I was going hiking in a forest in the middle of summer. All the bugs were going to be out in full force. Ticks that can cause Lyme disease, biting flies, mosquitoes that can give me West Nile virus. Poison ivy plants that will cause boils all over my arms and legs. I had even seen pictures of the boils on the Internet. I shouldn’t have.
I was also worried about the leeches in the streams and the lakes, but mostly, I worried about the ticks.
During the trip, I never went out for even a few minutes without spraying bug spray on every inch of exposed skin. Not that I had much of a choice, all the mosquitoes for miles around descended on me in huge swarms the moment I stepped out. They seemed to pick me out particularly. My hiking companions joked that they really didn’t need bug spray as long as I was with them, all the bugs were going to hover around me and leave them alone.
So it was not surprising that despite dousing in bug spray, I acquired a large swelling in the center of my forehead. Biting flies were the culprit, apparently. “Harmless”, they told me. I was now looking a little like B’Elanna Torres. It was an interesting new look, but unfortunately it went away after a day.
I hadn’t paid too much attention to bug spray before. When I was buying bug spray, I just checked to see what the spray protected against. There were orange cans and green cans, all of the same brand. All of them contained DEET, of course, and they all protected against the same set of bugs. The green ones contained a little more concentrated DEET than the orange. So I picked the green. More DEET is better, right?
Turns out I was wrong. The orange ones smelt faintly of oranges, or something almost pleasant. The green ones stank horribly. But with the Klingon look already in place, I had no choice but to rub stinking green bug spray all over my face.
Then there was the poison ivy danger. The hiking trails were narrow, with knee-high plants on both sides of the trail. Some were even taller, and all of them waved around in the breeze. I walked carefully, looking hard at each leaf that brushed me and wondered if it was poison ivy. I did not see any poison ivy. Mostly because I have no idea exactly what it looks like.
I did, however, see a snake. It scuttled off just in front of me, and I had the presence of mind not to step on it. “Snake ahead” I reported to those behind me (just in case they stepped on it, I am a big fan of the SPCA) and continued. The snake didn’t worry me – not just because I knew none of the snakes in this part are poisonous. I wasn’t worried because snakes don’t give you Lyme disease.
We returned quite unscathed. As far as I know, I did not met any ticks or leeches, or even poison ivy. That alone should make the trip a success.
As we pulled into our driveway, I noticed that the plants we planted last week seemed a little droopy. So I rushed off to water them, and then I saw that a lot of my roses had flowered. A quick tour of the garden was obviously needed. I walked on the backyard lawn in my flip flops, checking to see if the plums have ripened, and whether the crab apple’s berries have become bigger.
Immediately, and perhaps inevitably, I got bitten in the ankle by a bug. I hope it’s a spider, not a mosquito. Spiders don’t carry the West Nile virus.
Still, it could have been worse. At least it’s not a tick.