It is probably only fair that I contribute on occasion to our blog. Since I am certainly not a qualified expert in the field of survival and at times in common sense, it is probably best for me to teach our readers what not to do. I'll leave the expert advice to Red Fox. And if you are wondering why we let a fox around all these sheep...well, she's house trained so it is safe.
This story begins on a summer day a couple of years ago (before I started Sheepleg). As a bit of a back story, I was recently placed back on the market by my former lady so I had ample time to do what newly single guys do. I actually have no idea what that is so I decided to heed her advice and take a hike. At this point the longest hike I had been on was about 3 miles on semi-groomed paths. Did I mention I was also about 25 pounds overweight at the time?
So I grab my trusty CamelBak Bottle two Kashi Bars and hit the road. I live about an hour drive from Mammoth Cave National Park so that was my destination for the day. I get to the park and pick up a free map from the visitors center. My eyes honed in on what seemed to be a perfect back country trail, not caring about the distance of 14 miles. So back in the truck to the trail head.
Once at the parking lot, I noticed the ice had already melted in my bottle, probably a combination of the AC in my truck not working too well and the fact it was already 91 degrees outside and it was just past 10 am. At the time I thought nothing of it. I just grabbed the bottle and hit the trail.
Yes, you are right. Two granola bars and .75L of water for a 14 mile hike in 90+ heat. I also have never really thought about wearing bug spray in the past. My ultra manly pheromone stink glands always seemed to ward off bugs...and women it seems. They would literally jump off of me to bite someone else. And lastly, I left my hat sitting in the passenger seat.
So after spending the first 2 miles walking for 50 feet then running 50 yards to keep the gnats out of my ears I was pretty hot. After the 5th mile the water and Kashi bars were gone. As you can imagine the next 9 miles were filled with total misery. At times I had contemplated asking the people on horseback I saw to just drag me out of the woods. I was so desperate to cool off I was pulling some crap I saw on Nat Geo where Cheetahs lay in the dirt to cool of from the ground.
I had a GPS with me, but it was so old and useless I won't embarrass the manufacturer with providing a link to them. It worked so badly that there were stretches of the hike that were not logged because it did not get a signal for several miles through the trees. But one thing I did notice as I reached the end of the hike was that I had 150 feet of climb in the last half mile. And so it was only fitting that I basically crawled out of the woods up the hill to end my day of pain.
I drove top speed (25 MPH in the park) to the closest gas station and bought the largest bottle of water I could find. I was hungry but figured I would wait until I got home to eat something. 1 hour back home and I swung through the drive-thru to Eat Fresh when I got home.
I hit the door and smelled so bad I decided to take a quick shower before I ate. Would you believe that the shower could have been the WORST part of my day? Well it was.
As I was in the shower I noticed what seemed to be mud specs on my legs presumably from where I had to jump a few small muddy ditches. I scrubbed my legs to get the dirt off and as expected it started to run...but how often does dirt move up your leg in the shower. It was at this point I realized I had no less than a hundred (it seemed like a thousand) ticks on my legs below my knees and they were all heading up where the sun never sees the light of day. What a dilemma. I decided to take drastic measures to ensure they did not make it to their perceived destination and shut the water off, ran downstairs, and grabbed a can of Raid Ant Spray. It was the closest thing I had to tick killer.
Now you would not think that tiny little tick bites would leave a hole big enough in your skin to cause any spray to sting when applied. But as I was, you would be wrong. As I sprayed my legs above the knee to keep a line of resistance against any invaders to the promised land the cloud made its way down to the battlefield where it seeped into each individual bite mark and proceeded to burn in a fashion I had never quite encountered before. In my past I have been sprayed with pepper spray, and let me tell you that I would prefer pepper spray to this feeling any day of the week.
Confident the advancing enemy had been slowed enough to where I could figure out my next move, I ran back downstairs to look up the proper method of removing them. After reading that burning them would cause a massive poison vomit fest in my body I decided that tweezers would be the way to go.
Back in the bathroom filled with the haze of Raid I grabbed a cup, half filled with water, got the tweezers, and commenced picking. Not too bad on the first leg. Most of the enemy had buried their heads back in and were relatively easy to get since they were not moving any longer. They came up fairly easy. As I continued plucking the ticks and the occasional freckle (ouch) from my legs, the days exhaustion and hunger start to settle in. I am a naturally shaky guy, I have no idea why, but I have never won a single game of Operation in my life. That coupled with no food and a short 14 mile hike causes trembling that would cause shaken baby syndrome in someone less thick headed than I.
Thank goodness for Yoga. If it weren't for recently getting into the practice regularly I would have never been able to get all of them off my legs. This was the time I really could have used my former lady. Only someone that close to me was going to help/see me in that predicament, much less check my brown eye for ticks! After nearly 2 hours of picking at my skin and double checking the nether-regions for any who made it that far (thankfully none did) I gave up. I really wish I would have taken a picture of the carnage inside my cup of water. It was so filled with ticks floating in the water you could barely see through to the bottom.
I did take pictures of my ankles later as they and my feet started to swell.
It is important to note that I was wearing socks during my hike so how the little turds got in my shoes all the way down to my toes is beyond me. I still have a scar on my big toe just before the nail from this trip. For two weeks afterwards I could not tie my shoes nor sleep without slamming Benadryl every night. Partially for the pain and partially because it knocked me out. Believe me, when it wore off, I woke up...immediately.
From that day forward I have a new best friend.