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wminerick

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About wminerick

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  1. wminerick

    Rattlesnakes

    A couple of years ago I was hiking around my claim in the Sierra Foothills and happened upon a nest of bald faced hornets. I believe they are the biggest native bees in CA, and boy, do they get aggressive in late August and into the fall (especially in dry summers). I saw that I startled them from 50 feet away, and as soon as I saw the first 20 come out of the ground hive, I started running for the creek to dive in. I was wearing a backpack and because of it, I "only" got stung 4 or 5 times (no telling how many times the backpack got stung). I've been stung by bees before, and didn't think much about it and started to hike back down canyon with my partner. There is a particular part of our trail which literally is 18" wide on a 200 foot vertical cliff for several hundred feet (the penalty points are huge here). As I am walking along this part of the trail, first I feel my lymph nodes in my crotch start to hurt, then I start to get a bit dizzy, then I am having difficulty balancing myself (all the while thinking "if I collapse, collapse UPHILL"). I struggle to make it to the "safer" part of the trail and as we arrive, my mining partner says I am talking to him when suddenly, my eyes roll back into my head, and I collapse. He tells me he is splashing water on my face, slapping me and frantically trying to get a cell signal in a very remote canyon. I am a pretty big guy (6'3" and 225) and there is no way he is going to carry me out of this canyon. I remember waking up and seeing him standing over me frantically trying to get a cell signal on his blackberry. As I come to, I can feel my throat swelling and my airway starting to constrict. I recognize I am in serious trouble. I muster up all the energy I can and tell myself "You need to get out of this canyon" and that is all that is going on in my mind "get out of the canyon". We hook up with another mining partner who is working the lower claim and grabbed some benedryl from a first aid kit we had there and the 3 of us trudge out of this insanely steep and remote canyon, walking 50 feet at a time before I need to rest again. Without the Benedryl and the 2 other guys helping me get out of the canyon, there is a good chance I could have died down there. It was that serious. I (obviously) made it out and after stopping by the local clinic, recognized that I was in Anafalactic Shock. I would not recommend this experience to anyone. I have been stung by bees all my life with no effects. This was a real eye opener. I now have a zero tolerance for bees. In years past, if I saw a nest on the side of the trail, I figured if I didn't bother them, they probably won't bother me. Wrong assumption. As the fall progresses the bees get more aggressive and will attack as soon as they see anyone near. This fall is particularly dry, (which should mean a lot of nests) and although I have my eppi pin, I am not so sure I want to push my luck that way again. The rattlesnakes and poison oak, and ticks are enough of a deterrent, I am not so sure I want to deal with angry bees again. I may reconsider going into that canyon again until it rains a few times- I have other more accessible claims I can go to or go to other friend's claims. That was intensely powerful experience and now I NEVER go out in the woods alone- I am always with a mining partner, or I don't go. I went out and bought a satellite phone (which I never use) as an insurance policy if anything like this ever happens again. It is worth it to pay $30 a month to have a phone line to the outside world if another event happens to myself or one of my partners. We sometimes forget that just about ever aspect of our small mining/prospecting experience is fraught with danger from all sorts of means. If you are not acutely aware of your surroundings, you can die.
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