Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Glorious Hike

Photo by Penguin Scott in Colorado

by Penguin Scott 4-4-09

It was a glorious day. The sun was out, the sky was a crystal blue, a slight breeze came off the ocean and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen. I decided to head out for a walk before going to a party later in the evening.

A few days ago, my neighbor had told me about a place one can hike to get a grand view of the surrounding area. Living near the Pacific and just south of San Francisco has its benefits. There are great mountains and trails for hiking, as well as areas right along the ocean. It’s such a fantastic mixture of city and wilderness.

I drove to the place she told me about and started up. It was a tough little hike, going at such a great incline. But I could tell from looking at the summit the view would be a reward worthy of the effort; so I kept going.

Before long I reached the summit of a hilltop. And the view really was spectacular. Not only could I see the whole area in which I lived in Linda Mar and the ocean stretching out to the West, but I could see north, along Highway One, to part of the city, and even the tops of the Golden Gate Bridge were visible.

Here, there was a fence, some shrubs and a lone tree, which, for a short while, provided some necessary shade. I erred in wearing a long sleeve black shirt, as it was absorbing all the heat of the sun and made me very warm. I couldn’t take it off, since I had no sun screen, so I endured.

Were I to cross this fence and follow the trail onwards, I could see that it wound around and led to the top of the horizon of hills that ran north and south. I didn’t plan on a long hike, I should have turned back at this point, but I just knew if I kept going I would get to see the bay. So I crossed the fence and kept going.

The weather was fantastic, a cool breeze was blowing. Hawks circled above. Small birds played amongst the shrubs and moles, or some sort of burrowing animals, made their presence known from all the little mounds of fresh dirt they shoved from under the trail. I was really enjoying this hike, seeing the mountains in the area from a perspective I’ve not seen them from before.

I finally reached my goal, the summit, a long and often hard trek, making me breathe harder than I have in a long time, my feet ached and head was tired of the hat that shielded my face from the sun, which still bore its heat down upon my back as it sunk lower in the West. But I reached the summit to see a stone. Upon reading it I found this to be the place from which the Portola Expedition first discovered the bay. I felt like I was on top of the world.

Below was the San Andreas Fault, with a small lake. Beyond that was highway 280 and SFO airport. Then the bay and across that was Oakland. I could see San Bruno Mountain and Coyote Point. Behind me, that massive ocean; and to either side, a trail embarked upon the ridge of the mountains.

I sat for a bit and watched it all. I saw a mouse scurry across the trail to my left. I could smell the eucalyptus trees nearby. I was all alone.

After a bit, I decided I needed to head back. My little one mile hike was now a four mile hike and I needed to get ready for the party. I had hoped to nap first, but it was almost six and I needed to leave at seven.

Getting back to my car was much easier than the hike up. There were some spots I had to climb on the way back, but for the most part, it was all downhill. As I got into my car and drank some water I had there, I thought to myself, I’m really going to regret this tomorrow! My feet were sore, my thighs pulsed and my knees ached. Getting old is so much fun!

I got home and saw that I had about 20 minutes to get ready. I started the shower and undressed. The hot water felt really good. I felt an odd sensation on my left calf, like a flea bite. I instinctively reached down and scratched it, noticing that there was more there than just my leg. I looked down and shrieked in horror! I was in such a state, that at this time, I cannot correctly recall the noise that emitted from me, but I’m sure it wasn’t pretty- or very manly.

“A flipping tick!” (Flipping was not the actual word I used, the word I used was more manly.)

I wanted to faint. My alpha cat, Adelie came into the room and was quite vocal. I had scared him and he thought there was something very wrong. I called back to him to calm him down and tell him I was OK. I finished cleaning myself off, avoiding the tick, which looked to me like I’d done some damage to it when I tried to scratch the itch. It was just there, its legs dangling, looking like it was trying to dig to China via my leg. I thought of an ostrich with its head in the sand, the way it looked on me.

Adelie was having a fit, even so much as to come into the shower with me! I had a tick in my leg and a cat in my shower, screaming at me, while I’m yelling back at him to calm down and get out. I turned off the water and dried off. The cat is calmer now, but wanting to rub up against me. I’m wet, so I push him away, still very conscious of the eight legged creature attached to me.

I couldn’t quite reach the tick, it was on the outside of my left calf, and I’m very right handed. I threw on some shorts and a shirt and headed upstairs to find my neighbor for her assistance. She was not home. What do I do now? Mom! She’ll know what to do.

I called Mom and told her what was going on and asked what I should do. She started laughing. A lot. Now I had a tick in my leg, my cat was still meowing for me and my mother was laughing at me.

“Mom,” I said, “I don’t think I can laugh it out. What’s so funny?” She didn’t answer, but sensing the tension in my voice, she told me to hang on- she’d look it up on line and call me back. It was either that or go to a hospital. “I was about to go to a party,” I told her.

“Oh, there should be lots of people there to help you.” But I didn’t want to drive to a party with a tick in my leg! But then I realized, a good friend of mine who just became a nurse may be there. I’ll call her! No answer. I tried her boyfriend. No answer. I tried another friend who I knew would be there. No answer. Was I alone in the world? I’d been trying to call friends all day and had not spoken to a soul!

When Ra answered, I told him I was so happy he was alive! I told him of my invader and made an odd noise. He told me to calm down, but didn’t realize my odd noise was just for dramatics and not really indicative that I really was freaking out. Although, I really was freaking out. I thought I might pass out, even. (OK, I really have a thing about ticks, if you’ve not noticed by now!)

Calm Ra told me he thought one was supposed to twist it out, counter-clockwise. “My counter-clockwise or the tick’s counter-clockwise?” I wondered. He told me to hold on, he would look it up on his puter.

He told me to use tweezers to pull it out, grasping as close to the body as possible, being careful not to squeeze the bug’s guts and head into my skin. I nearly passed out again. He told me to be strong and that I’d be fine. After telling me to call him after it was done, we hung up.

I had to make like a pretzel to get to where I could reach the bugger with the tweezers. It took a few tries; I nearly passed out, yet again. And it was now that I realized the tick was still very much alive, as it started waving all of its legs around, not very happy to be plucked from such a juicy morsel! I finally got it out and didn’t see anything left in my leg, like its head. I got a magnifying glass out and took a closer look at it and it looked as if I got it all.

I called Mom back, it’d been over ten minutes. “I could be dead now, you know; you haven’t called back!” She had tried, but the phone was busy, I guess while I was trying to call others. She told me the same thing Ra had, and it was as if she was using the same web site. I told her I had already done it and seemed successful. She said I should I keep it, in case they needed to test it for Lyme disease. But I’d already washed it down the sink. “Well, if you get redness or swelling or feel feverish or achy, like with a flu, you need to see a doctor.

I asked why she had laughed before. She said she thought it was embarrassing. To get a tick? I asked. “Well…” she replied. Oh, Mom! “You live in the mountains, don’t you get ticks?” “No,” she replied. They’d just been lucky enough to never get them.

“Put some alcohol on the bite area to disinfect it,” she told me. A check in the cabinet showed there to be none. “I think I threw out the bottle when I moved a few months ago. I’d not used it in over a year, so it got trashed.” She asked if I had any vodka. “Well, of course, I do!” Great idea.

I went to the kitchen, followed by Adelie, grabbed a shot glass and poured a shot of vodka into it. Adelie started up again with the agitated meowing, so I bent over to give him some loves. Thinking again about the tick sticking out of my leg made me shudder. I stood back up and seeing a shot of vodka sitting on the counter, I drank it. Another shudder, and then the realization that the shot wasn’t for consuming, but for the bite. I poured another shot and took care of the bite wound.

As I finished getting ready for my party, which I now almost didn’t want to go to (oh, the trauma!), I texted my other best friend, Blossom. He freaked out, thinking I got it from last weekend when we had been camping, and wondered if he had one. I had to reassure him I got it from today and that he’d know by now if he had one. Then I was out the door.

En route, I got a text from Ra asking if I was still alive. I’d forgotten to call him back. I couldn’t text him back while in the car, so when I arrived at the party, I replied via text that I had fainted and had only now woken up. Within the minute, the phone rang with Ra calling to see if I was kidding or not.

I was kidding, but I was still traumatized. Each little itch or odd feeling was another tick. And I could still feel the last one in me. When I closed my eyes, I could see the tick with its head buried in my leg. I shuddered and grabbed the glass of wine Wonderboy handed to me and tried to lose myself in the party.

I was encouraged not to give up on hikes due to this event. I assured them I was not done hiking, but had just learned how necessary it is to use Off. That, and, when enjoying the view and the birds and the mice, to keep an eye on the ticks! Shudder!

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