Or, “How I discovered another reason to love El Paso.”
The family and I had a great week in Kansas last week, visiting family, watching Kansas football lose another game, hitting a renaissance festival, the usual.
Early in the week, I persuaded my dad to go hiking with me on the nature trails of the University of Kansas Field Station. I had been wanting to check out the trails ever since they named one of them for Stan and Janet Roth. Stan Roth was my high school biology teacher and his dedication to science meant a lot to me and many other students at Lawrence High School. Every couple of years, Stan and Janet would lead a group of biology students to the islands of Hawaii. I went on one of those trips and learned a lot while having a great time.
Anyway, my dad and I went out to the trails for some hiking and geocaching, first walking the upper loop of the Fitch Biology Trail. It was a nice area, with a small pond, lots of big garden spiders and at least one Black Snake we spied near the trail. The “nature trail” portion had a lot of the tree and plant varieties marked, so that was interesting.
After finishing that loop, we moved on to the Stan and Janet Roth trail. By that point, we were both feeling itchy, but I just chalked that up to being out in nature. Sometimes when you are out in the woods, you just feel itchy. I was feeling especially itchy around my socks, but that I just thought was something about the fabric.
We walked on and the middle of the trail included a fantastic view over Lawrence, with the campus off in the distance. Well worth the walk.
But by the time we got back to the car, I couldn’t wait to get into a shower to stop all the itching. Mom called to make lunch plans, and I suggested they go without us because we had to shower. As I hung up the cell phone I looked at my hands and saw thousands of chiggers. Ahhhhhh, PANIC!
I look down at my pants, arms and socks and see that I have thousands of chiggers all over my body. That’s why I’ve been itching so much! As I freak out and try to shake the ones on my hands out the window, dad exclaims, “Hey, don’t be shaking those off in the car!” OK, I’ll guess I’ll just sit here, take deep breaths, and try to remain calm until we get home.
Then dad looks down at his knee. “Oh my God. I see hundreds just on my knee. We’re in trouble.” We then endured the most disgusting, freak-out-inducing, 15-minute drive home. Nothing to do but sit there and watch these little creatures crawl all over us.
I called mom back and hatched plans to get hosed off outside. We got that accomplished, then I rushed inside for a 45-minute shower, after which I was still finding a chigger here and there crawling on me.
But we finished the day off, and we woke up the next morning with the hopeful belief that maybe we washed them off in time. We didn’t seem to have many bites.
However, the next morning, so about 36 hours after the attack, dad and I woke up to find hundreds of itchy-as-hell bites all over our bodies. It’s been nearly impossible to sleep. I scratch and scratch, as my daughter yells at me, “Quit scratching! You’re making it worse!”
I’ve had chigger bites before, but usually only in groups of 3 or 4. This was unlike anything my dad or I had ever seen. I’m itching like crazy as I type this.
The good news is, as far as I can tell, there are no chiggers in El Paso. It may be hot and dry out there in the Franklin Mountains, but from here on out, I will appreciate that even more.