The Itch-Inducing Tick Hike

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.)

The Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail and the Nez Perce Nee-Me-Poo National Historic Trail in Lolo National Forest, Montana

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.)

We are at the trail head getting ready for our hike on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

The Lewis and Clark expedition traveled this trail in September, 1805. We were walking the trail in June.

Steve leads the way on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

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.

A tick on Steve’s shirt!

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. 

View from Lewis & Clark Trail at turn around point

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!

A tick inside Diane’s hat!

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?

-Steve

10 Replies to “The Itch-Inducing Tick Hike”

  1. OMG! What an experience.! And those were some pretty hefty looking ticks. That makes my skin crawl as well. I may not want to take another hike again after reading that!
    Thank goodness for your diligence in checking for the little buggers. Glad you came through unscathed.
    The only tick stories we have are from the TV show, The Tick! LOL

    1. Hi Donna. It was awful! At one point there were a couple dozen crawling up our pant legs. With all of the hiking over the decades, this was a first.

      Diane

  2. Lions and tigers and bears and TICKS!! Oh my!!! I think I remember reading that the Corps of Discovery found the ticks, mosquitos, and fleas worse than any of the myriad of hazards that the expedition had to face. Tiny, but extremely mighty. I’m so glad to know that you were able to assist each other in your own “questing”!

    1. Hi Linda. How interesting about Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery expedition! I did a quick search and sure enough found a link that shares of tick issues on the expedition. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that we were hiking the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail when the questing ticks discovered us! Here is the link: https://www.lewis-clark.org/article/3370

      Diane ☺️

  3. I hate ticks and now Im itching. Best story is dad asking me about a mole on his back. I look real close and scream, “It’s got legs!” Mom had to remove it.

  4. Hi Guys,
    I can’t stand ticks, usually because I’m sure I missed them even after checking. And I have no idea how I’m supposed to find them on the dog after hiking, but I suppose that’s why he gets flea and tick medicine. Still, I try. We get them here in northern MI and used to get them walking in the fields in IL. However, I know I’ve ever experienced the number you did! Miss you guys and hope you are doing well.

    1. Hi Tracy,
      Dogs and ticks aren’t a pleasant experience. Hopefully the flea and tick medicine that your dog received does the trick. My Mom raised Scottish Terriers. As kids it was fun to take a dog or two with us on our walks on the farm. Invariably there would be a tick on the dog, only found days later as it enlarged. Mom used the hot head of a blown out match to touch the tick. It usually lifted its head out of the dog’s skin. Then she’d use tweezers to extract it. We kids rarely had ticks.

      We miss you too. Hopefully we will be able to see you in Michigan next June. Perhaps we should compare schedules soon.

      Love
      Diane

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