When I wrote about getting Lost, Victor wanted to know more about my bushwhacking.
Just how safe is it, particularly barefooted?
I was long going to ask you about your bushwhacking expeditions. What about ticks and tick-borne diseases? Here in Siberia they are quite common. You don’t seem to wear any protective gear however. This is an example of a suit which is required for work in the taiga: http://bvr-ivanovo.ru/catalog/detail.php?ID=123.
This is the picture of the suit he pointed us to:
Translated, that’s the “Deerslayer” Anti-Encephalitis Suit (though, I can’t help pointing out that костюм is a cognate with “costume”, not “suit”—it is common, though for such differences in meaning to occur across languages). So it looks like, in addition to ticks, there is also concerns about mosquitoes and other insects.
Victor lives around Tomsk, which, as he says, is in the taiga. The taiga is the northern clime just south of the tundra. The latitude there is 56.5°. For those in North America, an equivalent place would be up around Hudson Bay.
So you know why they have to worry about mosquitoes. And probably elephant-flies (yeah, they are probably really horse-flies, but they are so big that elephant-flies would not be inappropriate). And, as Victor mentions, ticks.
Fortunately for me, central Ohio is a pretty benign place; it’s down around 39°. For an equivalent place in Asia (same latitude on the eastern side of the continent), you’d have to look at Beijing.
But what do I have to worry about when bushwhacking barefoot?
I have written about ticks before. You do have to be careful about them, because they carry things like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The standard advice is to wear long pants and tuck them into your socks. Oh, and then you need to carefully inspect all your clothing after returning from a hike.
Like that would be comfortable in the summer.
I go the opposite route. About all I wear in the woods are running shorts, and sometimes not even that much. So I’m exposed up to at least mid-thigh.
That means that ticks have no place to hide. And that just means that I inspect myself instead of my clothing, which is pretty easy to do. It also helps that it takes ticks a while to attach, so on a day hike, they won’t be attached by the time I find them. On my last hike, I found two ticks and simply picked them off my skin and crushed them.
Next up: mosquitoes.
We just don’t have the mosquitoes that more northerly places like Tomsk have. Yes, there are some, but almost all of the swampland in the area (look up the Great Black Swamp some time, or the Big Swamp that eventually became Buckeye Lake) was drained long ago.
But I also have a secret: B vitamins. It seems that mosquitoes and flies don’t like B vitamins. So, I’ll take 3 or so B-100s every hour or so. Yes, most of it gets urinated out (with technicolor results!), but it seems that some of it is also sweated out, and that repels the mosquitoes.
It doesn’t work quite as well on biting flies, but is still fairly effective.
For gnats, it sure doesn’t stop them from buzzing around my head. The B vitamins might reduce their density, though (but I may just be fooling myself in that regard). However, the only danger from gnats is that they will drive one insane.
Next, venonous snakes.
There are two species of venonmous snakes in southeast Ohio: copperheads and timber rattlesnakes. They are pretty rare, and I’ve never seen either. I do watch where I put my feet (obviously). It is also not clear that shoes (short of cowboy boots) would be of much use. Fangs can penetrate most of the cloth or nylon uppers of shoes these days, and if you are wearing shoes, you are less likely to watch where you are going.
Finally, poison Ivy always needs to be watched out for. In fact, I mentioned that I walked along some (and probably on some) during that hike at Zaleski. Here’s the thing: the plant needs to be bruised for the urushiol oil to get on your skin. And when you are bushwhacking where nobody else has tromped on it with heavy soles, all that poison ivy is probably oil free. I have carefully brushed through it many times without getting the rash. (And I am susceptible, getting it on the sides of my feet sometimes from mowing the lawn when there are a few plants around.)
It could be I crush it a bit with my soles, but the skin is thick enough there that the oil doesn’t get far enough in to cause a rash. But, with a smooth sole and light step, I suspect that I rarely bruise it sufficiently.
Like I said, Ohio is pretty benign.
And I am quite happy that I don’t have to wear a костюм противоэнцефалитный.