Monday, March 12, 2018

A shot of spring

I'm conducting an experiment. If you are crossing a stream and trying to keep your balance on the rocks, and you reach out and grab a branch to steady yourself, but you break the branch and fall in anyway, and then you look and see that the branch you grabbed with your bare hands is poison ivy, that is dormant, will you then get a poison ivy rash?

Check back in next time and I will let you know.

Sadly, there is no such thing as paradise. Three spring-seeking friends and I sat on a new beach near the Snake River (new because the high water flows have created new beaches and cleared out prickly vegetation on others) and basked in the sixty degree sun. The only lingering threat was the possible PI that was awaiting in a few days. I had rinsed my hand in the ice-cold Snake and used an antiseptic wipe from my first aid kit, but still. Unless you are susceptible to PI, you are immune also to the deep-seated fear that arises when you realize you may be contaminated.
 As we sat there, marveling in the magic of spring, while "up top" in the mountains where we lived, it was still full-on winter, I felt a creepy crawly feeling. "A tick!" I exclaimed. Everyone leapt to their feet. Time to go!

There's no such thing as Paradise, but this place comes pretty close. I've hiked this trail (and written about it) many times before, but it's one of those that never gets old. It's where you go when the flat white of the landscape fails to inspire. It's where you go when you need a shot of spring.
Someone wrote their initials on the sand, but now I wonder if the T stands for "tick". We only found two though. Not terrible.
Two thousand feet below our houses, the flowers are beginning to come out. Once again I felt grateful to live in a place with such diversity. Canyon, mountains, rivers, all within a small radius. You could ski and hike in the same day, if you had enough energy.

Can you see the bighorn sheep? Not a great picture, but exciting to see the herd.
I'm not much of a drinker, but the shot analogy seems appropriate. I drank in the sun, the dirt under my feet, walking without a coat.

A ton of people were camped near the trailhead, but most were sitting around in lawn chairs, not even attempting to walk very far. You can tell spring fever has hit. Sadly for them, we have one more month of snow and sometimes two. Or three! Even if you love winter, sometimes you just want to see green. Back when I used to work at the forest, we used to fight over who got to drive an hour of bad road to clean the stinky outhouse down here. The call for spring is powerful around these parts.

One of my friends has lived here for forty years. On the narrow, exposed road driving out, she knew everyone driving in. She knew where the "hippie camp" had been in the 1970s. She knew where all the old trails went. This is a kind of history of place I won't ever have, and while I don't regret my rootless years, I admire the dedication to sticking it out somewhere.

We arrive back in the snow at the end of the day. The skiing will be good, and there's no need to hurry the seasons. The canyon waits; it's always there when we need it.


  1. I get your sentiment. Same thing in Lovely Ouray, Colorado...we don't pronounce Old Man Winter dead till the fourth of July. Being "retired," my "canyon relief" to escape "the flat white landscape" is southern Arizona...a longer drive than the Snake, then again, I don't have a job calling me home.
    Nice post.

    1. Oh, you live in Ouray. Nice place. I have a friend who lives there and does some ice climbing.

  2. Thankfully, we don't have poison ivy. Stinging nettle trees but they are rarely a problem.
    Clicked on, your photo of the sheep is fabulous, emphasing the terrain and its rocky nature.

    1. Stinging nettle TREES?! We have nettle plants but trees sound kind of horrifying.

  3. Trees and flowers are blooming here in Portland - we got two days of warm weather and now everything is in bloom! Glad you were able to have a spring time escape and hope you don't get poison ivy.

    1. Spring in Portland, OK then we can't be more than a month behind. I'm in Denver and it is so warm here.

  4. I tried that exact experiment last week and ended up with a rash. Good luck.

  5. If it were me, I'd get a rash, but then Poison Ivy is one of my few paranoias, after a bad experience years ago when I actually got it from someone else (which is why at fire camp last year no fire shirts were allowed in the eating area) - it's amazing how transmittable the plant oils are.
    You do recall that T ended up going to the hospital after he camped in what he discovered later in the year was 'dead' poison ivy yes? Down near Cow Creek I think.
    Good Luck!

    1. I forgot about that! I don't think I got it...unless it's a long incubation period.

  6. Oh, and I went looking for the origin of 'Shot Of' - (I love word and phrase origins) and what I found indicated it was more related to an injection, like a shot in the arm, an invigorating effect (though associated with injecting drugs!) - I think a shot of spring is the perfect 'drug' :-)

    1. That works too! It was warm in the LC Valley on Monday.

  7. I don’t know what season it is here. I’m trying to get over the fact we didn’t have a winter. Now all I care about is having decent enough weather starting April 3 to teach the kids. There’s nothing worse than canoeing in high winds & snow flurries!!

  8. I've heard that if you scrub the affected spot with mud, it gets the oils to come off. My problem is, I brush against it or come in contact with airborne oils (you avoid getting stuck behind the trail mower, learned that one the hard way) and don't notice until it's too late.

    1. Airborne oils! I knew it! I know I never touch it sometimes but get it. I scrubbed my hand with sand so maybe that helped. It's been four days...I may be in the clear.

  9. Sorry to come tagging along late, but sometimes it happens.

    While reading this I remembered saving some poison ivy info I saw a while back, and I in fact still have it.

    It's a video at

    From Dr. Jim Brauker, a scientist who studied skin inflammation for 25 years, who has high poison ivy sensitivity, and has tried many poison ivy treatments, poison ivy soaps, poison ivy creams, and other poison ivy products. Because he had such a strong poison ivy allergy, he had to figure out how to optimize urushiol prevention.

    How I found it:

    The takeaway: It's not contact with urushiol itself, but the failure to clean it off that is the problem.


    * Clean skin within 8 hours of contact

    - special-attention areas: back of arm, between fingers, behind ears

    - trials: Dial soap, Technu, Dawn dishwashing detergent

    - performance, best: Dawn, Technu, Dial.

    - what's important: scrubbing with a cloth

    * Essentials of the method:

    - use any soap but scrub thoroughly

    - soap up and wash 3 times

    - rinse thoroughly between washes

    * Areas to wash:

    - any part of body in contact with poison ivy/oak/sumac

    - any part of body you might have touched with fingers (assuming that they have the urushiol oil on them)


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