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The Dark Side of Geocaching July 5, 2009

Posted by dreamom in Fears, Geocaching, Home, Life.

As followers of this blog will know, I have a new hobby.  Geocaching.  It is fun – you are given GPS coordinates, and use those, and generally a GPS to find a ‘cache’.  This is often a bag or box containing a logbook, and sometimes a small collection of miscellaneous items to be traded and swapped by all who find it.  The log book is filled with dates, screen names, places and notes to the creator of the cache.  Often in the description of the cache the creator will talk about the unique history, geography, etc of the area.  It offers mental stimulation, an educational opportunity, exercise, and a social experience with others that encounter the caches you visit.  What is bad about that?

The geocaching website has a disclaimer that says:

“Geocaching, hiking, backpacking and other outdoor activities involve risk to both persons and property. There are many variables including, but not limited to, weather, fitness level, terrain features and outdoor experience, that must be considered prior to seeking or placing a Cache. Be prepared for your journey and be sure to check the current weather and conditions before heading outdoors. Always exercise common sense and caution.”

That is perfectly reasonable – clearly they don’t want a law suit…  Today I encountered worst possible ‘variable’.  The wood tick.

This is not MY tick, but a picture of one like it off Flickr - there was no way I could have operated a camera!

This is not MY tick, but a picture of one like it off Flickr - there was no way I could have operated a camera!

As I rescued a cache from a grove of poplar trees, in a low lying area full of tall grass, I thought to myself – it is a good thing that tick season is over (according to several friends native to the area), or my goose would be cooked!  As quickly as the thought entered my mind, it left – with my discovery of the coveted container.

So Kevin and I arrived home, fed our children (the ones that are here – Kyle is away) a healthy dinner of white cheddar Mac ‘n Cheese, and commenced our bedtime routine.  As I sat at the computer catching up on email, facebook and the like I happened to lift my shirt to see if the slight sensation I had was a 1,000,000,000,007th mosquito bite.  To my horror what I discovered, was a paper thin, 1/2cm round insect which I recognized at once as being a tick.

People who know me know that I do not handle insects well.  I used to be fine, but in one shocking, horrible summer when I was maybe 14 or so – earwigs had a population boom in Ontario, resulting in earwigs showing up EVERYWHERE.  One day our family discovered them lining the walls and ceiling of our hall by our back door.  This particular summer scarred me for life.  It didn’t matter if it were creepy centipedes, disgusting earwigs, gross cockroaches (including the escaped giant African ones in the tunnels of UWO), stealthy spiders, intriguing caterpillars, cute lady bugs or the common ant.  They all – one by one started to illicit the same response.  I lose my ability to breathe, verbalize coherently, or see straight.  My body tenses, and I flail about in a non-verbal panic (although – occasionally for my kids I control the flailing and opt for the completely frozen on the spot option.)

Tonight, upon my shocking discovery, I stood up, and headed straight out to the deck where I paced like a caged animal muttering “tweezers, Anna, number, shoot, Julie, no, TWEEZERS, Linda, Evelyn, no no no…”  At this point Kevin is trying to dial the number of my friend Linda, who lives a solid 25 minutes away – to get phone coaching on tick removal.  I should point out that Kevin was not going to be a tremendous amount of help, as it is my job to extract slivers – lest he see some blood and pass out.  The idea of extracting anything from flesh is not in Kevin’s range of abilities (but we love him anyway!  🙂 )

I had been given tweezers, and attempted to grab the stationary bug with my shaking hands.  I managed to grasp it, and tried to pull on it – hoping that it was not embedded yet – before my shaking caused the tick to slip out of the grasp of the tweezers I noted that it had its barb in me, as my skin had pulled with the insect.  I knew I was so far in over my head I ran through the house and out the front door.  I was trying to think of people who might want, or maybe just not mind assisting me in this awful procedure.  Jon and Linda?  No – they were on vacation for 10 days.  Crystal?  I didn’t know if she was home from her trip back east yet, and is from Ontario, so might not know more than me…  Evelyn?  She mentioned the other day that she had moved here from Toronto…  What was with all the useless Ontario people!  (I can say that because CLEARLY I am the worst of them all…)

As I emerged from the house I caught the glimpse of my very pregnant Girl Guide Leader neighbour out for a walk with her husband, and some neighbours from further down the street.  THIS is what I needed.  A local Girl Guide Leader HAD to know how to do tick removal!  I ran up to the group panicked, and said “I really need some help, and have to preface this by saying that I am from Ontario and NEVER seen a tick before except for one that was on my dog but I didn’t do anything with it so I really don’t – I don’t like …”  At which point Kathy grabbed my arm, started up my driveway and said where is it?  I showed her the beast that seemed to grow exponentially in size every time I looked at it…   She magically grabbed it WITH HER HANDS, and pulled it off.  Just like that.  The whole time I am still yammering like an idiot – no breaks in sentences – heck, not even committed to completing an idea that might have resembled a sentence.

By this time the other female neighbour had come up, and was reassuring me that it would not be my last tick.  I did not find that reassuring!  Then she enquired as to the ticks fate, making sure that in Kathy’s extraction that she had properly destroyed the creature.  Around this time Kevin came out of the house with a naked Jordan to check on my prognosis.  Assured that the tick was out, that Kathy was both experienced and knowledgeable, he returned to the house to resume bedtime routines.  Slowly as I stood talking to Kathy, my ability to speak coherently returned, and I became much more calm.  I walked her home (as the men had gone ahead), and returned home.

As I sit here I am still trying to get the image out of my mind, and the sensation of bugs crawling on me off my body.  I go to bed tonight a wiser, more deeply scarred person.  I suggested to Kevin that he could bring me home a spray suit to geocache in.

A must for any outdoor activity in Manitoba during any season - with the possible exception of winter.

A must for any outdoor activity in Manitoba during any season - with the possible exception of winter.

He agreed that it would probably help avoid a repeat of today’s events, but that it might draw more attention to myself.  You see when you geocache you are supposed to be discrete to keep muggles (or people who don’t geocache) from uncovering the cache, and stealing/moving/or destroying it.  On the other hand people might think that the area had some toxic spill and I was there to check it out, and stay away?  I vote for that.  I want the suit.