Monday, May 25, 2009

Dune The Best We Can

Over the past several years, Iwanski and I have spent many hours walking in the forests of northern Wisconsin and Michigan, the Ozark Mountains, and the Smokey Mountains. For a couple of city people like us, we sure do like the country.

And as a former Girl Scout like me, I always come prepared. I always bring SPF-15 Sunscreen, Deep Woods Off, a bottle or two of water, some kind of snack, and an extra sweatshirt in case I get cold. I do not like to be itchy, sunburned, thirsty, hungry, or cold. I am pretty much the definition of high maintenance.

Iwanski, on the other hand, brings along his sunglasses and his camera. That’s it—that’s all he needs. But being a smart guy, he also uses the sunscreen and insect repellant that I bring along. He is especially adamant about the bug repellant. And it’s not so much the mosquitos he’s concerned about; it’s the ticks. For as long as I’ve known him, Iwanski has been very concerned about ticks. Okay, not just concerned—downright paranoid. Every time we go to a wooded area, he warns me over and over again about ticks, and sprays every square inch of his body with insect repellant. (He spent a lot of time in his childhood in Central Wisconsin, during a time when Lyme Disease was very prevalent and he had been warned over and over again by everyone he knew to avoid ticks.) But it’s okay, because MHP was a Girl Scout and never forgets to bring along the Deep Woods Off.

Except for this weekend. This weekend, we decided to take a train ride to the Indiana Dunes. I had never been to the Dunes, but the word “dunes” conjured up in my head images of huge mounds of sand that people would try to climb up and slide back down. And yes, that was partly true. But there were also lots of trees and plants and a fair amount of insects, which I had not anticipated. So of course, I had not brought along my trusty bottle of Deep Woods Off. But the mosquitos weren’t biting too badly, so we lucked out on that aspect.

We enjoyed sojourning among the tall sand dunes, imagining ourselves wandering through the Sahara Desert—and we even saw little lizards and an occasional cactus (yes, there are both lizards and one type of cactus in that area of the Midwest). It is an amazing, beautiful place—very unique in our part of the country.

Then we took our hour-long train ride back to downtown Chi-town and wrapped up the lovely day with a couple of ice-cold beers, and fell asleep dreaming of the dunes.

And then it happened.

It was 5:00 in the morning, and I suddenly heard Iwanski talking, “Honey, wake up! I have to tell you something.” He turned on the closet light, and I squinted back at him. “What? What’s wrong?”

“I got bit by a tick,” he said.

“What?!” I bolted up right in bed. Now I was wide awake. “Where? When?”

“Just now,” he said. “I went to the bathroom, and I noticed something biting me on my shoulder. I grabbed it and yanked it off of me. See?” He showed me a small red mark on his shoulder. He paused for a moment and then said nervously, “Oh my God, now I have Lyme Disease!”

“Oh, don’t worry honey, you probably don’t have Lyme Disease.” Then I started to think about the tick crawling around in our bed, and I got really creeped out. I jumped out of bed and asked Iwanski to check me for ticks, and we stood there at five in the morning looking over each other’s bodies for any signs of another little arachnid. (I found out later that a tick is not an insect, but an arachnid. Not that that knowledge made me feel any better about it!) But thankfully, that appeared to be the lone tick. (Still, I’m itching right now just thinking about it.)

The next hour was spent with Iwanski huddled nervously over the laptop, looking up the incidences of Lyme Disease in the Indiana Dunes area, and the symptoms of Lyme Disease—while I lay on the couch trying to calm him—and myself—down. Luckily, the incidences of Lyme Disease in the Indiana Dunes area is very small, and we learned that overall, way less than 1% of people that get bitten by ticks end up with Lyme Disease. Well, thank God for that!

We could finally go back to bed—but not without first thoroughly inspecting and shaking out every pillow, sheet, and blanket on our bed. Then finally, we both fell asleep again, but this time, dreaming of ticks crawling all over our house. Yuck!

Miss Girlscoutpants has learned a big lesson this weekend, folks—and she will never again be caught in the country without a bottle of Deep Woods Off.

Because as much as I like to call Iwanski “paranoid” for his concern about ticks, I did not like the fact that he got bitten by one—and I sure would not want to be bit by one of those icky little suckers myself.


Sling said...

This will probably sound gross..but here it is.
While in the military,I would go home from a few weeks in the field,and remove half a dozen well fed ticks from my hair,and other places too humorous to mention.
Here's a couple facts;
1)Lhyme disease is carried by the deer tick..any deer on the sand dunes?
2) They make a big fuss about 'removing the head',but if you pluck the body out,that's where the 'disease' is stored..In any case,I've never failed to get the whole critter out by just yanking it out of my skin.
3) You don't need to burn it out.
If you want,carry some fingernail polish with you,and brush it on the beast.
It suffocates after a bit,and is easily removed,head and all.
..You can't find this advice in stores,..only the experience of 3 years in the tick infested plains of Kansas.
I've suffered hundreds of the nasty little things,and I'm ferfectly pine.

jp said...

I'm with Sling in that they are an accepted reality of any outdoor midwest activity, and while it's disgusting that they might be burrowed in your skin, it's unlikely that there will be longterm repercussions.

But more importantly, I need you to do all my packing from now on because I pack the same way Iwanski does.

Lisa said...

I hope Iwanski is okay. What a drag. You remind me, though, that I need to be very aware when packing. And with all the trees and stuff around here and the kids wandering the woods, I need to remind them to cover up and put on Deep Woods Off or something like that every time they go out.

Buck said...

Great title!

BTW - in the South. we used to collect ticks and crain them for a tick circus. It was fun.

sageweb said...

Ha ha...I was just imagining you both naked doing a tick inspection. I have no idea why my mind went to being naked.

Mathman6293 said...

Maybe one of those clip-on Off things would work - like the clip-on mittens.

Random Thinker said...

We've never had any ticks on us but the dogs get them every so often. They usually look like big brown lima beans by the time we find them. Gross. Tell Iwanski he probably has more chance of contracting swine flu than lyme disease.

murry said...

Hate those things! Yesterday late afternoon, I layed on the couch to take a nap, and was just about sleeping when I felt something crawling on me...there was a tick. There are so many of them this year around here, that it really creeps me out. The kids love to take them outside and burn's the only way to kill those creepy things! Last year we went hiking at a nature preserve...and when we got home we must have pulled at least 20 of them off of each of us. I had nightmares for weeks!

MaryRuth said...

Sounds like a great time, except for the tick part! In all my years of camping in WI and other places, I never had a tick bite me. Guess I don't have sweet blood.

Diane said...

OMG, this post made me laugh so hard! Why is the word tick like the big C word c-a-n-c-e-r? I think we have been indoctrinated to think that ticks are somehow like that gross worm in very hot climates that live in the body only to stick it's head out to reproduce and that is the only time one can kill it and if it is not killed properly the person is a gone-er! Seriously, what would happen if a tick lived under the skin for years? Would ones body fill up with little baby ticks and then get eaten from the inside out? Okay... now I am grossing myself out!

Fantastic Forrest said...

Yikes. This is scary. Please, Miss H, go check out this blogger's post:

I think Iwanski might want to get tested to make sure he's okay. Better safe than sorry.

Anonymous said...

The skin disease is characterized by multi-colored fiber-like (filamentous) strands extruding from the skin!

Anonymous said...

Took me time to read the whole article, the article is great but the comments bring more brainstorm ideas, thanks.

- Johnson

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