Hike Log

Making A Mountain Out of A Tick Hill


Corral / Flat Frog

Type of Hike:

Multi-night backpack

Trail Conditions:

Minor obstacles posing few problems


Road rough but passable


Bugs were terrible


Snow free

Ticks are going to kill me. Growing up, I was absolutely paranoid about ticks. As far as I knew, they appear on you, bury their heads under your skin, give you Lyme disease, and then you have lifelong disease that debilitates you and sends you to an early grave. These were the facts as I knew them, but I learned them in the Wild West days of unverifiable information in the era now known as “before the internet.” All the backpacking, all the hiking, all the peaks and valleys have been surprisingly tick free. Until the vast oceans of tick covered grasses swaying in the valleys and on the slopes of Mt Sizer. Uncountable blades of grass, with a tick on the tip of each one, arms reaching out, questing for me. The hike was delightful. Perfectly groomed trail along the slopes under oaks, wildflowers everywhere. Day one took us down a steep descent to our camp at Skeel’s meadow, where the ticks were. Ticks on my pants. Thoughts about ticks. Jokes about ticks. More thoughts about ticks. My paranoia crowded out all thoughts other than tick tick tick. Day 2’s hike took us to the heart of tick country, and also to the top of Mt. Sizer. The steep stretch of fire road known as the shortcut in the sun was a beast, but steep slopes won’t give you Lyme disease. The trail along the spine of the crest was amazingly pleasant. Like a walk down a country road with vistas to either side where other ridges could be seen. Then we took Jackass trail. Jackass trail is overgrown, giving the ticks easy access. At some point the horror turned to humor as more ticks were caught crawling on my pants, my wife’s shoes, my son’s pants, his shoes, and on his neck. At one point I felt that all that was left was to give up, to throw myself to the ticks, to lie down and roll in the grass. But in the midst of all this I got to know the ticks a little better. They were clumsier than I’d spent my whole life imagining. Almost pathetic. I watched them climbing up my clothes and then stupidly stumble and fall to the ground, without needing to be flicked away. Once, (and don’t ever tell that I admitted this) I actually stuck up for the ticks. My son asked me if ticks meant to be bad. I explained to him that they weren’t bad. That they are just trying to make a living life everybody else. Mosquitoes evolved to suck blood, and cats eat mice. Is the frog evil for eating the mosquito? No matter what a person chooses to eat involves injury or death to something else that is alive. Are we bad? We hiked down to Poverty Flat, and on day 3 climbed back out making our way via forest trail. Mt Sizer itself was small, much smaller than you’d think. And in my experience, Mt. Sizer is so much smaller than the ticks that occupied my thoughts for the duration of the hike. Despite this however, I  am grateful for having gone, grateful for having the opportunity to get to know the ticks a little better. My fears are much less acute and now when in tick country I might actually having an errant thought that is not bound up with tick paranoia. Who could ask for anything more from a hike than to encounter a fear and come away braver, stronger, better? Mt Sizer may have been little, but what I personally received from climbing it was big enough.


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