Of Moose and Men: Vacation works the bugs out

Posted: Sunday, August 24, 2008

Last month, I reported on the results of a trip I took with my buddy Blizzard Bob. We went up by McGrath to a gold mining camp. Basically, it was a summer camp for grown men, only without adult supervision. For those that were fortunate enough to miss last month's column, I'll give a little recap:

1. We dug enough dirt to fill in the Grand Canyon.

2. We washed enough dirt and rocks to qualify as a geological Chinese laundry.

3. We ate Spam. Lots of Spam. Copious amounts of Spam. We put hungry Hawaiians to shame, we ate so much Spam. In fact, I believe that the Sierra Club is suing somebody, somewhere to put Spams on the endangered list. (PETA isn't involved because they aren't sure Spam is actually animal in origin.)

4. We found so much gold, that if we'd have found just a little more, we could have bought magnifying glasses powerful enough to actually see the gold we were finding.

It was truly an adventure. A guy needs a good adventure now and then, if for no other reason than to make him truly appreciate being home. It was that good.

In my experience, one of the very best things about getting home from an adventure (beyond surviving, that is) is the opportunity to reflect and ponder some of the things that took place. Generally, to truly get into the reflection portion of a great adventure takes a little incubation time.

After getting home, I discovered that the incubation time for deep rumination is approximately seven to 10 days, or roughly the time it takes for giardia symptoms to get into full swing.

Giardia, for those who are blissfully ignorant, is a protozoan parasite that is commonly found in the digestive tract of many warm-blooded animals. The infection is most commonly passed (literally) along to other unsuspecting hosts through water contamination. Beavers are common carriers of the offending organism, hence the common name "beaver fever." However, the list of possible carriers is long. Basically, if it's warm blooded and has guts, it can grow giardia lamblia.

The interior of Alaska, where beaver outnumber people by approximately ten thousand to one, is notorious for giardia problems. For that reason, the mining camp we stayed at had a fancy micro-filtration system on the drinking water. I religiously drank ONLY the filtered water.

The first couple of days after returning home, I felt a little queasy and tired. It didn't slow me down any. I just assumed it was a side effect associated with Spam withdrawal.

By the third day, I had a distinct stomach ache and, shall we say, bouts of socially unacceptable releases that made me less than popular with my coworkers. People even quit stopping by my office at work to tease me about the lack of gold B.B. and I found.

The night of the fourth day home was spent rolling around on the floor, holding my stomach and whimpering piteously. There was something seriously wrong with my innards. Phrases such as, Spamiosis, Spamatitis, or Spam-induced prolapse of the upper duodenum flashed through my mind. I ate anti-diarrheal/anti-gas tablets by the handfuls.

There was a deceptive lull in protozoan activity on the fifth day. But after resting all day, the little bugs were ready for a total blowout during the night.

It was in the course of one particularly difficult event, when I reached that pain-induced plateau sought by magi and those on vision quests, that I saw in crystal clarity. I may have only drank filtered water at camp, but I often drank it through my mosquito net; a mosquito net soaked with beaver pond water that had splashed on my face while working in the sluice box of our high banker.

During one of the brief interludes without intestinal spasms, probably while the partying bugs were busy tapping another keg, I checked out giardia on the Internet. The only symptom I didn't possess was anorexia. (To tell the truth, with all the Spam I ate the previous week, it would have been months before that symptom could have possibly showed itself.)

There was only one comfort I could cling to desperately while writhing in agony through the night, counting the minutes until I could get to the doctor's office. It was the comfort of knowing beyond all shadow of a doubt that in the future I would be able to walk into a room full of women discussing the difficulties of their monthly condition (as any group of women numbering more than one are wont to do), and best them all. I would be able to stand boldly and proclaim, "You wanna talk from cramps? Ladies, I've had giardia!"

A.E. Poynor lives in Kenai.

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