Jul 15, 2009

He really stepped in a hornet's nest this time.

According to Wikipedia, the German Yellow Jacket is the most common species of wasp in the United States. First appearing in Ohio (so I'm not entirely sure why they are called "German Yellow Jackets") they have spread across the continent and are the dominant species of wasp in the U.S. They are aggressive, have a lance-like stinger with small barbs and can sting repeatedly unless the stinger is lodged in the skin and breaks free of the wasp's body. Although fairly painful, the venom in the Yellow Jacket is really only dangerous to those who are allergic to it.

My son has been stung by a bee only once, so far, in his childhood career, and his arm swelled up like a balloon.

It is with this information in mind that I begin my tale.

Sequoia Park, nestled into the outskirts of Eureka is a fair place. Towering Redwood Trees heavily populate this area and the lush ground is blanketed in all manner of shrubs and ferns. Numerous trails and paths have been carved out by the city in an attempt to maintain a suitable environment for would-be walkers, runners, hikers and generally any who simply wish to escape from the monotony of their daily lives and enter into a whole other world where nature itself is the predominant life form and we humans are nearly insignificant visitors simply passing through.

As we left the house, we had the grand idea to deviate from the beaten paths we know so well and forge new ones. Adventure, excitement, and maybe even a little danger waited as we forged ahead into areas of the unknown. We started near the house and found a small path that led into shadowy darkness. Without hesitation Ben careened into the woods, eager to find what lay ahead.

Sequoia Park, while not the size of a national park by any means, is certainly bigger than it first appears. Pushing aside branches, wiping the occasional spider web from our faces, we ventured on into the unknown. The path was hard to follow at times; every now and then we had to stop and choose a new direction in order to leave as little a footprint as we could. After all, I have taught my son the importance of enjoying nature and its beauty and leaving as little a mark as possible, so others may later enjoy the same wondrous sights we do.

Soon, we found the ground sloping before us and could hear the sound of water running at the bottom of the small ravine. This area ahead of us we know well, and it was a welcome sight to see groomed trails and benches to rest our weary feet. Together we rejoiced at our courageous effort in finding our way through the veritable labyrinth that is Sequoia Park.

And then, all hell broke loose.

Ben stepped on a small fallen log that was presumably redwood. It was covered in moss and almost entirely impossible to distinguish from the forest floor. His foot sank into it a good couple of inches, indicating it had probably been there for quite some time. At first I simply thought that a long time on the forest floor, the constant dampness of the forest and encroachment of moss had simply broken it down.

Then I heard it, a faint humming that quickly erupted into the maddened buzz of angry Yellow Jackets. I watched in horror as literally hundreds of the insects began pouring out from around his ankle and into the air around us.

Ben quickly realized he was in rather poor position. He also quickly made a point of making sure I knew he was in a rather poor position. This action, on his part, was completely unnecessary. I screamed, the scream that can only come from a father who thinks he and his only offspring are about to die, "Run!!" Together we began running up the hill. Previously, on our decent, the path had been somewhat easy to pick out. In a complete panic, however, the trail simply vanished. Darting this way and that, Ben continued to yell, something. I have no idea what. About the only thing I knew for certain was he was scared and it was up to me to get us safely away.

To an outsider looking in, I can only imagine how this must have looked. Only minutes before we had happily traipsed into the forest, excitement shining on our faces as we ventured into the unknown. Now we ran, like frightened school children (to be fair, one of us was a frightened school aged child; the other was simply acting like one), screaming for the other to run faster, darting in one direction and then the next.

At some point we stopped, panting heavily, and frantically began combing over each other's clothes making sure there were no stow-a-ways. Ben had one that looked like it wanted to crawl up the leg of his shorts. With an absurd amount of calm I went to my knees and quickly removed the offending wasp with a simple flick of the finger. After I was sure I had checked him over thoroughly I requested he do the same. Ben quickly pointed out there was one on my pant leg. The calm I had managed in removing the wasp from his clothes evaporated so quickly, one would have though it was never there. I jumped (not sure why, looking back at it, as it didn't do any good) and swatted at it to get it off my clothing. Sadly, I missed. Remember people, all calm had gone and a scared panic was now settled deeply in me. A few more flailing swats managed to extricate the insect.

We spent a few minutes standing there, both telling each other how scary that was and both deciding we simply wanted to go home, where it was safe.

Once we got home, we unanimously decided we would suspend walks in the woods for a few days. When we return to Sequoia Park, we will be sticking to paths we know so well.

Adventure and the unknown can stay just that for now, unknown, and preferably undisturbed.


  1. That is so very scarey. My husband was attacked by entire wasp nest when he was a kid. Then when I was 23 I was at my cousins house in Grass Valley for thanksgiving. I don't know if you ever knew Shane MacDonald, he was there too. We were all sleding down a grassy hill in Forest like terrain. Till all of a sudden one of us ( I think me) ran over a nest. They somehow made it up the back of shirt and stung me serveral times. I forgot how painful that can be. Although since I was surrounded by so many little guys I held it tgether. Shane was stung too. Never fun at all, they must like to build there nests in the multch on the ground. take care

  2. OH VOR! What an adventure indeed! I'm glad the two of you are safe and were relatively unharmed, but I must say that the picture of the two of you running is a bit amusing in my mind! How did your ankles enjoy that jaunt?


  3. Amen, Janine! I can visualize it in my head and it's the makings of a winner on America's Funniest Home Videos!

    Glad you are okay... I don't mess with things that sting! Once Taylor got a wasp inside his shirt while we were camping and it stung his tummy and chest several times. You would have though the world was ending... poor Taylor (he was only like six at the time, though!)

  4. I went into a hedge with wasps in Texas and was stung several times. I don't remember it, but Grandma said my fear of anything that stings started then. I am so glad that you were ok. It's amazing how fast they can appear and move!

  5. I'm sure glad you escaped the very jaws of death. Well...that might be a bit dramatic. But actually this could have been a very bad situation. Thank goodness adreneline works so well. It probably saved you both.


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