Bee-lieve It!

By Seth Kahan

Kaya, my canine companion

This essay recently appeared in Seth’s “Monday Morning Mojo” e-newsletter.

In my thirties, I trained in search and rescue and got my Wilderness First Responder certificate, the industry standard for professional guides and trip leaders. I was motivated to do this because I loved the outdoor backcountry and had already gotten seriously lost once in Superior National Forest, Minnesota. That scared me enough that I refreshed my map and compass skills and enrolled in these other classes.

I carry a supplemented first aid kit with me and try to be careful so I don’t hurt myself. But, sometimes, things happen.

On my last camping trip, I was just settling down to meditate after my first night in the woods when I heard my canine companion, Kaya, whipping back and forth. I knew in an instant that she had gotten into a beehive. I was up in an instant swatting her, getting her lead unhooked so she could run away, swatting bees off of me, and running away myself.

The bees were on both of us. I threw Kaya in the river and jumped in myself. After several submersions, the bees were gone. Then I started getting dizzy. I was worried it was an anaphylactic shock, but as I found out later, it was just a lot of bee stings. I returned to the tent, ripped open my first aid kit, and ate two Benadryl. Then I packed only essentials and left for the ER.

The bee toxins caught up with me first.

I spent an hour on my back in delirium. It was highly entertaining and reminded me of my college days, except there was this nagging concern about being in mortal danger. Kaya camped out next to me while I was down. After an hour of lucid dreaming, I got myself up and out of the woods. I threw Kaya in the jeep and headed back for the grid; it was about a 30-minute drive. I found the closest ER and headed over as soon as I got online. They were empty except for me, kind, and took care of me.

After inspecting me and taking my vital signs, they kept me for observation for three hours before sending me out with some steroids and significant antihistamines in my system. They also gave me an EpiPen for my first aid kit. I discovered they are good even if you don’t have an anaphylactic shock.

I checked into a wonderful tiny house overlooking the mountains and a lake near Canada. I took two nights off to watch myself for any side effects from the bee stings. There were none. The next day the welts started disappearing.

Kaya and I returned to find the tent, sleeping bag, and supplies in good shape. We very carefully broke camp and moved deeper inland, away from the underground nests, which were numerous around my first site. Now that I knew what to look for, I saw them everywhere.

We had a blissful remainder of our trip, camping near large rock outcroppings up and down the North Fork of the Bouqet River, covered in waterfalls and swimming holes.

Very happy I had Benadryl with me. I had added that to my first aid kit. This fall, I’ll be taking another wilderness first responder course. Is there something you like to do that adds a little assurance to your life?

©  2022 Seth Kahan

Seth Kahan ( helps leaders take on Grand Challenges, wicked problems that require a social movement to be successfully addressed. But he can still hang out and tell stories. Subscribe to his “Monday Morning Mojo” to receive a weekly blast of good energy.


About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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1 Response to Bee-lieve It!

  1. Kit Dwyer says:

    I can relate this to so many aspects of life in general. The writing had urgency, not too much drama, just the facts, Jack. Yet it was compelling with just the right amount of detail that I could imagine the campsite scene. (I’ve been on many camping trips.) I also liked the style of offsetting the most impactful sentences in their own paragraph.
    I was intrigued to think of trying to make a dog, of the size in the accompanying photo, stay underwater in the throws of adrenaline and fear.
    This piece also has a good tight ending with just one sentence to make you think and relate to your own life, if you hadn’t already.
    In addition, something about the way the author shares his enthusiasm for taking classes to increase knowledge and taking positive actions, such as putting something extra in his emergency kit. He repeats the process after the incident, which sparked a broader idea in me.
    Reading this story helped me recognize that indeed, I have been “adding more assurance to my life.” Since the COVID pandemic, I have been taking classes. The topic is of a different sort but now can think of it as preparing my own “emergency kit” to make my new knowledge accessible.
    Thanks for sharing!


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