Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Me and the Ticks

Just before I went on the hike to Buckeye Knob I was reading the comments on a tree society board that I frequent. They were posting technical information about how DEET doesn't really stop ticks and that for ticks you need to use something called Permethrin which is highly toxic (even more toxic than DEET) and should only be put (sparingly) on clothing.

I always take DEET with me when I go into the woods. It's one of the items in my pack that's with me wherever I go. I use it when gnats and biting bugs are getting on my nerves. Since I wasn't being bitten by such critters, I didn't use the stuff.

However, everyone else decided to use DEET when
some nagging (but not biting) flies began bothering us, and after I found a tick on each of my legs.

"DEET doesn't do any good for ticks," I told everyone. Hey. I'd read it on the Internet. It must be so. To my credit, I'd also read something similar in print, so I felt I was standing on something like solid information. To their credit, everyone else figured I was full of shit and used the DEET.

By the end of the hike, I'd pulled no less than eight ticks off of my body. Everywhere from my knee to my right butt cheek.

All of the folk who used DEET on the hike made it out of the woods without a single tick.

I, the lone hiker who failed to
use DEET, was food for the little bloodsucking assholes. I learnt my lesson.

Afterwards, I read the fine print on what people were saying about the DEET. In a nutshell, what they (and even the companies that produce the stuff) say is that DEET doesn't "kill" ticks. However, it does a decent job of "repelling" them. Fuck me for a moron.

One thing that had me unconcerned as we tackled this peak is that, in all of my 30+ years of hiking in the southern Applachians, I had only ever gotten one single tick on me, and that was on Pinnacle Mountain in South Carolina. Before that, none. Before Buckeye Knob, one. The day of Buckeye Knob, eight.

You'll pardon me if I conclude that global warming has been an influence on this. Scientists have been telling us for some time to expect the spread and increase of certain vermin into places where they had never (or sparsely) lived. Seems like the real deal to me.

My friend Jack Thyen took this shot of me near the summit of Hickory Knob. We were all busy taking photographs at one of the few breaks in the forest cover where one could find a long range view.

Here I was on the summit, exhausted, feeling every ounce of the 20+ pounds I'd gained since 2007. I'm really out of shape and hope to get back into my regular hiking condition as I hit the trails more often this summer. I suspect, also, that this was the spot where the ticks really jumped aboard the Good Ship Bob. (Another Jack Thyen photo.)

As I lay prone on the top of the mountain, this tree was looming over me. I don't know what it was. If you can ID it, let me know. (Click to embiggen to see the bark.)

Another view of the tree and limbs. The tree encroaching in the lefthand side is some type of maple (not sure which species), but that's not the one that concerned us.

Here's a closeup of the newly opened leaves. I assume these will get larger as Spring proceeds. These had just appeared and were very fresh. Many of the trees on the ridges were still bare.

Here's another one. If you know what this is, let me know. We see it often in the Southern Appalachians, but none of us know what it is.

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