34 days out
A well founded fear of hiking is getting Poison Oak. Imagine you are stuck out in the wilderness covered in toxic rash and itch causing oils, no shower in sight, absolutely not an ideal situation to find yourself in. I am fairly familiar with them from living around them in Oregon, Washington and California though it has been a while so it is always good to brush up and remember “leaves of three, let them be” (or ‘leaves of three, f**king flee’). If you took ‘Fish and wildlife’ classes in high school in Oregon you are taught a lot about how to identify these and how to stop these from spreading, on your body in case you fall into some.
Here is a handy chart identification guide for Poison Oak, Poison Sumac and Poison Ivy. The best treatment for these is a product called Zanfel which is expensive but worth it, mostly because it works ‘in the field’. I am lucky in that I react very mildly to these, though the danger comes if you get the oils on your hand and rub an eye or other soft area (I speak from experience here, as a kid I had to go to the emergency room because of a quick bathroom trip into a huge patch of Poison Oak I didn’t realize was Poison Oak).
The other fear on the PCT, is a burn-following toxic plant called Poodledog Bush found in Southern California which can cause severe reactions in people, blistering skin and horrible rashes. You don’t want to touch this stuff and trail closures will happen if this is growing all over. It is oddly exceedingly pretty to look at though, the flowers look similar to digitalis, though are double-belled.
Later on down the PCT we will be running into a plant I am deeply familiar with, Stinging Nettles. These can be alarming if you are not used to them, but I have found that I don’t really mind the sting much and a couple summers ago purposefully strung my hammock on trees in a huge patch of them, wearing shorts. Some people DO react badly to them, so always good to avoid them if you don’t know or cannot resist itching.
If you run across me on the PCT and have poison oak or poison ivy, I decided that I will have some Zanfel in my kit.
The other thing I have added is instead of my regular mosquito headnet, I decided to go with a full ‘bug jacket‘ instead. I like my sanity and this seems to be a major theme for a lot of hikers who have gone before me, they complain very very little, except about one thing , bar none they ALL complain about mosquitoes.