On August 27, 2021, my son, Jason, joined me for a hike in California. It was his 53rd birthday and there was a waterfall waiting in the mountains a few miles away. The Forest of Nisene Marks is a 10,000-acre state park above Aptos, California, a beach town on Monterey Bay just south of Santa Cruz.
A matrix of trails offered dozens of options through the steep ravines amid the towering redwood forest. We started from the parking lot at the Palmer Family Picnic Area and followed the old logging road up to the trail to Hoffman’s Historic Site and then connected to the Bridge Creek Trail toward Maple Falls.
About a mile from the Falls, as I lowered my phone from another sun-dappled photo, I was hit with a wicked stinging sensation on the end of my wedding ring finger. I never saw the yellow jacket but Jason swatted at my back a couple of times as the bug attacked again and again, trying to sting me through my hoodie. The poisonous venom spread its pain and soon my finger was ballooning and my hand was swollen and I couldn’t get my wedding ring off for relief.
We pushed on but about a half-mile later I started to think the anaphylactic shock that plagued my father was now manifest in me and so I cut the hike in off at 2.5. By the time we completed the five mile loop, I knew I was okay, but I was in too much pain to lift a juicy bbq sandwich so I headed home to put ice on the sting.
Planning to go back tomorrow to see Maple Falls—and I’m hoping that damn yellow jacket isn’t waiting for me.
What should you do if you're stung by a yellow jacket?
After screaming, cursing and crying that is.