Tick Time (Days 90-91)

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On the trail we have to get used to, and try to make peace with the creepy crawly things. Sometimes that peace comes easier than others.

The ticks are definitely the bugs that I like the least. A week or so ago my friend Sir Stooge developed a giant bulls eye rash on the back of his calf. There was absolutely no mistaking it… Lyme disease. He never saw the deer tick that bit and infected him (Probably because the deer ticks are smaller than the flecks of mud and leaves that cling to all of our exposed flesh).

Lyme disease on the trail was no longer an abstract thing, it was there, with us amongst the rocks and rattlers in Pennsylvania. Before I reached Pennsylvania I’d only found two ticks on me… One deer tick (which I showed to my mom) and one dog tick, but neither of them had actually bitten and attached to me…

I stopped for lunch and took my shoes and then socks off because my feet were, as usual, feeling sore. As I peeled my dirty, sweaty socks off I noticed something stuck to my ankle just at the sockline. I absentmindedly tried to brush it off, something that I do dozens of times a day to brush random bugs, dirt, and mud off of me.

It didn’t move. I bent my head down to inspect this resilient piece of mud and discovered that it wasn’t mud at all… It was a tick. Ewwww… I wanted it off of me… Now!

It reminded me of one of the less pleasant experiences of my childhood…. Going swimming in the cove and discovering when I took a shower afterwards that I was covered in leeches instead of being covered in mud. For me it is a very strong, visceral feeling that tries to replace all of my rational thoughts with, “Get it off of me, get it off of me, Get!.. It!… Off!… Of!… Me!…

I took a deep breath, swallowed my visceral emotions, and tried to determine the best (and fastest) way to get the tick off of me. I wasn’t sure where my patented tick remover was in my pack, but something like a credit card would work just as well. My friend Lotus had her license handy, so I used her license like razor, bringing it down underneath and below the mouth and body of the tick and then quickly scraping it off of my leg and flicking it onto my waterproof stuff sack with one smooth motion.

Though I’d looked at it on my leg and decided that it was a dog tick and not a deer tick, I took a picture of it so I could double check later. Knowing what kind of tick it was mattered because some ticks carry Lyme disease and others don’t. The next time I had Internet access I looked at the pictures of the different kind of ticks and compared them to the tick that I had taken off of my ankle. It was definitely a female dog tick… I breathed a sigh of relief. At least *that* tick bite wasn’t going to give me Lyme disease.

P.S. If you’re curious about where Lyme disease is the most prevalent, the CDC has some startling maps of confirmed cases of Lyme disease.

10 thoughts on “Tick Time (Days 90-91)

  1. I never use to think about Lyme disease but within the last year two people I know got infected. Now I check myself anytime I’ve been out in the woods or tall grasses. Your friend, Sir Stooge should get to a doctor or clinic quick to get antibiotics. My friend had it for 6 months before diagnosis and she has been on antibiotics for a year and still recovering. It’s nothing to fool around with.

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    • He went to the ER and got put on antibiotics the same day that the bulls eye appeared. Lyme disease is something that most of us take very seriously. We know we are a high risk group for it, so we check ourselves and we check each other for ticks and bulls eye rashes. The bulls eye (if there is one) is pretty obvious, but we also consider the possibility of Lyme if someone out on the trail starts having flu-like symptoms.

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  2. Hey Patches! This is your Georgia family checking in with you! Love reading your posts! I am so amazed at all the challenges you have faced, your strength in overcoming your fears and the wonderful accomplishments you have had so far on your journey. Am so glad our cabin was able to help you in the beginning and will be rooting for you all the way to the end! Stay safe and keep enjoying the experiences – they will make a great book at the end!

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  3. NPR did a great segment on Lyme disease. One thing I learned from it was getting a test is useless when hiking. It takes anywhere from 2-3 weeks for test results to show after the bite takes place. Also, the disease effects people differently. Some people have little symptoms while others have neurological problems and even rare cases of death. I hope your friend’s symptoms is more mild than others. I hope your luck is hiking with you through the ticc infested woods. You had poison ivy down here, ticks up there. Are you out of the “Snake Pit” section yet?

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  4. Pingback: Deer are the scariest things in the woods… Here’s why! | Patches Thru

  5. Pingback: Ticks & Lyme Disease at home and on the trail… | Patches Thru

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