Tick Trails

Promised Land State Park

Pennsylvania

June 1992

I’ve hiked horse trails in my life.  Only once was it a problem, and it wasn’t what you’d think, that being the delivery from the south end of a northbound horse.  The problem was the surprisingly overabundant number of flies.  Fortunately on today’s hike on the horse trail, the flies are not a problem.  Not a problem at all.  Nope, not this time.  This time the problem is the terrible, embarrassingly poor condition of the footpath.  I won’t say it is muddy.  I will say that there are occasional dry patches among the mud pits.  Thick, rich, viscous, vicious boot-sucking mud.  At times we can feel our boots slide off as they are getting pulled down toward the center of the earth, or toward some ancient ritualistic leather-consuming mudbath.  Or something.

But it isn’t the mud that discourages us.  Nope, not this time.  This time it is the poison ivy.  I mean, these must be the cultivation fields, where they raise the stuff.  I’ve never in my life seen so much poison ivy, and so robust and healthy!  My own garden should grow with this much gusto!

But it isn’t the poison ivy that’s doing us in.  Nope, not this time.  This time it’s the ticks.  Merrily we hike along, making fun of the sucking sounds of the mud, walking like drunken goofballs trying to avoid brushing up against the ivy, complaining about how horses tear up the trail.

Lisa notices a spot on the back of my leg that is not a clot of mud.  This clot of mud has legs, eight of ‘em.

The brochure for this forest, when we read it several days later, explains helpfully…

There are over 800 species of ticks.

Lucky for us, there are only three varieties on this forest, the Lone Star tick, the Black-legged tick and the American Dog tick.  They will attach themselves to a host — us — for 6 to 13 days.  If you find one or more on your skin, don’t leave it there that long.  Take it off.  Then keep it for a few weeks in the off chance symptoms develop.  In you.  Symptoms such as a red spot or rash, neck stiffness, headache, nausea, weakness, muscle or joint pain or a fever.  By keeping the tick, advises the brochure, it can be tested.

I’m wondering, what are we testing it for?  Algebra?

We leave this place the next day, moving to the northeast corner of the Forest to hike on a hiker-only trail, the theory being:  No horses, no ticks.  Good theory, it works, no ticks.

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