Thursday, April 1, 2010

Brush With Nature

If you’re the mother of a teenage girl, sometimes the closest you get to observing wildlife in its natural habitat is strolling around the mall. This week the weather is so inviting, my daughter suggests a hike.

We pick a trail in a canyon along the San Diego River. Rainy days and warm weather have urged wildflowers and critters out of hiding, too. I follow my daughter and dog Luna, stopping here and there to enjoy green mountains dotted with purple and orange. Next to us, water striders skim along the top of the water. Lizards spring out of nowhere, stop to flex their muscles with a push-up or two, and then wriggle up piles of rocks.

We pause at the top of a hill and enjoy the burble of the stream. “What’s that on Luna’s back?” my daughter asks. “Is that a tick?”

My daughter has seen one tick in her life, at my parents’ house in New York. I haven’t seen one here in twenty years. “I doubt it,” I say, not bothering to look. “It’s just a spider. Flick it off.”

She nudges it with the leash.

“Not like that,” I tell her. “Now it’s probably on the leash. Brush it off.”

She cracks the leash like a whip.

“Ouch!” I protest.

“Oh, sorry,” she says. “I wanted to be sure I got it off.”

I rub the sore spot on my thigh as we walk on. The trail narrows as we get further into the canyon; shrubs reach out across the dirt path. We pass through a long patch of shrubbery and stop to enjoy the view.

“There’s another one of those things,” my daughter says, pointing to a spot on Luna’s back.This time I bend down to get a look.

“Ew!” I hop back, suddenly remembering why I prefer hiking on wide open trails. “It is a tick!” I flick the offending creature into the grass. We both shudder and leap around, doing the I-feel-like -I’m-crawling-with-bugs dance. Luna tips up her nose and sniffs the air.

We glance around. We’re deep into the canyon now. Besides that, we’ve taken a trail that doesn’t loop around like some other trails in the park. To return, we have no choice but to reenter the tick-infested thicket. My daughter bites her lower lip. We stare at each other and read each other’s thoughts: how ‘bout we just stand here indefinitely? No chance we can get airlifted out of a canyon just because ticks freak us out.

Resigned, we pick our way gingerly back through the woods. With stomachs sucked we sidle through the brush, trying not to scrape against any leaves. At every clearing we pause to inspect ourselves.

“I’d rather get poison oak,” I say as we march on.

“Me too,” my daughter agrees, trailing behind me with Luna. “I’d rather scratch for a week than have a tick on me for one second.”

“I’d rather spot a mountain lion.”

“Yeah, me too. At least they’re not gross and they don’t stick in your hair.”

“Or a snake,” I say.

“Oh, a snake, sure. You see those in the pet store.”

“No kidding.” I pick a leaf from my shirt. “I’d much rather…whoa!” I dig in my heels. My daughter and Luna plow into my backside.

“What are you doing?” my daughter protests.

“Snake.” I say.

“Are you serious?”

“Yes, really.”


“Right there! I almost stepped on it.” We watch the snake slip past us into the grass.


“No, it’s okay.” I say. “I think it’s a friendly snake.”

“No, never mind the snake.”

“What, then?”

“We better take back the part about the mountain lion.”

“Oh, right. Good point.” I say. And in case the spirits of the trails were still listening, I state firmly, “We were only KIDDING about the MOUNTAIN LION.”

I see a group of hikers approaching. An enthusiastic puppy scrambles beside them, a husky with big blue eyes and a coat like a feather duster.

“Watch out for ticks,” I offer as they pass by. “Don’t let her get into the tall grass.”

As soon as they pass, I start laughing.

“What’s so funny?” my daughter asks.

“I forgot to mention the snake.”

“Oh, great, Mom. They’ll yell, ‘Hey, why didn’t you warn us about that snake over here?’ and you’ll be like, ‘Yeah, yeah…snake, whatever. Didn’t you hear me? There are ticks out here. Ticks! TICKS, I say!’”

By the time we reach the car, another tick had already burrowed into Luna’s back leg. As I open the car door to let the dog and her nasty little hitchhiker into the back seat, I turn to meet my daughter’s disgusted look.

“Well then. Next time, the mall?”


Kim Kasch said...

A real adventure hike - who needs Animal Planet or Man versus Wild

Bish Denham said...

LOL! Even ticks enjoy a lovely spring day and will take advantage of a friendly dog (or human.)

LW said...

What a story, I am laughing here…You are too funny.
You really should send some of your stories to your local newspaper
for publication… maybe do a little drawing to go with them.
We have a home town section in our local paper and they eat up things like this, but I must say none have been as good as this story.
And because I live in Connecticut the tick capital of the world I found this story so amusing.


Anya said...

Wonderful Story :-)

Have a Happy Easter

ICQB said...

Mountain lions and ticks and snakes, oh my!

For all the ticks I've encountered, one would think I'd have lyme disease, but not yet (knock on wood).

What an adventure! Sounds like a beautiful hike (without the ticks). Nice to know you kept your sense of humor in the face of those creepy littel buggers. They give me the heebie jeebies.

Keri Mikulski said...

Love it!! :)

Snakes and ticks.. Yuck..

Happy Spring! ;)

Mary Witzl said...

That was great. I've missed reading your blog and I'm glad you're back!

I'm the mother of a teenage daughter too, and you had me at the very first sentence. And that was a perfect tie-in with your conclusion.

The truth is, I'd far rather have a tick bite than meet a mountain lion, but it would be nice to know it wasn't the kind that cause Lyme disease. Mountain lion bites, though -- I'm guessing they'd all be dangerous.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Oh man! That is an adventure and a half! Ticks just make me feel all skeevy. I could handle the snakes and maybe poison oak, but ticks? I'm itching to THINK of it!

Anne Spollen said...

We live in the tick capital of the East Coast. I didn't know this until about six months after we moved here and I took Mazy to the vet. She had a really terrible case of Lyme disease despite a vaccination and vigilant use of Advantix. Apparently, if a dog is under stress (the move) they can still get Lyme even with safeguards. At least that's what the vet told us about $500.00 later...

Yes, it's fun to be nature girls, isn't it? I like paintings of mountainy places now much more than hiking.

adrienne said...

Kim - Although if you watch it on TV, you don't have to deal with the creepy-crawlies...

Bish - Somehow it's hard for me to feel they deserve to enjoy it, especially when I'm involved!

Louise - Years ago I wrote some stories for a (very small) local paper - I really enjoyed it! I haven't pursued it lately, but you've given me something to think about.

Anya - Hi! Happy Easter to you too!

ICQB - Sometimes I wonder how I managed growing up on the east coast - those things still creep me out!

Keri - It's easy enough to enjoy spring here, but I could do without those things, too.

Mary - We decided the mountain lions would be loaded with ticks anyway...just another reason we'd prefer they keep their distance!

Green Girl - You're surrounded by boys and woods - I would think you'd be used to dealing with things like ticks by now...

Anne - Nature girls, yes! Sometimes we feel so competent, and other times we wonder how we manage to make it out of there.

Suzanne Casamento said...

Great story. Who knew hiking could be so trecherous? Good thing you took back the comment about the mountain lion. ; )

Jen said...

What a story!!!! I found your blog thanks to Bish and I'm loving it!!! Your profile picture is what caught my eye and your blog is so cute!! I love it!!!

I look forward to reading future posts!

adrienne said...

Suzanne - Yep, careful what you wish for! That's an animal I'd rather see from a veeeerrrryyy safe distance.

Jen - Glad you made your way over here! Bish's blog is a lovely place to hang out...a mini vacation.

Sliding on the Edge said...

But the mall doesn't offer up the variety of challenges . . . wait, I take that back.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Now you've made me start itching! I HATE ticks too. I've had too many tweezer and tick memories!

It's so good to see you're back to blogging! I've missed you!

adrienne said...

Sliding... - It's just a challenging world out there! :D

Becky - Aren't ya glad I didn't post a picture?

Ara Burklund said...

Ew! Ticks are so creepy!!! Glad to know this is the season, though. I'll be careful next time I take my dog hiking!

Rena said...

I love it! Haven't seen any ticks in MT yet, but remember them from all over CA, especially when we went camping at the beach.

LOL @ the mountain lion. I'd LOVE to see one of those.

sruble said...

Yikes!!! I knew there was a reason I liked the mall ;)