stream, river, none of the above. Bog or swamp comes to mind, but it did seem to be a flowing body of water or at least it once was. Mostly stagnant by this time, the river / stream appeared to be more of a flowing mass of scum than anything that represented water. I kind of forgot about the unease all the detritus left in the field instilled in me and began to photograph the bog / swamp. I'd never seen anything like it and figured short of visiting Louisianna, probably never would. Although to be fair, when I was really little, my Uncle Leo drove us past the swamps in Florida. All I remember about that is having a really eerie feeling and wanting to get back to civilization. This particular day would have gone much better had this new found swamp instilled in me the same sense of eeriness. But that was not to be, a sense of awe had overridden the unease, and I continued to follow my husband back into the overgrowth that surrounded this bog.

That's how I arrived at mistake number 3. We came across a log used to reach the other side of this soupy mess that was once water. My husband's sense of balance is much better than mine. He probably should have gone first, but I went ahead of him. Perhaps a small piece of me was still in tune with that unease. I think though, I was just eager to see where we came out on the other side. Eagerness is a fatal flaw of mine and I tend not to pay attention very well when I am within its grip. Which is how, I managed to step into the bog instead of stepping onto the bank once I got across. Now I have one leg on the log and one leg being sucked into the mush.

The first thing that runs through my mind is - Oh my God, I've stepped into quick sand. How in the world am I going to get out of this. Don't struggle. You're not supposed to struggle. I pleaded, "Help me.", surpising both myself and my husband. To this day, I think he thinks I was talking to him, but I wasn't. I was actually praying to God. I even remember thinking please don't think I meant you and try to rescue me. I had seen too many of those darn shows on discovery where both people get sucked into the quick sand to actually want my husband to try to physically pull me out. I was hoping he would call 911, but I can't recall if we had our phones on us. I don't think there was any way he could have rescued me. Because of my position, half on the log and half off, he couldn't have gotten to the other shore where he would have had enough leverage to pull me out. Even that would have been a big risk. I sure didn't want him trying while balancing on the log because I was afraid he would fall in all the way and sink to his doom.

I decided as all desparate people do, that the only way out of this mess was to make a deal with God. Practically begging, I stated, "I don't want my tennis shoe back, just my leg. Please just let me have my leg back and I will walk out of here barefoot if I have to." (I really didn't want to do that. Even the road had some stuff on it that I wouldn't want my foot to come into contact with, but I figured tetanus shots were better than suffocating in a swamp.) I received my miracle answer shortly after my offer. Literally on a wing and a prayer, I began to do everything wrong.

I realized that my foot had an air pocket under it. I noticed that the swamp did not suck my foot down during the brief respite where my foot rested on top of this bubble. I realized my only chance to escape was to calmly and quickly take advantage of that. Before the current air bubble robbed me of all of my leverage, I yanked my foot up very smootly and very fast. This created another air pocket which gave me enough room to pull my foot up towards the surface. I did it again and again managing to free myself from my would be entombment. There was a brief moment when I thought my shoe would come off. I cheated the swamp of its prize by curling my toes around the inside of my shoe. Can't really say why that worked, but it did.

The swamp did get a taste of sweet revenge, though. My new mud bath attracted quite the swarm of mosquitos. My leg looked like a lump of mystery meat when they were done biting me. (Actually, this trip was the inspiration for the title of my autobiography: How I Got West Nile Virus and Other Adventures. May need some work. I'll worry about it when I write it.) The good news, beside surviving such an ordeal, was that we weren't far from the road and were able to walk back to the car that way. Trust me, walking back over that would be death trap would have been just as risky if not more so than the first trip across. Knowing me, I would have fallen in again. Not from carelessness, but from being too careful. What can I say? I am a woman of extremes.

This is the second story in a set about my adventures while out photographing nature. You can find the first story here.

Warning - Death Trap

Misquito Attractant

Putting on a Brave Face - Not

View Larger Map


forestwalk/laura k said...

ugh! i know exactly how you felt...having been SUCKED into the muck's like a vacuum...and for some reason...curling the toes DOES work!!

(my balance is not very good either...crossing ANYTHING on a log...i'd have to sit or lie down...and hang on...and scoot across...) :)

Jillsy Girl said...

I have to admit, you had me laughing hysterically! Since you are here to tell the story, I knew the outcome would not be tragic, and the way you wrote it just gave me a good laugh! But, I know when it was happening, it was extremely frightful. How did hubby handle it while it was happening?

VM Sehy Photography said...

Laura - Glad you've never gotten sucked in and stuck. That was the worst feeling, well, next to the earthquakes in California, that I'd ever had. I really thought I'd never hit bottom and it would just pull me in.

Jillsy Girl - I'm glad you enjoyed the story. I never know when I'm writing what I'm doing. I kind of lay out the rough draft and then fancy it up with some really nice words. And I look for the word it. I had a college teacher who told me I use that word too much. Some of the best advice I've ever gotten.

My husband kind of froze. Poor guy. I'm kind of glad he did because I'd hate to have pulled him into that mess. It probably had a bottom, but it was a really nasty feeling. My husband's been a really good trooper over the years. He puts up with me and all my crankiness. Fortunately over the years, I've developed a better sense of humor about these things. I think knowing you won't die and there's no real harm to your pride helps a great deal.