Tag Archives: ticks

3 Kinds of Debriefing after a Hike

Sunset on Period Key—we try to work in a sunset every day on the trail.

1. Literally de-brief—we remove all clothing at the door and put them directly into the washing machine. This is a good practice that we didn’t always do. One time after a hike I was babysitting my then three month old granddaughter, Blakely. When my daughter returned and picked Blakely up from my arms, she noticed there was a tick crawling on her blanket. “Great,” I said, “I’ve given Blakely her first tick!”

This event helped to establish the habit my Honey and I now have. We put the clothes in the wash, check each other for ticks and get in the shower.  This process is super overkill but it even takes care of the bugs you might feel that aren’t really there—it’s a phantom feeling because you know they could be.

2. Debrief in the sense of the after action report—what happened, what did you like most and what would you like to change if you could. Read more about how to do this in writing at my Honey’s business blog cowriterpro.com. While the trip is the freshest thing in your memory, talk about it. My Honey and I purposefully use language that is uplifting or constructive. We try to repeat the good things or at least add them to a list of things to repeat. On the flip side we try to eliminate what we weren’t as fond of or figure out how to minimize any problems.

A positive point might be seeing waterfalls and getting in the water. This is a big hit with my Honey. We repeat seeing waterfalls as often as possible. Going slowly enough to see the details of the trail and enjoy the moment is a definite. We pick mileage and sleeping sites that allow us to enjoy the details. This, of course, requires a good map each time. Seeing the sunset each evening is also a must.  Make your list of what really makes the trail awesome for her.

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Enjoying the spray from Fall Creek Falls. This is a definite repeat for us.
Having a good map is a real positive for us.

An opportunity for improvement in debriefing came after one of our first trips where we slept in a tent. The thing we liked the least was how Loral’s sleep was interrupted by the night noises. We can’t change that we sleep in the dark at night, however, we can mitigate. We discussed simply getting used to it. There are night noises in your house too but your mind filters them out because they belong. They are not signs of danger. When we introduce a new sound the mind has to define it as an ok sound first before we can sleep through it. Then we worked on education—what made the noise and is that dangerous. We discussed trying to be more tired, using ear plugs or a white noise app with earphones. We talked about stretching the tent more tightly so that it made less noise in the wind.

Do an honest assessment like this for each issue. The goal is to keep her enjoying the trip. If she looks forward to what was fun and can anticipate improvement of what she wasn’t as fond of, she is more likely to stay on the trail with you. You like the trail and will go back even if you were soaked, hungry and slept on a rock. She might not—so debrief with real results.

3. The third and final kind of debriefing is also literal. You are home now in a soft bed—you figure it out. I hope you have fun loving on each other out on the trail too, but you are back in your own love nest…get some sleep and celebrate the comfort.


What are some lovable repeats? opportunities for improvement? I’d love to hear your story.

6 Tips to Hike Backcountry

Awesome beautiful and way back in the sticks!

We recently got the privilege of helping some friends build trails on their very large tract of wilderness land. Being backcountry was a blast! We ate good, slept hard and boy did we work!

My Honey all gloved up for hard work!

As my Honey and I were contemplating in the glow of the event we began to put together some things we have learned from this and other adventures on backcountry or undeveloped land. I’d like to share those with you. I hope you will comment below and tell us your tips or experiences.

  1. Wear Pants

I’ve been reading to prepare for a beach camping trip and my Honey discovered an alert in the reviews –to our surprise– that there was a clothing optional beach near by. In the light of that discovery I need to clarify that I don’t presume that any of my readers would simply not wear pants but that you might venture on to some undeveloped land in shorts. Shorts will open you up for many more bug bites and lots of potential cuts and scrapes. When you are moving along a trail that is little contact with insects and many trails are free of undergrowth and falling forest debris. In the backcountry, you are making your own way through the undergrowth. Also go with light weight fabric-its harder work getting around which generates much more heat. So wear long pants that are tough and light weight. I heat up very fast and have to be careful to keep all my clothes light and breath able in the summer. You can click the link above and see what my Honey wears.

Ticks are more prolific than you might think. Ticks wait in grass and on small saplings for a nice warm rodent to come by. Walking on undeveloped land will require you to brush through grasses and underbrush most of the time. This might keep you in constant contact with prime tick launching pads.  When we get home we put all we have on directly in the washing machine to help with critter control.  Speaking of critters at home – we moved into an old country house and the possums and raccoons brought fleas to our cat. You can read more about it in my wife’s blog at Clivethecat.com.

Some close relative of this thorny vine can really tear up your ankle!

There may be some variety of vine with thorns.  In Tennessee we have a couple of different kinds of these. I find them with my ankles as I blaze my own trails, when light is low or when I’m looking excitedly at something ahead. I will inevitably walk right into a thorny vine leaving my ankles lacerated with blood anklets that sting. I suspect there is a little poison on those thorns because the scabs even sting for days. Wear long pants to avoid this.

Cindy’s Suds Healing Salve – we take the little can on the trail!

If you do get cut by these thorny vines you could do what I did this last trip. I used Healing Salve made by Cindy’s Suds and it really helped. I applied it immediately on the thorn cuts. You can get it in a little tin that is perfect for hiking. I pretended it was waterless soap and just rubbed it in and all around – dirt, blood and all. That night I got to the shower and applied it after the shower too. To my surprise, the next morning, there was very little sting left in the cut. Normally the sting goes on for days. Healing Salve is great stuff.

2. Get permission

If it’s not yours, it’s not yours-enough said? I accidentally trespass from time to time because I explore and get in behind a “Posted” sign I didn’t see. I’m not talking about that – I mean that if you know you are going on land that is not yours, be sure to ask to develop good relations and hopefully long term access to this awesome bit of wilderness you’ve found.

Ask for gun range locations-no body knows like the owner. Being surprised downrange by a little target practice could be alarming. Plan your route up range even if you think you are the only visitor. Talk about hunting-find out what season it is. Ask if permission has been given to anybody to hunt and ask about the likelihood of poachers.

3. Go with someone

Avoid disorientation – getting disoriented is easy when you’re stooping, crawling and climbing to get around fallen trees and rock obstacles. It’s still possible to get lost when you can just walk and observe the surroundings but when you can’t pay attention constantly, it’s really easy to get lost.

Climb and scoot in pairs – climbing and scooting is sometimes a two man job-I explore alone when I want to feel like a pioneer like the famed Daniel Boone. But you can maneuver larger objects easier if one hoists the other up and the higher one pulls up the one left below.

A quite restful place we found

4. Take extra water

You may get good information about water sources but don’t count on it. You don’t have the luxury of asking a ranger about a heavily traveled trail. Since the going is slower, you may not get to water as soon as you think. You may not run across any. Until you know the area and the weather, don’t count of natural occurring water sources.  If you find water, fill up with your filtering method no mater how much you think you have. It likely will take longer to get back to it and back to camp without a trail – so get it now.

5. It’s harder than it looks

You might have to go as slow as this big guy

It is more difficult to get around than on the trail that is free of debris. Allow a minimum of 3 times longer to get anywhere. If, for example, you normally mosey along at about 2 miles an hour on a nice sight seeing trail, you may need three hours to go those 2 miles on undeveloped terrain. I once spent two hours to go a quarter of a mile. I was exploring a lake in Mississippi after hurricane Katrina and there was a fallen tree to work over or under every few feet. That was the most exhausting quarter mile ever. Pace your self because climbing and scooting requires almost as much energy as tromping through ankle deep snow or walking in sand.

6. Record latitude and longitude

Remember to remember! I love to explore and can easily go eagerly over the next knoll and forget to remember where I have been.  So, when I do this well, I drop a pin every 15 minutes or so on my map. Even if I’m out with just my phone and have a weak cell phone signal, I can still get latitude and longitude to show up. Then I do a screen shot to have a record to make notes when I get back to better signal.

Cool air blew up through this “alley in the woods” and cooled us off.

How to get back-there is nothing better when you’re ready to return than to know how to get back home. Once we didn’t do this and walked for about 11 miles during eight hours of dark night looking for our truck. I would have paid a lot to have known my way back that night


What are some tips we can add to our list? Please share!

Ticks!—In December?

Warm day in the snow A couple of Sundays ago, Eric Stewart, my insurance agent, and I were talking in the hall at church about hiking. He is a reader of this blog and was telling me about a great trail across the road from West Haven subdivision in Franklin Tennessee that my Honey and I should try. I love this kind of conversation and will go try that trail. He told me of his experience there and warned me about the ticks. He wanted to know if ticks die off each year, hibernate or what. We talked about how they get on you and when they are most active. I told him what I knew—which wasn’t much—and since I realized that I didn’t know enough, I did some reading. I was going to share what I found in the summer until I learned that ticks are still out there in the winter on a warm day too!  But don’t worry, read on and see how low the risk really is…My Honey hates ticks but we have figured out how to stay tick free almost all of the time.

Quick answers—

Do ticks die off each year? No. A tick lives often through several years over-wintering in forrest debris until spring.

Do they hibernate? No, not a true hibernation. They don’t go into a deep sleep to save energy with slowed breathing and heart rate like some fish and bears do, for example. They simply hide under something trying to stay warm.

How do they get on you? They climb short grass and saplings. They hold out their front legs and wait for a rodent or other small animal, bird or human to walk by and brush up against them.

When are they most active? They are most active during spring-like temperatures through mid-summer. Basically when birds, rodents and other small animals are most active.

Are they more active in cedar groves? This was my question because I thought it was true. I seem to get more ticks when I’m in a cedar grove. But…I was wrong…they are not more active in cedar groves and do not climb up in adult trees and fall on you when you walk by. I guessed that they were in the trees and fell on me when I passed by. But what was really happening was that when I was under a cedar grove it was usually plowing through to a pretty spot. I would crouch down and brush up against more grass and saplings with a larger percentage of my clothes. This increased the opportunity to make tick contact.

Do they sense carbon dioxide that we exhale? Yes. They can also sense temperature and other chemical clues that help them be ready with their front legs extended in hopes that an animal will brush up against them.

A warm winter day with my Honey
A warm winter day with my Honey

Coming soon—more thoughts from my reading and experience about:

Know your enemy—the life cycle of a tick.

How to prepare against ticks.

What insect repellent works well and how to make herbal repellent.

You can handle the truth about the low risk of disease from ticks.

Pondering Your Path—After hiking, you get to check your Honey for ticks…TMI?

Right Idea Wrong Place

Enjoying a happy moment in our new nest
Enjoying a happy moment in our new nest

Falling in love with hammocks—It only took one trip on the Volunteer Trail near Mt Juliet Tennessee with our old hammock to fall in love with swinging between two trees. We enjoyed it so much that it didn’t matter that the hammock was heavy and filled my entire backpack. Relaxing together and staring up into the beautiful canopy of the forest above easily outweighed the difficulties.

Making a good thing better—We get into turning a thing over in our minds until we know how to make it better. We decided we wanted to find a hammock that is super light weight and compact. Then we would finish it off with a large, light weight fully sealed mosquito net that could be used when it’s warm and buggy.

Grand Trunk—I’ve had a Hennessy Jungle Hammock and I really like Eno but what won the day for us was Grand Trunk’s  54” vertical zipper opening in the mosquito net so you can get in standing up in 6’ plus of headroom. It works well with a double hammock and you can store gear in the bathtub style bottom under the hammock. Then you and your girl can swing in comfort in a double hammock and watch the sunset bug free.

Percy Priest Trial Run—I was enthusiastic to find a westward facing spot on the lake shore with trees just the right distance apart. I pushed through lots of under brush and cob webs and found just such a place.  My Honey hiked in behind me and helped me pack down an area of weeds and brush. We experimented with spacing and angles. When it was good enough for a first try we climbed in and zipped up the netting. We were ready to relax, eat a little picnic and watch the sun set.

Unwelcome guests—I was so focused and exhilarated by the fun task that I missed a thing or two. We climbed in our new nest and I watched with disappointment as a tick marched across my Honey’s shorts. In a flurry of activity we collected and killed everything that crawled that wasn’t human.

Ticked off—How did those get in here? I really was “ticked” off! Then It dawned on me what I had done. While stomping through the brush we walked under a grove of cedars and the ticks had hitched a ride by the dozen. We hastily ate our picnic, packed up and worked our way back out to the trail.

An unhappy moment running from the ticks
An unhappy moment running from the ticks

I’d like to check you for ticks—A famous country song that I think is funny came to life and wasn’t as cute as it sounds. We acted like two monkeys picking lice and removed several ticks from each other. I felt sad that she had not had a good time but my Hiker is so resilient.

Making improvements again—We wanted to repeat the first special moment so badly that we made a plan. Pick an open area that was naturally bare or prepared for camping. Stay away from low hanging cedars. Get in the hammock bug free to start with. She is helping me think because she is drawn to the beauty and the romance. She knows that it takes effort to make a special memory. Finding a perfect hammock place is like cooking a special meal. Plenty of thought and preparation to make it perfect.

Pondering Your Path—have you had an outdoor perfect idea go down with a flop? What can you do ahead of time to be better prepared? Could you scout it out ahead of time? Go set up and tear down to make sure ever thing works right? It might me a lot of work but how much is it worth to get to treat your Honey to an amazing romantic experience?