Further down the rabbit hole: Thursday night I accidentally slept with an Arizona Bark Scorpion, the most venomous scorpion in North America. (It can be deadly to children, pets and the elderly and immune compromised.) When I rolled over in my sleep at 9:40pm I was jolted awake by the most awful thorny sensation on a spot of my back near my armpit I could neither see nor reach. It felt like I’d been whipped with electrified barbed wire. JAB JAB! When I frantically pulled off my shirt there it was on the ground next to my hip. It was a little wheat-colored slip of a thing, just like in my worst cowboy camping (tent-less) nightmares. And I was in such shock and so horrified I just watched feebly as it crawled into the bushes right by my cowboy camp setup. I had grabbed my cook pot to smash it with, but failed to kill it cuz I was just sorta in… disbelief.
What should I do? No idea. I was a nurse in Portland Oregon and Burlington Vermont, where scorpions just… aren’t a thing. So I did what my gut told me to do: I packed up camp in the dark and hiked 1/2 mile upstream in the Kanab to a new spot, away from that awfully rude bedfellow. In hindsight this whole area (Showerbath Spring) is wet, and scorps are riparian-loving, so the only way I’d actually be safe(r) is with a netted tent. But I stacked two layers of polycro plastic separated by rocks, and slept on that. If anything small approached, it’d more likely get stuck between the two layers. Right? Madness.
I set alarms to wake myself all night at 15-45 minute intervals, to make sure I was breathing ok, etc. It was pretty scary. By morning I could not walk without difficulty because my eyes could not hold position or focus and my arms and legs were numb and had severe electrified pins and needles. The neurotoxin in a bark scorpion sting causes smooth muscle spasms. According to Ranger Bridgehouse at the North Rim ranger station, most people would have GI upset. My loss of vision and extreme pins and needles was a bit unique, he thought. During the night I stumbled like a drunk, crouched over, just to make it a few feet to pee. Once I fell over and peed myself. I was having sneezing fits and snotting heavily. I took this video at 5am it was hard to even turn on my phone and press the right buttons. But I managed to pack up camp and return down river to where some other people were camped. I sat near them while they packed up and painfully made myself tea with useless painful hand stumps and drank as much water as I could manage. They said it looked like two bites, and thought I should camp an extra day until I felt better but I had other plans: hike 20 miles to the next water source.
I did hike those twenty miles to get to Willow Springs (where the water is marked as non-potable but I drank lots). The first 8 miles were very, very painful. Imagine walking 8 miles with those kind of pins and needles you get in your legs sometimes when you sit wrong. Where it really hurts to stand up? Yeah. And unsteady because your eyeballs won’t sit still. Those first 8 miles were torture because it was up the cobbled rocky creek bed of Kanab Creek. Had it been smooth trail it might have been better, maybe.
After 16 hours the pain at the sting site resided enough so that it wasn’t agonizing to put on my backpack. After 48 hours I still had some intense pins and needles in my hands and feet (but went most the day without them), but I was much fully recovered. I hope I never ever get stung by a scorpion ever again. Ever. Never ever.