It’s tick season.

Several years ago I worked on a story about Pt. Arena High School’s basketball program.  After talking with some of the varsity basketball players I was told that a group would usually play hoops at a friends house after school, on a court that overlooks the ocean (Big Blue).  Great I thought; overlooking the ocean, a photo opportunity right out of National Geographic.  Picture perfect the site was and a simple photo to boot.  The only catch was to walk out in to a thigh high brushy field to get the players, the gentle arch of backboard  and hoop complete with Big Blue in the background.  it was all captured with a Nikon F5 and a 300mm lens.  Easy.  After about 20 minutes of shooting, I thought I’d better check for ticks.

Checking for ticks while living here on the coastal plains and hiking our environs is on the mental to do list.  To my absolute unnerving as the light was fading, I found dozens of ticks crawling up my pant legs in that grassy coastal field.

We all know the story about Indiana Jones and how he obtained his fear of snakes.  Well, that day on the coast of Pt. Arena was my Tick Waterloo.  I pulled no less that 38 bloodsuckers off my jeans that day, one crafty pest clamped to the back of my knee, which I forcefully pulled off on the side of highway 1.

Switch back to this past Saturday for the Annadel Park half-marathon.  Beautiful day, hundreds of runners.  Easy shoot.  I kneeled in the grass several times on parts of the race route. There is quite a crop of grass this year which have responded well to the longer daylight hours.  I checked several times to make sure I had none of the eight legged creatures using my clothes as transportation.

Runners at Annadel State Park compete in the half-marathon, Saturday April 14, 2012. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

Obviously, it didn’t work. A tick embedded itself almost completely in the soft tissue around my waist.  The hind appendages wiggled ghoulishly in my flesh.

UGH.  The feeling of something digging in to your body is not a pleasant experience.  Because of deadline I had to get the photos of the event out, all the while the tick was using my waist as a smorgasboard.

The good people at Urgent Care in Windsor admitted me to a room where the doctor on staff quipped “That really is a big one.” A couple of shots of lidocaine near the location the parasite had burrowed forced it almost completely out, where a pair of tweezers did the rest of the job.

The offending tick. (Kent Porter/ Press Democrat) 2012

Man up?  I hate ticks.  I’ve pulled off nearly a dozen this winter alone; one even made it on to the keyboard of photog co-worker Crista Jeremiason.  I realize these small arachnids have a place in our eco-system, but thankyouverymuch my eco-system is off limits.

The bottom line is this.  With the late rains and warm weather approaching, it’s a good bet that you and man’s best friend will take a hike at some point.  If you do, stay on the trails, wear light colored clothing to make it easier to spot the parasite; or you could use DEET (on skin or clothing) or permethrin (on clothing) and wear long sleeves, long pants and socks.

Double check everything after a day in the woods.

These are ticks. Study them. Picture from the Marin Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District.

A tick could transmit Lyme disease.  Of course it’s not very common, but does happen.  I was encouraged to take MY tick to the county to have it tested for disease.  For more information, follow this link about the Western Black-legged tick Ixodes Pacificus.  The State of California also has this website that identifies tick borne diseases.

Happy hiking!


-Kent Porter