Ticked Off

Ticked Off

Once springtime hits and the first flutters of mild weather breeze in, we’re all ready to get outside after a long, dreary winter. But with the spring thaw comes the onslaught of a nuisance of a different kind, the devil’s parasite – yup. The tick.

But as the wise old Clark Sisters once said, “Don’t let the Devil get ya down.”

In order to hike AND avoid ticks, it’s necessary to take some precautions. No matter how much you protect yourself, there’s always a chance you’ll still get bitten. So take ticks seriously, and protect yourself and your family from illness by following these simple, yet important steps:

 

Ounce of Prevention / Pound of Cure

Suit up, we’re going in! You know the drill – long socks (tuck ’em in Urkle), light colored clothing, PANTS. Typically we spray the squad down before we get in the car (we prefer to marinate in citronella) and carry along for mid-hike applications. Lately we’ve been using bug spray with 20% picaridin as opposed to a DEET based spray. If you’re sweet on DEET – NEAT! Spritz away. Maybe you like to go au naturale with lemon eucalyptus oil, in that case – mist me baby! Whatever you’re partial to – put that shit on and ride. If you’re looking for some serious armor, grab a pair of permethrin coated gaiters. Check out the Gear page for some products we use when we hit the trail.

Danger! Been So Long…

During the spring months and early summer, ticks are in their early growth stage. This means they are tinier, diseased, and even more demonic. Any hot day following a colder one is a boon for these blood fiends as they emerge hungrier than ever. *gags* The same is true for uncharacteristically warm days in the fall (second summer). Maybe it’s best to avoid hiking on these kinda days? Maybe you’re a thrill seeker.

 

 

Stay On Target!

One of the 7 principles of Leave No Trace ethics is to travel ON the trails. Not only is the key for avoiding excessive damage to our natural communities but it works twofold as a way to steer clear of any dark passengers. Stay the course. Follow the path. Avoid the long grass. Kids up the ante because they’re unpredictable balls of chaos that insist on going everywhere you wish they’d steer clear of. Do your best. Or buy a leash.

Check Up On It

Remember the movie Monsters Inc.? And the slug-like hag named Roz who was constantly on poor one-eyed Mike’s ass? I like to pretend I’m the Roz of the forest and the ticks are all micro-Mike’s who don’t turn in their paperwork on time. I am constantly scanning myself and the kids for little specks. They stop and I’m peeling back their ears. We have a snack and I’m lint rolling ankles. I stay vigilant. Be the Roz. “Always watching Wazowski. Always watching. Always.”

Deliver the Death Knell

We do a thorough check at the end of our hike before anyone gets in the car (a 2nd shout out to lint rollers!). When we get home everyone undresses on the porch – ticks trump indecency – and everyone heads in for a rinse in the shower. I take my life in my hands (a mother’s sacrifice amirite?) and gather all the clothes and head for the laundry room. If you think I’m dumping this toxic mass into the washer, “EEERRT!” WRONG. Open up that dryer and ring the funeral bells. Did you know ticks can actually survive a wash cycle? Even hot water (more proof they’re Beelzebub’s handiwork) ! But it’s

Head Games

Here you are, scratching an itch and you feel a new mole you never noticed before…and then it hits you…you’ve been BITTEN! If it were me, I’d hop in a dumpster and light it on fire (don’t do this). Nah, don’t panic. Throw on some Coldplay and follow these steps:

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  4. Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Cya Suckaaa.

For more information on tick prevention, removal, and identification and more, check out

And if you’re struggling with ticks in your yard at home, but using chemicals to treat the problem is just not for you, check out this list of tick-fighting plants you can put in your own backyard!

50 Things To Do On the Trail

50 Things To Do On the Trail

 

Sometimes keeping spirits up and minds occupied is more exhausting than the actual hiking! These games and activities will help you and your children stay engaged and interested out on the trail. Keep scrolling for all 50.

50 Things To Do On The Trail

  1. Follow the leader – Always a classic, use your imagination to spice it up!
  2. Sing – Any old song will do. Some of our favorites are call & response style; anything Ella Jenkins – check out Jambo & Get Moving.
  3. Bring binoculars, field guides, magnifying glasses.
  4. Appoint “Park Rangers” to help keep trail clear and safe.
  5. Create a scavenger hunt list – this can be done on the fly with general nature items or in advance and more specific to each trail, depending on your level of ambition. For a free hunt printable, click here. To shop our Nature Hunt Inserts & Nature Boards, click here
  6. Play I Spy – Make it more challenging by adding rules like, “pick something that shares your first initial.”
  7. Build a cairn.**
  8. If there’s a bridge, play Poohsticks.
  9. Tag blazes or trail markers to “Power Up” when energy lags and a mental boost is needed.
  10. Tell a story or a create a Pass Along” story – Use a pinecone, stick, or acorn to “pass along.”
  11. Allow collecting** – We are always reinforcing Leave No Trace” and earth stewardship, but experiential learning in nature is also valuable. Sometimes just let them take those pinecones home. Use your judgement. This article from the founder of HikeItBaby helped us find balance.
  12. On flats & fields, have a race or play “catch me.”
  13. Measure a tree, try to calculate its age.
  14. Make a bark rubbing.
  15. Listen to a tree, 10 different ways.
  16. Look for mammal tracks, signs, and scat
  17. Stand or sit still for 1 minute, just listening – Setting a timer can help “challenge” fidgety kiddo.
  18. Roll down a hill!
  19. Start a nature notebook or sketchbook – Record your findings and observations.
  20. Hunt for mosses and lichens.
  21. Practice wayfinding using a compass.
  22. Skip stones.
  23. Use nature to forecast the weather.
  24. Look for catkins – (springtime activity, take your allergy meds!)
  25. Learn to identify trees by leaves or bark.
  26. Hunt for woodpecker trees.
  27. Pick some flowers for pressing.
  28. Look for squirrel dreys – Another Springtime activity.
  29. Learn to identify different birdsong and calls.
  30. Take a closer look in a pond by pond dipping.
  31. Collect frogs eggs, grow and release – Before collecting from any old pond, be sure to research legalities or contact your local environmental agency. Protected areas need to be left alone.
  32. Have a snail race.
  33. Dig for earthworms.
  34. Find a birds nest – Take photos, sketch or log your findings but do not disturb nests you find!
  35. Collect caterpillars, Watch Lifecycle, and Release – Follow the same principles as frog egg collecting. Be sure to release in the same area you collected from!
  36. Learn to identify butterflies.
  37. Take a closer look at an ant colony.
  38. Lay down on your back & go sky swimming – Imagine shapes in the clouds!
  39. Collect bird feathers.
  40. ABC game – Starting with “A” identify something in your surroundings that starts with that letter. See if you can make it to “Z”!
  41. Hug a Tree!
  42. Animal Walking – Taking turns, the leader chooses an animal and mimics how they’d “walk,” and everyone else follows suit.
  43. Bring sketchbook & colored pencils – Watercolors if you’re brave and patient!
  44. Rainbow hunt game – Beginning with red, identify objects in your surroundings that match the colors in a rainbow.
  45. Senses Hunt game – Find something you can See, Hear, Touch, Smell, & Taste (bring a snack!).
  46. Start Geocaching!
  47. Paint & Hide Rocks**
  48. Bring disposable cameras – Let your child have full reign in what they choose to photograph. Makes for much more fun
  49. Poetry On the Go – Someone starts an easy 1st line like, “I really love to take a walk…” the next person continues with another rhyme, and so on.
  50. “When You Hear…”game – Choose a trigger sound such as a bird chirp. Line up single file while walking. Whenever the trigger sound is heard, the1st person in line has to run to the back. Great for group hikes!

Have any tried and true games or activities you do on the trail? We’d love to hear from you! Share with us in the comments!

 

**These activities are hotly debated subjects in the Leave No Trace world. It’s important to stay educated about how humans effect our natural environments and make informed decisions and choices based on what is right for both place & people.