Thursday, July 19, 2012

Eight Against the North (Part II): How Kool Aid Saved My Life

It's kind of a rite of passage here in Ontario - gather up a few friends, some beer, some canoes and head into the untamed wilderness that is Algonquin Park.

When my turn came for the merry adventure with long-time friends and semi-experienced campers, I thought I was prepared:

Beer cans shoved into socks and jammed into pack...check!
Kool-aid packet.....uh, no. Nope, did not think to pack cherry-flavoured sugar crystals.

Good thing my friend Clarence did:

On Day Three of our trip into 'Nam the beautiful and wild heart of the Canadian Shield, I discovered the horror that are leeches. Leeches, in case you've never seen the movie "Stand By Me" are filthy black, blood-sucking slugs, known to frequent swampy bogs and marshes and attach themselves to passersby, at whim. Park authorities had issued a fire-ban mere days before our arrival, due to unseasonably hot temperatures and not enough rain, which put the park at risk for fire and meant more swamp, less water.

It also meant more leeches.

I thought I'd outsmarted the li'l buggers by jamming socks onto my feet as we slogged through swampland, canoes held high above our heads, jaws set in grim determination. Our quest: make it to our next campsite before dark, or die trying.

Even as my friends stopped  regularly to peel feasting bloodsuckers from between their toes or off their calves, I was left blessedly alone. I'm not certain, but I think that my shrieking every time I spied a leech (or a water snake...after awhile, they all looked the same to me) may have deterred them. Regardless, it was a happy relief to set up camp without having experienced  something drinking three times its body-weight of MY blood.

Day Four: Perfection. The day dawned sunny, but not humid and we decided to stay put for one more day, stretching our long weekend into an extra-long one and pushing off for a quick paddle to a sandy beach across the way. Spent the morning frolicking, sunbathing, laughing, all thoughts of trudging through swamp and leeches forgotten.

Bellymonster at the Beach

After lunch, the good mood continued as we dove from the rocks near our site into the cool, dark lake. Splashed and traded "shampoo" back and forth, delighting in the feeling of clean and of contentment. Later, I chatted happily to Clarence as I bent over an overturned canoe, attempting to put in my contact lenses. The first twinge in my nether regions should have got my attention, but didn't really.

The second pinch did and I frowned - surely that pinching sensation in the crease between thigh and my lady bits was from a twisted tankini bottom and not a....


Stumbling, stuttering with terror, I made my awkward, legs-akimbo way over to Clarence and clutched his arm. Willing myself not to cry, I spoke with icy calm: "Clarence, this may sound weird and sort of rude, but I need you to look at my crotch."

Clarence blinked.

I inclined my head downward, looked back up at him and gave a slight nod. As understanding dawned in his eyes, I allowed myself a brief moment's respite from the hysteria building in my body: someone else now shared my horror.

As Clarence hunkered down, I angled my leg slightly, closed my eyes and held my breath, waiting.

A moment passed - a second, a lifetime and then Clarence said the word that pitched me headlong into a living nightmare:


And just like that our peaceful morning was shattered as my shrieks of panic filled the air:


ohmyGODwhatifitgotinsiiidddeeeeeeee me.....AGGGGGHHHHH!!"

The others came running and gathered around as Clarence tried his best to calm me down, mumbling half-hearted assurances that leeches can NOT crawl into one's body through one's vagina (a bold lie, actually, but he was desperate) and would I just calm the f*ck down already?

Slight-Goddess* rifled through the first aid kit and then the meal kits, frantically looking for some salt when Clarence spied the Kool-Aid packs he'd tossed in at the last minute. In that moment, my hero was born. He snatched up a packet and ripped it open, while grabbing me by the arm and forcing my gaze onto his:

"Liz! Hold still now...I'm gonna put some of this Kool-Aid on your...uh...leg, but you have to hold still, ok?"

I whimpered, sniffed, drew in a long, shaky breath and nodded. Okay.

With a steady and deliberate hand, Clarence gently poured the Kool-Aid crystals onto my crotch and to my shock and amazement, within seconds, the long, slimy slug HURLED itself - shrieking, I'm sure I heard shrieking - from my body and lay twitching and twisting in agony in a red, cherry-flavoured puddle on the ground.

Planning a trip? Bring Kool-Aid.

For a moment, there was absolute silence as we watched and then, as blood and Kool-Aid flowed freely from my nether region and snot and tears flowed from my face, I turned to my friends:

"I don't care what you people do, but I am taking THAT canoe and I am getting the hell outta here. Today. I'll sleep in the car if I have to, but I am NOT spending another day out here, getting eaten by leeches!"

As I stomped off toward my tent, the others took a quick vote. All in favour of heading home today?

7 out of 8.

And so, off we went, pushing hard against the wind that suddenly swirled up out of nowhere. With each stroke, Mark encouraged me from his spot in the back of the canoe: "Stroke left....coca-cola! Stroke right....with ice...stroke a fountain glass....stroke left...with a straw...."

When the rain began to pelt us from all sides and caps formed on the water underneath us, he simply got louder: Stroke, stroke, stroke! What I heard was "Coke, coke, coke!" but it was more than enough to have me paddling as hard as I could, determined to propel us off the water before we got struck by lightning. With our only and last stroke - ha! - of luck, we managed to scramble ashore and into our cars just as the lightning lit up the sky. Phew!

Finally, the trip was over.

With a tired sigh, I settled back into the suddenly-luxurious comfort of the fabric seat, switched the air-conditioning to full-blast and smiled sweetly at Mark.

"Next year?

"Yeah?" He sighed it, knowing.

We're renting a cottage."

At the start of our epic journey.

Wanna read how this oh-so-merry adventure began? Click here.

To share your own vacations-gone-awry stories, click in the Comments section and share away!

* By Slight-Goddess, I mean,Sheri who is a "tiny-figured" goddess, not "only-this-much" of a goddess.

* By Clarence, I mean Barry (aka Lumpy, aka Telly, aka My Hero, aka Dude)

* By Wog, I mean Paul, whom I call Pauly-Wog. He does not appreciate it as much as he should, but since he is my oldest and dearest friend, I use it sparingly. Sort of.


  1. You are THE greatest! I would have lost my s#!t too if that happened to me. The difference between us though, is that I will never portage through Algonquin. I know my limits, and I'm quite comfortable with them. My and nature don't mix well. = )

    BTW, you are looking mighty fine little lady! ; P

    1. Well, since the photo was taken 10 or so years ago, I was a wee bit thinner then. Ok, a LOT thinner. Dang it.

      I'll admit, I've not portaged since. We did go back to Algonquin, but to an electrical site - it's not really camping that way BUT there was a coffee-maker.

      Yep. S'how we roll.

  2. Oops! That was supposed to say "Me and nature"...

  3. Dude, well written, but you forgot one of your best lines;
    After I 'saved your life', you looked down at the impressive stream of red runnin down your leg, looked at me and cried out "But why did you have to use red!"
    I also fondly remember the one and only deep poocket of water on the dried up river one the third day where I wanted everyone to leave me. What a great trip :-)

  4. DUDE! I completely forgot to write it in, you're right! I'm gonna blame the memory of the leech for that lapse.

    Ha! I also forgot about your plan to simply stay in the water until you died. You meant that, didn't you? After this week's incredible heat, I get that.

    T'is a grand, grand day indeed, to have you commenting here, my friend. Thanks for chiming in - with the best line and all! - and for not only saving my life, but for being in it.

  5. Algonquin Park.... were the leeches resemble Nessy.

    What an adventure that was! Electrical site camping is the way to go.

    I love your story telling abilities. As much as the memories are scarring, I sure got a good laugh. Thanks for that. Sign me up for a copy of your book as well!!!


  6. Ah, my darling Slight-Goddess! This awesome day just got even better! I shall hand-deliver my first novel to you, as long as you promise that we will never, EVER have to portage again.



  7. Holy Liz, that was quite an adventure! We're going camping in a couple of weeks and now I am completely terrified. Haha. Great post, your writing is fantastic :)

  8. Yep...that's my special gift, really. Take something simple, like a camping trip, and turn it into a shrieking, bloody mess.

    Happy Camping! :)

  9. No way! That is not real! You had leech-crotch?! That is so much worse than my vacation in Aruba where people were pooping on the beach! Outstanding! Omigosh! After that vacation, you deserve a trip to sunny Rochester, New York. Lol!

    1. *Slams top down on suitcase, snatches up passport* I am oooonnnnn my way!!

      We're not going camping or anything, right? We can just hang around your place, being funny and wise? It would be awesome if you had air-conditioning, too...then it would really be a vacation from my world!


  10. "You"---are 'my' hero....Bless your soul, I truly don't know if I would have survived 'leech-crotch' (thank you Renee, for coining that term!!)

    ALWAYS a pleasure to read your writing m'a love!!! I want a signed copy of your very first best seller, lady!!!! xx


  11. Leech-crotch - bbhaaaaaahhha and aggggghhhhh!!!

    Signed copy = yours. Over many, many drinks.

    Love you!