FUP Scale of Western American Plants and Wildlife

In the New England where I am from, My Royal Consort and I concern ourselves primarily with poison ivy, mosquitoes and ticks when we are interacting with the outdoors. Unlike the people who inhabit the southwestern region of the United States, the hazards we face when hiking up east are broadly confined to dermatitis.

My Royal Consort and I have enjoyed hours and hours of extravagant beauty in the mountains and deserts of the western United States and have decided that it is time to codify and introduce to other hikers the FUCK YOU UP! Scale (FUP Scale). As we admire the thousands of varieties of exquisite cacti, I can be counted on to say “That thing will FUCK YOU UP!”

When I make my pronouncement about the plant/animal/insect/precipice, it is with the same sort of admiring and respectful tone that a teenaged boy might use to describe the properties of over-proof liquor. In other words, the inflection is meant to describe the potency of the object as well as to convey a healthy respect. The FUP scale lacks nomenclature and is based more on intonation and context.

What does it mean to get fucked up? At the very bottom of the FUP scale are things like minor cuts and abrasions, rashes and painful but non-lethal insect bites. The top of the FUP scale is reserved for things that require either a hospital or an undertaker.

Following are some of the major categories of things that will fuck you up.


All cacti will fuck you up, but some are worse than others. While it might appear that the cacti with the two-inch, multi-colored barbs would be more dangerous, the ones with the tiny hairs will fuck you up worse. These types of cacti know when you are too close and they will fling thousands of tiny hairs into your skin. The hairs are invisible and wildly irritating and can be counted on to initiate an immune response and cause a localized infection. Everyone from the east will touch the tiny cluster of hairs one time because it looks soft.


These will fuck you up but only if you go out of your way to touch them. The first rule of hiking anywhere, ever, is to keep your hands to yourself. Do not reach over logs or grab at branches unless you are in danger of falling from a cliff and really getting fucked up. Typically, the tip of a thorn will break off into your skin and reside there until it can be squeezed and launched out of the body in a satisfying stream of pus. Once the thorn is out of the skin, the pain vanishes and the infection clears up immediately.


Most of the time, the point of taking a hike in the first place is to ascend to an elevation of anywhere from 4,000 to 8,000 feet so that you can take a look around at the view and feel really proud of yourself. Great elevation usually involves plunging cliffs, and it goes without saying that plunging cliffs will FUCK YOU UP!


In some cases it is preferable to grab at a plant or shrub to avoid a fall onto a lava bed. Most often, a fall onto lava leads to a fucking up of the palms of the hands, the knees or the butt.


Cotton Socks, and their close cousins, The Bad Shoes, will fuck you up.


Tom’s slippers, Teva sandals, sneakers, and any other type of shoe that is not specifically designed for hiking will fuck you up good. It will also fuck up anyone else who is with you.


The south and southwest United States are built upon one contiguous fire ant colony, therefore it is imperative to wear proper foot wear if you intend to stand still. Being from New England, I made this mistake just once. Fire ants will Fuck You Up. Unlike more reasonable ants, they are tiny so you cannot feel them until they have assembled an army on the ramparts of your toes and stung you multiple times. Each sting quickly turns into a pus-filled whitehead, which alternately burns and itches. The wound eventually heals I am told (mine are now over three weeks old and still going strong). Fire ants inhabit the FULL SPECTRUM of the FUP scale, depending on one’s histamine response to their venom.


Around North Carolina the snakes become more interesting and plentiful in terms of how much they can fuck you up. As you move further south and west, their potency and abundance increase, but unlike cacti and fire ants, they are shy and prefer to keep to themselves. Will they fuck you up? Yes, if you walk around in the desert at night without a flashlight, you can get FUCKED UP by a venomous snake.


Like fire ants, the degree of fucked up-ness resulting from an encounter with Mexican American food in the American west depends entirely on the individual. Not to be confused with authentic Mexican food, prepared by actual Mexican cooks in Mexico, Mexi-glop (AKA Mexican American cooking) can fuck you up. My Royal Consort can manage several consecutive meals of Mexi-glop without incident, while I have been fucked up on it after just one encounter.


It has come to my attention that armadillos can really fuck you up because they carry and can transmit leprosy to humans.


Whenever we hike where these two animals are present, I get confused. In the event of an encounter, am I supposed to wave my arms, shout and look aggressive or am I supposed to back away while still facing the animal? I know that with one of the two, it is recommended that you act aggressive and with the other you back away, but I can never remember which is which. Obviously, if you get it wrong, these animals can FUCK YOU UP.


Thanks to the hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into the state of Arizona for the purpose of harassing and inconveniencing anyone of color in a car, it is hard for a white citizen to get fucked up by an illegal alien.


If you are a brown American citizen, you can get pretty FUCKED UP by Border Patrol. If possible, do something with zinc oxide or face paint to tone down the color of your skin. Be sure that your papers are in order. For white people, the FUP factor is non-existent.

This is a work in progress. If anyone would like to add anything to the FUP Scale, please feel free to contact me.



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  1. Al says:

    LaVie, As always, an enjoyable experience reading your blog. Enjoy the rest of your vacation!

  2. Hope Leeson says:

    I love the FUP Concept!

    Why even here, of late, in the benign and aged hills of New England there is an element about that can really fuck you up. You might think I am speaking of ticks or bears (both thankfully in a suspended state of slumber), or even the cute-eared fisher cat, or the elusive stray mountain lion. But no, it is more insidious than any of those. It is the simplicity of a crystalline structure. One of a certain air to crystal ratio that is irresistible. It has such beauty, such allure. It beckons. Like the Sirens to Ulysses. You are lured off the snow-shoe trodden path, or ice encrusted surface where you merrily walk above it all. Off you go, on a lark to experience Narnia, or to find a tree to pee behind. And then you are seriously fucked. Like the fuzzy cacti with the cute little bunches of ‘soft’ yellow hairs, ‘the whiteness’ is not to be messed with.

    Though here in Rhode Island, the whiteness can fuck you up pretty bad, it ain’t nothin’ like they’ve got up in Vermont, where over the last two months, the whiteness has been piling up, storm after storm, foot after foot, without periods of wet snow to temper the beautiful to glide upon, light as air, dry snow. A wrong step will really FUP. It will send you, up to your armpits, floundering in an atmosphere that is totally unfamiliar and seemingly inescapable. FUP you are, caught in the panic of a nightmare from which you wish you’d leave and walk away into a sunny green field with flowers and birds singing all around. Though not a light jaunt, escape is possible through body weight, and muscle tone. Compaction. Like Rumpelstiltskin you must pound the snow beneath your body to the point where you can stand on some portion of it, and then, continue pounding, and crawl your way back to the safety of where others have gone before, or to your dog … “Why’d you get so fucked up?”

    1. admin says:

      I can’t wait to hear the story when I get home. Did you wander off-trail perhaps, thinking that no harm could come to you in old New England? That was so beautifully written — I think you should do a guest post some time.

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