On June 10, 2019 we went for a hike in the Lolo National Forest in Montana. We were interested in putting our feet “in the single-track tread where the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the Nez Perce Indians put theirs.” (USDA Forest Service, Lolo National Historic Trail, retrieved from https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/lolo/learning/history-culture/?cid=fsm9_021409&width=full September 30, 2019.)
We picked a section of the trail near where we were staying, at the Square Dance Center and Campground west of Lolo, Montana. (Fortunately for us, they accept non-dancers at the campground. When Diane and I are ready to learn square dancing, we will definitely head back to the Center.)
The Lewis and Clark expedition traveled this trail in September, 1805. We were walking the trail in June.
Unbeknownest to us, May and June are tick season months in the forests of Montana and Idaho! We were aware of ticks, and knew to check for them when hiking. However, …
About 30 minutes into the hike Diane noticed a tick on her pants. We stopped to brush it off and then kept walking. At our next pause we noticed a few more on each other.
Heedless of the danger we pushed on. Our next stop was at an overlook that we barely noticed for our attention was on the ticks appearing fast and furious. As quickly as we could pick them off our clothes, more would appear. We turned around and hightailed it back to the trail head. During the return we stopped frequently to check for ticks and remove any we found.
Do you know how ticks land on you, or any animal that happens to pass by? They “quest.” Which means they crawl up vegetation, usually grass, and wait for a host to pass them. They hold on to the grass with the rear six legs and extend the front two legs waiting, or “questing.” Using a variety of techniques, they react to a potential host and grab on as the host brushes past. Once on the host the tick will start to climb up. All of my research indicates that the ticks do not drop from trees or other higher vegetation, but we were finding ticks on our backpacks, on our hats, everywhere! It was a windy day, so maybe the ticks were blown off their grassy ambush places and finding us. It is a bit creepy to think of all those ticks attaching at calf level and then scampering all the way to your head!
Reaching the trailhead we stopped in the middle of the parking area, which we had completely to ourselves, did one more check to remove our unwelcome hitchhikers. Diane removed her hat, only to find one crawling around the inside!
When we arrived back at our trailer we stripped outside except for bare necessities and left most of our clothes in a pile. Then another thorough inspection and into the shower. After our showers, we also filled a plastic tub with water, dumped all of our clothes into the tub, and left it outside our trailer overnight.
Despite the thorough inspections and the care in removing the ticks, at the end of the showers we discovered drowning ticks on the floor of the shower. Also, the next morning, the tub of water with our clothes revealed even more ticks floating on the surface!
The good news is none of the ticks had a chance to sink their teeth into us. (Do ticks have teeth? I read where they use their ‘mouth parts’ to bore a hole and then insert a tube to suck the blood!) Our checking and rechecking paid off. However, our skin still crawls whenever we think of this hike!
What tick story do you have?