The original Capital Cities video for Safe and Sound
Cold enough? Not yet? It will be. That’s my only worry about this thru-hike. Walking with my son through the woods, far from a Motel 6 or a bar with beer on tap, and shivering for night after night. I did a few impromptu “tests” of my clothing choices. A very nice base layer that feels like silk, a 1/4 zip REI synthetic, long sleeve t-shirt, and then a fleece pullover. Turns out I get hot. Put my down jacket on over all of that and I’m burning up. So, no, I probably won’t be found huddled next to a bar stool trying to keep warm. There is a bigger, more lethal, danger. It thrives in the warmer days of the year, and it has killed before.
Ticks are tiny. Hard to spot. They live in the forest, and upon the bags of mongrels. They also carry Lyme Disease. Go over to the CDC website and read up on it. First you get a rash, then maybe a fever. You shake it off and think it was just a virus, so you move on. A few days later a bullseye rash shows up, and it’s a foot or more across. You know you got bit by something, but it doesn’t bother you. It’ll go away. Nope. Let it ride for a little while longer and you will suffer a bout of Meningitis, swollen joints, and neurological problems causing seizures. Eventually, untreated, you will die. So wear your flea and tick collar!
Maybe not. Here is the low down: Prevention works.
1. Check yourself- It’s a thru-hike, so if you’re me you aren’t shaving. Get a comb and plow through the hair on your head and face. Have somebody look at your scalp. If you find a tick don’t simply pluck the fiend off of your skin. Use tweezers, or one of those “tick keys” the people on Appalachian Trials are selling this month. Get the whole bug out. If you do this daily chances are you will not contract the disease. It takes 36 hours for it to go down, so at the end of a hike you have nipped it in the bud. Nip it! Nip it! Nip it!
2. DEET- Problem with this stuff. It acts as a solvent on some synthetic materials, like your sleeping bag. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that would be high doses of it. It also causes seizures, if you drink it or use a bunch of it on your skin. It’s also been linked to cancer and schizophrenia, but I’m thinking those people were using it in copious amounts daily. Still it’s pretty safe. We’ve had it since World War II, and it is the de facto repellent (OFF!). A small amount on exposed skin will do the trick.
3. Permethrin- Good news. It has the same problems as DEET, but what are you gonna do? You can also put it on your clothes. The Army does it.
4. Long sleeves and pants- I don’t think so. It will be hot. But on those milder days, maybe wear a long sleeve shirt. Or not. I won’t. But I’m also contemplating not treating my water. What do I know?
With the chemicals go light. Don’t take a bath in the stuff. Check your body and remove all unwanted visitors promptly. Here’s a tip: Wear a hat, keep some Permethrin on it, but don’t let the stuff get in your eyes. It’ll cause blindness. See. Thru-hiking is safe (read this for info on the guy who was eaten by a bear in New Jersey a few months ago). Totally safe.
You can get Lyme Disease from any Deer Tick, not just the ones on the AT. So, yeah, it’s safe. There are ticks in your backyard that carry it. Lyme Disease? Hmmph.