In case you haven’t noticed, I’m an idiot. I don’t play one on TV, I’m an idiot in real life. And for some reason, my worst idiocies always happen on bikes [1]. For the latest example of this, I give you my Great Swamp Adventure!

The adventure started well enough. I like to ride my bicycle along the nature trails in nearby George Bush Park. The park was originally set up as a flood control area (which will become important in a moment), but also has miles of biking trails (some paved and some not, which will again become important in a moment) and lots and lots of wildlife. So riding the bike along the trails is almost always fun and provides me with that nice, low-impact aerobic activity that my doctors all want me to have [2].

A red-tailed hawk
A red-tailed hawk
A snowy egret
A snowy egret





Question mark butterflies
Question mark butterflies
A plover
A plover







A Night Heron
A Night Heron
Looking along the bayou
Looking along the bayou







So I went for a bike ride yesterday. But, being me, I like to explore different trails when I ride. After all, you can only look at the same set of trees and buzzards so long before you start to get a little strange [3]. So this time, I went off on the Oxbow Bayou South Side Trail, which is an unpaved trail that leads through the woods and back along the bayou. Unfortunately, the trail is not well maintained [4] and intersects animal trails at several points. As a result, I ended up headed off into the middle of the park where the swamp and the animal trails intersect [5]. And, since I started the trip at 3 PM, it was getting dark before I gave up and called for help [6].

The path I was supposed to take
The path I was supposed to take
The path I did take
The path I did take








Fortunately, it only took three tries before I got the right number [7]. Unfortunately, the constable that answered the phone decided that I had to have entered via a different trail (indeed, she had never heard of the trail that I did use). So I sat in one place for the better part of an hour as it got darker and darker and they tried trail after trail on the far west side of the park (“A” on the map). She did finally tell me to start heading back west, so I abandoned my bike and began the trek.

After crossing two different branches of the main river [8], her supervisor called and told me to stay in one place so that they could find me (“B” on the map). So I spent another hour in the even darker darkness, waiting patiently as they whistled and I shouted in vain. He finally decide that I was so far east that I may as well head that way and so I began heading east(ish) again. They turned on the siren for one of the squad cars so I could hear it and I used that for my bearings, along with Jupiter [9].

Naturally, this involved crossing those same two bayous again. In the dark. In the dark and wet. In the dark and wet bayou, filled with (imaginary {I sincerely prayed}) water moccasins. And, of course, it was when I was exactly in the middle of one, up to my chest in water, that the sergeant called again to tell me to head south (“C” on map). If you have never attempted to answer a cell phone in the dark while standing in chest-deep water and waiting for a snake to bite you, may I recommend it as an excellent way to put the rest of your troubles into perspective?

So I climbed out of the bayou and turned south. And ran into another bayou. You see, one of the benefits of being a catchment for flood waters is that the area is very wet and has multiple bayous. So no matter which way I went, I’d be in deep (animal) doo-doo covered by deep water. As I crossed that bayou, the sergeant called again, just to keep my spirits up and to tell me that they were trying to get a helicopter out to hunt for me but I should keep walking. So walk I did, across that bayou and into a patch of saw grass which left all sorts of fun abrasions on my legs [10]. After that it was dry land for a minute and then back into (you guessed it) yet another bayou.

And at that point, the miracle occurred. I began to hear the constables. So I sped up and then could actually see their flashlights after getting only butt deep in the bayou! So I continued on (as if I had a choice) and finally, finally made it to the constables. Total time in the swamp? Nearly eight hours, most of which was spent in slogging across bayous.

The second miracle was that the constables not only didn’t cuss me out for getting lost [11], they gave me a ride back to my house where i spent the next twenty minutes trying to shower out the smell of unidentified organic ooze from in between my every-frickin’-part. And so I am now home safe and considering buying a new bike to replace the one that I had to leave in the swamp. But I think that I’ll leave that adventure for another day…


[1] For example, there was the time that the front tire on my bike folded in half while I was going full speed down hill. All that one gave me was a broken arm and a fun story to tell.

My bike after the tire folded

[2] Yes, my body is falling apart fast enough that I now have multiple doctors. Fortunately, I like all of them.

[3] This explains the “captains” on the Jungle Boat Cruise at Disneyland.

[4] The sign was down on the ground, which should tell you something right there.

[5]Part of the reason that i got so lost is that I could hear the shooting range and I knew that it was near to the main trail. So I kept heading for the shooting range, thinking that it would only be a few yards more. I did mention that I’m an idiot, didn’t I?

[6] Literally called; there is excellent cell phone coverage in the swamp. Now we know how Kermit keeps in touch with his agent.

[7] I made the mistake of asking T-Mobile to give me the non-emergency number for the Houston police department. The first time, they directed my call to the police chief (who wasn’t in on Saturday at 5 PM for some reason); the second time, they sent me to the Houston Police Charity association. I finally gave in and called 911 and was directed to the right place in under ten seconds.

[8] Yes, I had crossed them coming east. Yes, they should have been a signal that I was on the wrong trail. Have I mentioned that I’m an idiot?

[9] Explaining to the sergeant that I knew where east was because I could see Jupiter and that I could tell where the siren was because I knew where east was was an exercise in annoyance. He apparently wasn’t used to smart idiots and insisted that I “face the bright star and then turn 90 degrees to the right” so I’d know where south was.

[10] Sandals and shorts aren’t much protection against saw grass and mud. Please remember this if ever you plan on getting lost in a swamp.

[11] Someone gets lost in the park about once a week. But very, very few manage to get quite as lost as I did. I think that’s a good thing.


10 thoughts on “Swamped

  1. eep
    Well I’m glad you didn’t manage to find a watery grave, nor yet angry water moccasins.
    Still, how about you don’t repeat the whole thing.
    (No chance of retrieving the bike from where it was left? Or too thoroughly lost for that?)

    1. Oh, I might be able to find the bike, with some good luck and a lot of patience. But then I’d have to get it back out, whihc is always harder than getting something stuck in the first place.

  2. Good LORD, John! I’m so glad you had phone access!

    I should test mine but let me say this: after being in the UNEXPECTED HURRICANE IN OHIO (seriously, who’d expect that?) which left most of the state out of electricity for over a week, I came home and bought LED lights for all of my bags. As I say, I should really TEST them as they’ve been in there a few years…

    I’m sort of surprised you didn’t get leeches. Maybe it’s not leech-season πŸ™‚ Anyhoo, I’m happy you’re safe but what a scary, scary thing. It scared me reading about it and I know you’re safe!

    1. Sorry about the scary; this was intended to be a humorous “What an idiot am I” post.

      As for leeches, they have plenty of ick factor but no real scariness (which is why Deep Rising is fun but not scary). But anyone who has lived in this area is scared spitless about water moccasins – they are just pure, snakey evil.

    1. With my luck, the battery would have run out, leaving me truly alone.

      However, I will be investing in a GPS for my new bike (when I save up enough for a new bike, that is).

      1. Only teasing you! My giant smartphone, I mean phablet, has a giant battery and goes from 5a to 11p without recharging. With heavy use, I might add. Just something to ponder when you eventually become assimilated.

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