Fuego De Mayo Survival Guide
Coming from the East, if you head on Interstate 10 to exit 225, head north on US Road 19, dropping gradually from 55mph to 25mph, until you get to a round about Monticello City Hall, heading counterclockwise around the roundabout past the first and second offshoots to take the third, effectively turning left on the roundabout, you will find yourself on US Road 90. Jacksonville people will recognize this road as the same road as Beach Boulevard, but out here it’s call West Washington St. Continuing west on US-90, you will pass by a Shell gas station on the right which will signal you to slow down, just as the speed sings are ramping back up from 25mph to 55mph. Continue an in the day time, you will see a tree orchard on the right, an oddly formed set of trees in perfect rows and not planted into the ground but planted into pots laid on the ground. Right where the orchard ends, on the left side of the road, you’ll see two purple reflectors and a post with two signs on it.
Coming from the West, on Interstate 10 you go to exit 217, head north on Florida State Road 59 until you can turn right onto US-90. Continue on that road until you go over a concrete bridge and then see a sign on the left that says “Welcome Monticello City Limit”. Before sign also on the left is the entrance. You will see the purple reflectors and the two signs.
The first sign reads “No Trespassers. WILL BE SHOT.” A notice to the outside world that Florida En Fuego ain’t nothing to mess with.
The second sign reads “Burns family reunion” and has an artistic representation of the Florida En Fuego tree on it.
Come inside where the gate/greeter volunteers will process your tickets, waivers, child registration, service animal registration, and all the things needed for you to gain admittance. Once admitted, they will relax and, if permissed, will hug you and welcome you. You will get your event bracelets and other items and will be ushered into the land we call Xanadu.
First and foremost, this is a survival camping event. The only infrastructure the event provides is portolets.
You want a cooking kitchen? Pack in some propane, a table, a sheet of aluminum foil (to protect the table from heat), and one of these Camp Ovens
You want showers? Pack in your water, some low impact soap, and one of these: Portable Air-conditioner or even just one of these 18-volt-Bucket misting fan
The event will have a way to place ice orders at central operations before 10am, where you will give them cash, and someone will drive to the store and get ice based on your order, then drive back and deliver it by 11am, every day. You can use the ice in your mist bucket.
Or you can get water from the lake.
If you want to use water from the lake for drinking or food preparation, you will need to either heat it above 171 degrees Farenheit or use bleach drops in the appropriate ratio. Boiling the water is always better, but you can learn about bleaching water here.
If you need a fire, bring a portable fire pit as well as a bring a set of garden sheers and read the Leave A Better Trace guide on how to collect branches per our guidelines. Also look on the ground for dry wood. To keep a fire going, you need a good mix of small thin pieces of wood (kindling) and larger pieces (fuel-wood). No ground fires please, and if you are under the trees, and you are using a wood fire put, we will need you to use your metal screen guard to prevent embers from flying into the woods.
Or just use a camping burner . I mean, what are we? Savages?
Heat the water until large bubbles rise to the top, stir once to prevent cold spots, let the bubbles come again, and it’s 100% potable water.
Work with Xanadu, not against it
We’ve found that people can end up with a condition called Xanadine. If not treated properly, it can turn into a longer term Xanaflu. Don’t let this happen to you. Basically, save 10am-5pm as play time. Toss a Frisbee in the field. Swim in the Lake. Hike the back trails. Blow bubbles for some kids. Practice your fire toy with some experts. Snooze in a hammock in the trees. Update your facebook with selfies. Work on that novel you’ve been putting off.
Whatever you do DON’T WORK. Even under the cool canopy of the trees, DON’T WORK. It’s very humid and working raises you body temperature badly and your sweat can’t cool you off because of the humidity. It’s just not worth it. It’s never worth it. Just do not work from 10am-5pm. Set up a two pole 4 person tent, okay. Set up a tent, and a popup, and carpets, and a mister, and table, and kitchen, and pop in your famous mac and cheese, and clear out some low hanging branches, and hang your solar lighting, and assemble your self sculpted artwork, and mix your 150 proof liquor into your fruity mix for gifting, and erect your massage tables, and put all the clothing for exchange out on your racks, and inflate your kiddie pool that you then fill with stuffed animals, and all the things an action participant wants to do right away when they get there?
It’ll be okay. There’s a lot of light between 5pm and 8:30pm and the humidity goes down a lot. Just do the bare minimum to survive (set up a tent and a camp chair) and then leave the rest for the appropriate time. No one here is forcing you to do anything. This is a volunteer and participant driven event. No one is voluntelling you to do anything. We appreciate your gift, but we appreciate your health more. Doing too much in the day time is no bueno. Keep your strength for when it matters, please.
Also, when you are playing in the day time, whether it’s Frisbee in the field, swimming in the lake, or hiking the woods, remember to hydrate. That’s not just water but water and electrolytes. It’s what plants crave. A cheap electrolytic hydration is water and lemon juice plus a pickle you keep in a jar in your pack. That will give you water and all 6 kinds of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, and phosphate). We have tried to put salt in the lemon-water but it always tastes bad. If you can do this and have it taste good without sugar, let us know the ratio please.
So keep on drinking that lemon water and chewing on a pickle every now and then and you will get through your play time with no trouble.
As said, you can bring all kinds of things to cool yourself down in camp. But if you don’t want to bring all that, there is a natural resource that will cool you off easily: the lake. As you enter the lake, the first layer is pretty warm from the sun. But after the first 12″, the water cools off. If you get to the center of the lake, you will feel the rush of a cold stream along the bottom which is the spring feeding the lake. This area is very cooling and relaxing, and the depth is only 4′, so most people can stand without any trouble there.
Be sure that if you enter the lake, that you have a partner with you and that you are well hydrated. Cramping in the middle of the lake is no fun and can be very dangerous. Be sure to check on your camp mates when they have had a big night or a hard day of working, you haven’t seen them emerge from their resting area for an usually long time.
Recovering From Dehydration
When you are dehydrated, what happens is your muscles start to cramp badly and uncontrollably. If you experience this, hydrating with electrolytes is the first thing to go to. Do not drink anything with sugar in it. Glucose and fructose will block your body from absorbing the electrolytes immediately, instead making them more slow release. This is why that popular college football inspired “Ade” has so much sugar in it. It’s also why lemonade has so much sugar. It is meant to slow release the electrolytes as you are in an activity. This is for prevention, though, it is not an emergency cure.
In an emergency, you need no sugar. Drink your lemon water, eat your pickle, and wait 10 minutes. If you aren’t feeling better, then it’s time to signal for help, have 911 called, and have someone inform central operations that an ambulance is coming and where they should go to. If you have a full body cramp and hydrating didn’t help at all, then it’s best not to delay.
Florida En Fuego has people available if needed for guidance, and if you find a ranger, the ranger can typically make a call for help. However, the amount care these volunteers can give is very limited. They can assess, they can explain what they think is happening, but they can’t do anything that will assume your care. If you complain of a pain in your head, they might talk about how their aunt had that and took some ibuprofen once, but they are not going to hand you a dosage of pills.
Tell camp mates if you have any medical issues like seizures, diabetes, PTSD, or something that is not immediately identifiable so they can step in and caution people? Ranger/Sanctuary to not mistake your condition for something else. If you have qualifying “Service animal” please advise Ranger for any special requirements that would ease the aide of you and your animal. Take all necessary precautions with your animal care as well. Please consider that this is North Florida in the swamp. We have large birds of prey, snakes, ticks (lots of ticks) and alligators. Make sure to keep your service animal safe from these indigenous creatures.
They can assess if you need to have emergency services called. If you are under your own power, they can assist you in moving to a central area to be picked up by emergency services. They can assist in making sure that the call goes out if you don’t have your phone on you. There are emergency clinics not very far away, Xanadu is literally 100 feet from the city line. For major medical, it is 30 minutes away from Capital Regional Medical Center in Tallahassee.
We also hope you understand that Florida En Fuego expects participant groups to be radically self-reliant enough to not let their members to get to, for example, a state of alcohol intoxication that would require an ambulance to be called. If one is needed to be called, then we’ll call it, but we do not want to have an argument over whether or not the ambulance will be called while your friend needs the service badly. Please, take the steps in your groups to ensure you do not have one of you, be that guy.
This guide will address specifically the question of alligators only because we keep getting the question. At the work-play weekends, we have identified one 5′ alligator and two 3′ alligators. We have had hunting parties try to capture them, but the thing about alligators is that they are terrified of human activity. If they get to be 10′ or longer, they may attack humans, but these small ones will always run when an adult human is near. That said, if you are looking over a little one, be sure to keep them close. It is typically safer to keep yourself between the child and the embankment, as the embankment is where alligators like to hide.
Alligators, unlike their brethren crocodiles, are not aggressive at all. When put into “fight or flight” mode, they will always attempt to choose flight. But if they feel they are cornered, they will decide their only choice is to fight. So, if you do approach one, make sure you always give it an exit for it to dart to, otherwise it will defend itself.
They are passive hunters, also called ambush predators. They sit in the water with their mouths open literally waiting for up to a week for a small animal to climb inside their mouth. If you see one, don’t climb inside it’s mouth. It’s really that easy.
A reminder: this isn’t Crocodile Dundee stuff. Crocodiles are from Australia and like most things in Australia are extremely dangerous. In Florida, we have gators. Gators are… mostly harmless.
There is other wildlife in the woods. At the work-plays, they come around the borders of the property and you can hear their howls in the distance. But at The Event, there will be so many fires/fireworks and basey music that it will drive all of this wildlife away. Animal kingdom predators hate dubstep. True story.
The one thing that you will encounter is insects. Use a deet or organic spray twice a day and you will keep this down. Try not to lay in the dirt with exposed skin, or ants might bite you. Themecamps are encouraged to place mats or tarps down in their public area. Straw has been good at Transformus’s Mysteria, but we’ve never tried it at Xanadu. Diatomaceous earth is pre-approved by the land owner diatomaceous earth pest control formula is ideal for killing ants, earwigs, cockroaches, silverfish, crickets, fleas, millipedes, and centipedes. 100% diatomaceous earth kills insects by ingestion and/or dehydration within 48 hours. Works indoors and outdoors when kept dry. The Food & Drug Administration lists diatomaceous earth as “Generally Recognized as Safe”. “Food grade” diatomaceous earth products are purified.
The kind of ticks we have at Xanadu are “Black legged ticks” aka “deer ticks”
These can transmit Lyme disease. However, it is important to note that simply getting bitten is not enough to catch this disease. The tick must be attached to you for at least 24 hours for an effect to take place. So check your body and the bodies of any partners or children you have with you for ticks every night. Check out videos on how to remove ticks. E.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wotB38WrRY
Even if you contract Lyme disease, it can be treated in it’s early stages, just be aware that the longer it goes untreated, the more neurological effect it will have.
It’s hard to put a section in here about this. Spiders are our friends. There are a good number of them in the woods at Xanadu, but they build their webs in the most annoying places, causing you to walk through them as you move about your camp. “That wasn’t there yesterday” you might find yourself saying.
You can just pull the web down and maybe kill the spider, but this isn’t the best thing for you or the spider. Instead, consider getting two sticks and using them to pick up the web and transfer it to the outside of the camping area. This makes it so that around the boarder of the camp, there is a natural bug zapper. You can even transfer it to a high branch of a tree in camp, but bear in mind that if it is a female, that might mean there will be a lot of little spiders around camp soon. So if you aren’t so good at telling male from female spiders, just move them outside your camping area. Try not to damage the web as you move it, because if you transfer it just right, the spider will choose to fix the damaged parts in the transfer instead of moving out and making a new web.
Hot In The Day, Cold In The Night
Between 5pm and 9pm, the temperature starts to drop. The humidity falls and at sun down, dew starts to form on all the things. This is similar to at burning man where in the day time, it’s best to wear minimal clothing, light cotton clothing, or summer style fashion. At night, have a few furry outfits that you can switch into, but be aware that it is wet on the ground so make sure the furry outfit is okay with wetness on the ground. A furry vest and leather pants might be the way to go.
A lot of the ground is very dry, but there are parts in the woods that are Florida wetlands. And, as just said, at night, the whole area get covered with a layer of dew at night once the sun goes down. Because of this, footwear is important. Going cheap, galoshes have been pretty good, although after a little time, they fill up with sweat because they don’t let any water in or out. More expensive would be waterproof hiking boots with wicking” The higher the ankle, the better, as it will keep insects out of there.
When you go on walkabout at Xanadu, it’s recommended that you bring a backpack with
– water bladder filled with lemon-water
– a flashlight or headlamp in case it gets dark while you are out
– any kind of emergency medications you might need (e.g. albuterol inhaler or glucose tablet)
– a jar of pickled vegetables or other salty snack
– your cellphone (most of Xanadu has some coverage)
– a whistle in case you get lost or falling to a play you are not able get yourself out of, so you can use it for people to locate you instead of shouting yourself horse.
As a bonus, you could consider getting an air horn. If you are in trouble, you can blast it three times to let others know that you are in distress. Please, do not be a boy crying wolf with this. A single blast can drive animals away if you are deciding to hike away from the main camping area and into the deeper parts of the woods in the south. Please be aware that the further into the woods you go, the harder it will be for event volunteers to be able to reach you if you are in trouble. Bringing a hiking partner is always safer.
Also, there are a number of good hiking apps for cellphones that participants at the work-play weekends have used. We cannot recommend any in this guide, but you can talk to them directly to get their recommendations.
This guide is a living document. If you have any suggestions or find out new ideas, the Florida En Fuego team would love to hear them from you. If you can show us at an event, that’s even better. This advice is to enhance your safety at Xanadu events, but you should always keep your own wits about you as you interact with this unique piece of Florida wilderness.
FeF Organization Team