Last week was a little nutty. I'm still not even sure how I did it. Below is a little highlight to give you an idea of what's coming in the blog this week.
It started on Sunday when I did a canoe paddle for the National Park Service. One of the cool things about being a park ranger is that you do fun things like take a canoe on the Mississippi River, a downside can be that when your schedule reads "Sunday Paddle" you may not find out until it's too late that it's a 22 mile canoe paddle on the river, part of the Mississippi River Challenge. I went as an interpretive ranger.
It was a great time and it was incredible to see the sites along the river, but I found out the hard way that 16 miles is my limit--the last six were a killer, not unlike hitting yourself with a hammer in anticipation of how good it will feel when you stop. I was in so much pain at the end of the paddle. I was also incredibly light headed and cranky which was due to severe dehydration. The next morning I woke up to a sore back, sore arms, and sore throat.
I'm so glad that I only had to do part of the paddle. The whole thing was actually two days and 44 miles--I met up halfway. Most of the participants did both days (like the guy above who also went the extra mile and paddled standing up)! It was a great time overall and man oh man, I need to canoe the lakes more often.
The next day I packed for some travel while fighting my sore throat. I was hoping against hope that it was just swollen from dehydration, but it was really some kind of bug. I'm sure my weakened immune system on Sunday let some river bug in. I didn't want to travel and meet up with friends with a cold, but was grateful that it was not much worse, like the flu.
I arrived in Rhode Island on Tuesday and when went to check out my rental car, I had the option of waiting in a long line for a person to check me in or checking myself out at a kiosk with no line. I opted for the kiosk, got through it super quick while everyone else was still in line and when I went out to pick up my car, I stopped and reread my printout three times to make sure it wasn't a mistake.
Somehow, the fates conspired and I got a red Mustang. Not only that, when I got inside I discovered that I was the first one to break this girl in. I was a tad nervous, red cars seem to be magnet for speeding tickets and I tried my best to watch my speed, but I felt that I was confusing people on the highways by going the speed limit.
Of course we got to do a little birding while we were there. We focused on shorebirds and it was good practice for me, since the next day I was heading to the Minnesota/South Dakota border to lead a trip to see some shorebirds with Stan Tekiela. I had some stressful moments. I'd gone out with Swarovski on a boat to Cape Cod. The trip finished later than anticipated leaving me only three hours to catch my flight at the Boston airport. I could have made it had rush hour traffic not kicked in. As I got into Boston I was hitting a quadruple whammy of stress: I was going to miss my flight, I had to pee really bad, I was stuck in traffic, and the rental car was below a quarter of a tank of gas. When I finally made it to the ticket counter after my flight took off, I wondered if I was still going to be able to get back to Minneapolis to meet with the shorebird trip the next day. Remarkably, I did. I got a flight that got me to the Twin Cities at 12:30 am, leaving me time to get five hours sleep and still meet my field trip at 6:45 am.
The best part of the evening came when I was self medicating in an airport bar and got a call from WildBird on the Fly. We were chatting and I told her that my birding gear column (that was due that day) was coming as soon as I found some wireless internet. She asked about the other article...whoopsie, what other article? She was very kind to give me an extension on that one.
It was fun seeing some of the same species I had just seen on the east coast in some mud in South Dakota. I had heard that shorebirds were going to be tough to find since a bad storm just moved through the area a couple of days before and all the great mud flats were now ponds.
We didn't find as many shorebirds, but we found enough and fortunately, the group was into other species as well. We joked that we should have called it the pelican or kingbird tour since we saw so many of those. Round about the time the tour ended, my cold finally disappated. It was an awesome week and I got to see some great friends, but boy am I beat.