This time, it was Mr. B. who was bitten by a tick, not even a week after I was. Mr. B. was bitten on the inner thigh while we were spending a few hours at Alexander Springs in the Ocala National Forest. His tick didn’t engorge and mine did, but his bite was far nastier. Within minutes of being bitten, the area around the bite became swollen and red, extending outwards to a two-inch circumference. A few inches farther up the leg and kapow!
I’d read about Alexander Springs on Dave’s excellent yakking blog and I’d made a note to visit. I’d heard about how crowded springs get during the hot weather, and although I imagine Alexander Springs was less crowded than some, it still was full of people.
And what an assortment of people it was! Tiny tikes in water wings splashed about in inches of water, people snorkeled, grandmothers in tight, colorful one-piece suits loomed under the shade of the trees; teen girls, their skin baked the color of pecan pie, strutted around with young men wearing futuristically-shaped sunglasses whose colorful lenses looked like oil slicks. A couple of middle-aged women in shorts waded along the weedy grasses at the far edge of the springs and a heavyset girl in a disappearing bandage of a bikini spread out mayonnaise-rich ham salad for a family picnic. Nearby sat a man whose mushroom posture made him look as if he had grown out of the earth and would probably be in the same position long after the park had closed for the night.
I decided not to go into the water, especially when I spotted what I thought was an alligator. This creature turned out to be an otter, but while talking to another visitor about it a local who works at the springs came up and mentioned his encounter with a coachwhip. Although there was a good deal of posturing going on in relating this tale, the idea of a snake climbing into a canoe was a bit much for me, as was the likely also overinflated tale about a 12-foot snake living at this fellow’s campsite. “A-yup, and there’s a snake this big just outside’a my tent. Been tryin’ t’ketch it, too.”
Mr. B. waded out a few inches into the water while I sat on a bench under a tree, fanning myself like an old lady. After a while, we went to look for the Timucuan Trail, a boardwalk/trail combination that runs around the far edge of the springs. The trail was too narrow and leaf-strewn for me, but not for kids who ran up it barefoot. Prior to finding the trail, Mr. B. had enjoyed his fill of the springs. It didn’t take too long. The springs was too much like the community pool with too much emphasis on community.
We walked the boardwalk until it ran out a quarter of a mile later and then we turned around. I stopped to take a picture of a couple of young men who were picking their way through a shallow stream as if looking for something. They apologized when they thought they’d gotten into my frame and they stood back, but it was their picture I had wanted in the first place. I was struck by how people were using the park, crashing pell-mell through its trails, brushing through its fronds, lying bare-backed on its grass, and, in this case, wading down a stream bounded by substantial leafy overgrowth and fallen logs.
Both Mr. B. and I made note of a human tendency not to walk in single file; as we moved along the walkway small platoons of people approached in the opposite direction, forcing us to stand horizontally aside until they had passed. Not one said, Excuse me. I wonder if this is the reason for what appear to be walkway pullovers where you can stop to let a faster walker or large groups of people pass by.
It was plenty hot on the walkway despite the profusion of vegetation giving a steamy shade cover. When we got back to the car, I was overheated and had gotten the first of two cases of heat exhaustion for the weekend. The interior of the car was 105 F. I was carping about the heat when Mr. B. suddenly swatted at his leg. The tick had crawled up and bitten. It seems likely it came from somewhere in the park, as would have a case of poison oak had Mr. B. not spotted it innocently growing over the side of the walkway.
Later on, I was telling someone about the tick bites, and she asked me how it was that I didn’t feel the bite as it happened. Because, I said, I am constantly bitten and I’ve gotten used to it. If it itches, scratch it and forget it, unless it gets infected or necrotic or you get a fever or a rash or a….or a….
In other words, deal with it or stay indoors.
Alexander Springs: *** (please note my rating does not include boating activities)
If you visit: Ample grassy picnic areas with covered tables, decent restroom facilities, canoe rentals. Although the park wasn’t at capacity when we visited, there did seem to be a limited “beach” area. If you don’t like making friendly with your new neighbors, try visiting during the week.