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 or pre-treat your socks and shoes with a spray like Sawyers. 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 just 10 minutes in a high heat dryer that dries the life out of those little suckers. I’m here for it.
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:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- 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.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- 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!