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Nature doesn’t have to be annoying: 3 things that can ruin your outdoor fun and how to deal

Have you ever started out on a short hike, a romantic picnic at the beach, or overnight stay at a campground, realizing only after embarking on the outing that nature could ruin the experience at any time? This has happened to me on several occasions.

Mosquitos

Lyon Arboretum on Oahu, HI, Photo by Robin Kent
Lyon Arboretum on Oahu, HI, Photo by Robin Kent

This is me at Hawaii’s Lyon Arboretum on Oahu. I thought it was safe enough to explore the rainforest in cut off pants, short sleeves and a light dousing of OFF! bug repellant. I was dressed for the tropics but not for protection against blood sucking mosquitos. I literally spent two minutes in a shady spot of the forest to take pictures and dozens of mosquitos descended upon me, leaving a red map of Hawaii on my skin.

Mosquito Bites!
Mosquito Bites!

Solution: I went back to Hawaii a few years after and suited up with long pants and Sawyer Premium Maxi Deet Insect Repellent which contains 98.11% Deet. I have no idea what ill effects such strong repellent has on the human body but I managed to get around two bites instead of what you see here.

Yellow Jackets

When I was about twelve years old I went on a camp trip with my Girl Scout troop and we had set out a lunch of cold cuts at a picnic table. Soon there were several yellow jackets buzzing around us and landing on our food. This is when I was most terrified of the critters so I ran away from the table and witnessed one take a hunk out of the bologna.

Yellow Jackets on Tri Tip, Photo by Randy Robertson via flickr
Yellow Jackets on Tri Tip, Photo by Randy Robertson via flickr

Not so long ago I was at my husband’s work picnic for an exterminator company and ironically, a yellow jacket was assigned to each participant’s paper plate throughout the function. One hardened exterminator grabbed a yellow jacket’s midsection and flung it away from the table. I was in awe of this action but that didn’t take care of my personal yellow jacket problem.
Solution: Eat inside. Sorry folks but if you’re being followed by hungry yellow jackets, its best to give them the steak.

Poison Oak

“Here Eva,” my Dad would say pointing to some plants around the base of a tree when we were out on a family nature walk. “That’s poison oak. See the red leaf there, the wavy edge and the shine?”

Poison Oak Sign, Photo by Daniel Ramirez via flickr
Poison Oak Sign, Photo by Daniel Ramirez via flickr

“Um. Yeah?” I’d say looking at the spot where five different plants intermingled. I figure I’m never going to be able to identify poison oak on my own. So I’ve just stayed out of the foliage all together. I can tell when I see a black berry or a Christmas tree but that’s about it. Luckily I haven’t fallen into poison oak or if it’s rubbed against my pants by accident there’s been no issue.

Solution: If you’re concerned about poison oak, stay on the path. Don’t frolic in the bushes.

Simple As That : Rewriting a Short Story

Fruit and Story, Photo by Eva Barrows
Fruit and Story, Photo by Eva Barrows

December 2014 – Wrote short story during an online writing class. Had particular goal in mind for characters but wasn’t pleased with outcome. Instructor said he thought story was fine and I was being hard on myself.

All of 2015 – Story hanging out in computer — All year. Wonder what it was like in there…

August 2016 – Thank god I found a writers critique group to be a part of. Story re-visited.

September 2016 – Kept essence of characters, moved the setting around, explored using different points of view and found the one that would show off the most interesting character the best. Edited myself as I wrote (slap on back of hand). Made my critique group read parts of story several times. (Will make it up to them somehow…chocolate?)

October 2016 – Agonized over ending. Complained at dinner table to husband about not knowing how to end story. Went back to desk, struck by lightning – premise isn’t what I wanted it to be, it was even better! And better yet, everything I needed was already there. Finished story and told husband. He said, “Really?!?” He didn’t understand how I could be in despair one moment then done with the story the next.

Currently – Waiting for next critique meeting to see what the girls think.

Next – I have some ideas about how to punch up the ending. Then I’m going to submit the sucker and get the story published. I hope it likes hanging out on paper better than stuck on my hard drive.

What’s the Best Winter Vacation Destination?

Island of Kauai, HI, Photo by Eva Barrows
Island of Kauai, HI, Photo by Eva Barrows
Lake Tahoe, CA at Heavenly Resort, Photo by Eva Barrows
Lake Tahoe, CA at Heavenly Resort, Photo by Eva Barrows

There’s no place like home for the holidays but let’s just say you had a little cash and a little time to go somewhere…where would you go? Would you seek out the never ending summer of a place like Hawaii or play in the white snow somewhere like Tahoe? Doesn’t matter if I’m in a cozy winter cabin OR bathing in the tropical ocean, my priority would be the same in either setting – warmth!

Gold Rush City Crawl


The Gold Rush era downtowns of Grass Valley, CA and Nevada City, CA are only four miles away from each other. Start your day of art gallery ogling, historic sightseeing, and ice cream licking in one town, then hop on over to the other and start the cycle all over again! Fall is a great time of year to visit the area as the trees are changing color and the temperature is just right for a stroll down Main Street.