Look Out for Black Widow Spiders!
Post-dated Tuesday, 8/2/16, Manchester Center, VT
Originally, I wanted to write this piece early on in my journey but now I’m awfully glad I didn’t get around to it. I’m glad because of the conversation I just had with an overly concerned citizen in the fine town of Manchester Center, VT (yes, it’s 18:20 and I’m still here). So, here it is. Enjoy.
She pulled up to the front of the gas station where I was posted while I waited for my phone to charge. She got out of her big silver car with visibly missing hubcaps and invisibly missing godknowswhat. She was plump and dark skinned but in a way that gave the impression she doesn’t spend much time in the sun. We exchanged the usual words, she gawked at my journey and I tried to be modest. For the record, I’ve given up explaining to non-hikers that, after reaching Mt Katahdin, I still have over 700 miles to go, so she thinks I’m almost done. It’s confusing to most people and even more importantly, they don’t really care all that much. I’ve noticed that most people I meet don’t actually want to hear about the trail, they primarily just want to feel good about themselves for making the appropriately awed noises at us for doing it. This suits me just fine, I’d rather not delve into the real deal with everyone I meet, every time I meet them.
Back to my new friend. I’m going to call her Mrs Black, not because she was black (though she was), but because everything she was wearing was black, right down to her shoelaces and watch strap. She was friendly, as they all are, but she struck a rather raw cord with me after a brief couple words. Mrs Black seemed to think I couldn’t, simply couldn’t, make it through this trail without hearing the advice she had to give like I was a heathen hearing the word of God for the first time. She was going to save my soul by imparting her life-learned wisdom upon my poor, ignorant and clearly daft mind.
For starters, I’d better be awfully careful of wet rocks in these mountains (I’ve never hiked on wet rocks before) and I’d better look out for ticks, too.
“The little ones, deer ticks, that carry Lyme disease?” I tried to ask (because I’ve never heard of such things and definitely DON’T carry a tick ID card in my first aid box), but I only got as far as, “deer,” before she cut me off with No-No gestures and said they were the little ones that carry Lyme disease. I never knew!
She then jumped back to wet rocks. I’d better go to the outfitter behind this gas station straight away to get some trekking poles, RIGHT NOW. I said I sent them home and her mouth flopped open most unnaturally before she went on insisting I must have them or I will surely fall on the treacherous wet rocks and die. Woe is me.
I had better watch out for mosquitos too (these, I assume, are some kind of bird) because they carry disease (West Nile? News to me). I must use lots of bug spray (seriously, I haven’t touched the stuff and don’t intend to start now) and above all I’d better drink lots of water. No soda!!
Wow! Thank you Mrs Black, you sure saved me from a miserable time! Especially now that I’m through the worst of the heat and the bugs. I’m so very lucky to have met this wonderful woman! Thank my lucky stars!
Okay, I’ll admit, that was rather harsh. She legitimately was trying to be helpful, I’m sure. But do you see my point?
It all started back home. Everyone I told about my trip was very keen to tell me to, “watch out for bears!” And, “look out for black widow spiders!” Have you ever seen a black widow spider? Neither have I. If I had, I would definitely know what to do. First, I would look out for it, then… Shit. That’s all I’ve got.
I think people who have spent very little time in the great outdoors assume it is a very dangerous and busy place. There are bears in every tree, disease-ridden micro tick-mosquito hybrids on every blade of grass and above all, tons and tons of black widows crawling on every surface I care to examine.
Thankfully, this is not the case. At the risk of sounding like a complete asshat I’d like to make a teeny tiny point: I’ve become a bit of an expert when it comes to dealing with the wild and dangerous woods. I’m by no means saying I even know all that much, but I am living out here and I’ve managed to pick up a thing or two over the past few months. Primarily, I’ve learned that one does not, “look out,” for much of anything (except maybe bears and even then, there’s not much to be done). I do check my shoes before I put them on every morning and I perform regular tick checks, but I’m not going around with a flashlight scouring every inch of my camp for danger. The truth about most everything comes down to a very simple universal rule: Everything wants to stay the hell away from me even more than I want to stay away from it. Really, it’s that simple. Could I get bit by a black widow in my sleep? Sure, but I doubt it. I would have to do something rather stupid like piss one off first. The things don’t just go around murdering people for fun, no matter how menacing they may look.
I’m not trying to be a jerk and I genuinely do appreciate the concern of people like Mrs Black. What I’m really asking is for everyone to dial back the worry machine just a notch or two. I could die tomorrow from falling off a mountain but you could die too, and often much more easily in that 2-ton hunk of metal with an explosive canister strapped to it you drive to work every day. In all likelihood you’re far more likely to have a fatal occurrence than I am, just saying.
So, rest your minds at ease you lovely anxious worry warts! This guy will be just fine, or I won’t, but looking out for death around every corner with eight legs and an hourglass on its belly won’t help me all that much. That being said, I’ll probably be eaten by the one transcontinental maneating super crocodile tomorrow just for saying all this. But that’s life, you win some, you lose some. So it goes. Cheers folks and let’s all take the best care of ourselves this random universe will allow.
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This made me laugh so hard. People are always so overly worried. I’m happy for you and maybe a little jealous. You are so close to the finish line. We met you at Gooch Mountain shelter in Georgia. I was the crazy woman with three kids on the trail.