Saturday, April 26, 2014

How to get poison ivy on your feet (without really trying)

1. Hike below 2,000 feet in Hells Canyon.

2. Come to a creek crossing on the "trail" that must be forded. Decide that if you just walk through, your hiking shoes will be wet all day. Take the camp flip-flops from your pack and put them on. Cross creek safely.

3. Realize that it's only .3 miles to where you have to cross back. Think to self that you can walk there in flip-flops and not have to undergo the time it takes to put shoes and socks back on. Fail to realize that your decision making might be hampered by five hours of walking and little food taken in. Scan for ivy, see none. Walk.

4. Struggle through brushy thickets and downed trees. Feel uneasy, but tell self that the crossing must be pretty soon.

5. After what has to be more than .3 miles, give up. Put shoes and socks back on.

6. Five days later, realize your mistake.

Seriously, these things happen to me. If you've been following this blog long, you've noted that I've: had a mountain lion stalk my camp; forgotten boots and had to wear sandals; forgotten a sleeping bag and had to roll up in a tarp; forgotten tent poles, stove parts and once wore two different brands of boot on each foot; dealt with trail meltdowns (sometimes not even my own); and sprayed myself with pepper spray.

But for all of these things that make up a good story later, there have been plenty of adventures where nothing eventful occurred. It's funny though--I remember the ones where we had to overcome obstacles (twelve foot seas and torrential rain in our kayaks come to mind); distraught companions ("What are you DOING? YOU CAN'T LIFT THE POT LID WHILE THE RICE IS COOKING! DINNER IS RUINED!") and the ones of sheer terror ("The bear. Is. Right. There") and also the ones of accomplishment ("There's the Canadian border!")

Poison ivy itching goes away. I think. Someday. I'll think of this trip every time I pull out my flip-flops and think about not changing back to hiking shoes. "There was this one time," I will remember.

Please tell me I'm not alone. Any fiascos on your camping/paddling/ultra running trips?


  1. I've had plenty of days where I didn't dress appropriately for the weather. Through those days, whether on a run or backpacking, I've come to learn that there's a fine line between having a full on pouting trail meltdown and laughing at how it really can't get much worse.

    1. Ah yes. I call those moments "stories for the grandkids." As in, someday I'll be sitting in a rocking chair next to a fire telling the little ones about the time my trail crew and I nearly got hypothermic packing in to our spike camp in a blizzard, for example. Sometimes hellish in the moment, but really the kinds of experiences that remind you that you're alive.

  2. hahahahaha! Love this!

    Forgotten tent poles? Yup.

    Another time I left a lighter & the matches at home trying to "save" weight, then ran out of fuel on the trip. Because I'm that smart.

    Didn't check the bug report before driving 4 hrs to the trailhead...yeah, thought my husband was going to kill me. The mosquitoes were so thick they were actually visible in the air, like a buzzing fog.

    Gave myself the worst sunburn of my life when I forgot the sunscreen on a 100% above timberline hike. Probably should have gone to the hospital for that one, but I was young (and therefore invincible...and stupid). I still have scars from it.

    Poison ivy sucks though. And the worst part? The oil from your feet probably left it on the inside of your shoes. So watch out if you put them back on. I did that once and couldn't figure out for the life of me WHY it kept reappearing.... :)

  3. On a Colorado rafting trip: Young-ish, stupid and stubborn. "Old" lady on the trip advised me to wear more sunscreen on my pasty white legs. Nah, I'll show her, I said confidently to self. Worst sunburn of my entire life. Unable to walk for a day and a half. Guess I showed her. Not.

    1. That's funny, though I'm sure not at the time.

  4. Oh do I have stories! Some of my best camping stories come from the things we forget to bring. Like forgetting a key ingredient for a dish I'd planned on making.....the work-around was pretty hilarious. Or the time my family camped in Denali National Park over the 4th of July (right after the mosquito hatch). I've never seen so many mosquitoes in my life! My kids still talk about this trip - and it was over 10 years ago. They now use this camping trip as a standard to rate any others. They say no camping trip was as bad our ill-fated trip to Wonder Lake.

  5. Maddie is great about forgetting things. Last year it was her whole backpack full of clothes. Thankfully there was a Walmart close, the trip just cost me a little more. The year before last she forgot her jacket, and ended up using mine the whole weekend. She is only 12 so she still has a lot of learning. Dan has forgotten his jacket on a rainy weekend campout last year in April. Only having packed t-shirts for the weekend. He didn't make that mistake this weekend.
    I always over pack for myself for fear of forgetting something. Will see this summer how we do. My goal pack less and have kids triple check what they pack in their bags and make sure the bags make it to the car before we leave.

  6. Owwww, I'm itching in pure sympathy. Every time I go to Hell's Canyon I get poison ivy. Yes to having to "improvise" and be "flexible" because I forgot something.

  7. Ha ha, great story. My honest opinion about it: If nothing ever goes wrong for you, you're probably just not getting out very often or trying anything new. Also, as you pointed out, mishaps add to the adventure and in the end enrich most experiences with what we learned or what makes us laugh. That said, it always makes me feel better to learn that I'm not the only one with frequent fiascos.

  8. If you had some jewel weed nearby you could have solved the problem.


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