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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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leeches and ukeleles

Gorgeous weather yesterday, so we all (JBR, Harry, Jean, Jeff and I) decided to go for a day trip out to Big Porcupine Lake. We took two canoes: Jeff and I in one, JBR and Harry and Jean in the other. I knew it was going to be an unusual trip when Harry insisted on bringing a ukelele and a big bottle of Dr. Pepper, a soda to which he is utterly devoted.

Lots of sun -- despite slathering on an SPF30 sunscreen, my knees (from kneeling in the canoe) started to get sunburned, so I finally resorted to soaking a bandanna in water and covering them up. Also soaked another bandanna and stuck it on my head beneath my Tilley hat.

Having the ukelele along on the trip turned out to be highly entertaining. Nothing quite like paddling through lakes with Harry strumming the ukelele and singing, "That's All Right, Mama" at the top of his lungs. Sometimes we'd pass a campsite where a few people had gathered on shore, curious about the music. "Any requests?" JBR would yell.

We had two portages on the way to our destination spot, three on the way back on a different route. We had loaded up my backpack with cooking utensils and other gear so I could test it out before our Killarney hiking trip. Jeff carried the two canoes, making two trips on each portage. JBR slipped and fell on one of the portages; fortunately, he didn't hurt himself seriously.

Lunch was salami sandwiches, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, Jean's homemade cookies, gorp, Tang, and Koolaid. After lunch, Jean, Harry, and JBR wanted to nap, but Jeff and I decided to go adventuring a bit more. We found a pretty island with blueberry bushes and sunny rocks, pulled the canoe up on shore, and went for a skinnydip.

By the time we returned, the others were just waking up from their naps. It was decided that we should head back to the cottage instead of having our dinner in the campsite; it was getting late, and people were tired.

At the end of one of the portages back, I wandered briefly into water in my Teva sandals to tie my belt pouch to the bow of our canoe. When I came out, I felt something moving on my foot and looked down. There were about five or six small leeches stuck to top of my foot.

Jeff came over and told me to sit down on a nearby rock so he could get them off. His dad held up my foot for him, turning his back so I couldn't see what was going on. I knew something was up, though, when Harry and Jean came up to see what was happening and Harry exclaimed, "Oh my GOD!" when he saw my foot.

It turns out that I had stepped on a family of leeches. Later, Jeff told me that there had been a big leech stuck to the bottom of my foot (probably the mother), and about 50 baby leeches.

We had no salt with us, so Jeff tried pouring napthalene camp fuel (for the cooking stove) over my foot. Then he tried sand. Then he remembered that the couscous spices he had prepared for dinner contained salt, so he poured some of that over my foot. The leeches eventually came off.

I didn't freak out, if that's what you're all wondering. Mainly because I couldn't see any of it, and it didn't hurt (except one twinge, when the big leech fell off). The ickiest part was when I was lying there while Jeff poured various substances on my foot and feeling something big squirming against the bottom of my foot.

We thought we had picked off all the leeches, but at the next portage I checked and found seven more; I think they must have been stuck inside the straps of my Teva sandals and attached themselves to my foot when I put the sandals back on. As you might imagine, I checked pretty frequently after that.

Despite the small mishaps, 'twas a fun day trip. Woke this morning to some small aches and pains in my shoulders and right arm from paddling...nothing major. Jeff and I are pretty pumped about our upcoming Killarney trip! Yesterday's day trip, however, has convinced me to add one more item to my "have within easy access" inventory...a bag of salt. :-)

Today's Blatherpics:

- Me, swimming.

- Harry serenading us with his ukelele on our day trip. Jean is in the bow, JBR (Jeff's dad) in the stern.

- Rest stop.

- Jeff setting out on a portage with one of our canoes.

Feel free to suggest a daily poll question.

Today's Poll:

Have you ever had a leech stuck to you?

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