Arizona AdventuresVolume 3

Chiggers, let’s get out of here!

By November 23, 2020No Comments

Well as the days start warming in the White Mountains, large and small creatures change there annual cycle. On an early June outing to Sky Hi Retreat, Jeremy, Carol and I headed up to the mountains after work of Friday afternoon. Our routine refueling stop at Irene’s Mexican food was another great dining experience; well maybe good would be a better definition. It is great when it comes time to pay the bill. Not that I’m cheap or anything, we do have a nice meal at a very reasonable cost. We threaten to stop elsewhere, but at Irene’s our waitresses have our orders memorized.

Our trip from Globe through the Salt River Canyon was extra buggy. I had to stop in Show Low to clean the windshield in case we wanted to take an early morning jaunt down the primitive road behind the cabin.

It was about 10:00 P.M. when we arrived and 10:15 P.M. when we were unpacked. It doesn’t take long to get squared away once we energize utilities. Jeremy unloaded his mountain bike and was going to take it for a little ride around the neighborhood. It was pretty dark out, as the moon wasn’t going to be coming up for another couple hours. I asked him if he had his head lamp with him, but he said he was going to use his night vision. Yea, yea: good story. Off he went. He came back about twenty minutes with exciting news. A half a block down Bonanza he heard something moving in front of him and then suddenly he could make out the silhouettes of three large elk running across the road a few feet in front of him. They were making their way to the tall grasses of the meadow for an evening snack and were not going to let JJ get in their way. We have our routines and I guess they have theirs.

By the time JJ came back with the news of his adventure, Carol had the hide-a-way opened and ready for bed. We noticed that the front room looked like the moon light was streaming in as it does during the winter months, but this was not winter. And what’s more, the moon was due up for two more hours. We looked out the front arcadia door and saw that out neighbor across the way, installed a new area light similar to a street lamp used on an industrial site. We were both so disappointed. The globe on the ceiling fan almost looks like it was on with the light beams hitting it even this distance, 100 feet away. Carol was not happy about it. We couldn’t even see the stars through the upper triangle windows as usually. I was already plotting a way to disable it. It was really a bad situation. Carol suggested we go and gather all the neighbors it is also affecting and go and confront the neighbor, kind of vigilante style. This could be very exciting, but I was still plotting other means to take care of this problem. I knew where the BB Gun is, but where did Chad put the BB’s.

The next morning, while I was stilling plotting and having my morning coffee on the veranda (back porch), I could hear Carol talking to the culprit. I thought that this could become the beginning of •Bloody Feud in Sky Hi Retreat”. I did not rush over in moral support. As a matter of fact, before I could finish my first cup of coffee, Carol was back to fill me in on the confrontation. She was actually all smiles. He was very friendly and even apologized. His high school aged kids were coming home late in the evenings, and he though a little extra light would be beneficial. He did realize that he was lighting up the whole block. Especially when Carol told him we were armature astronomers. He told us to call whenever we were up there, and he would turn them off. Since we do not have a local phone, that wouldn’t work. He then suggested that we could turn them off at the switch mounted on the tree that supported the light. That would be easy enough and so the battle was over.

Carol was now feeling great with the outcome of her skillful negotiations. She was now ready to finish her coffee and head out over the barbed wire fence for a good hike. Since our last trip here three weeks earlier, many of the spring flowers bloomed and then faded. The oak trees are now full of new, deep green leaves adding color to the pine forest floor. The grasses are still dormant as the night time temperature still hit the freezing mark and the summer monsoon rains have not come yet as June is Arizona’s dry month. The day time temperatures are hitting the low 90’s now as there is a heat wave active in the entire southwest.

As we headed north to the •wagner’s Fort” Carol points out the brilliant colors of some of the small flowers that dot the brown forest floor. Columbine and …… are the most prominent. Spider webs spun as hunting snares are shining in the morning sun. They each have a vertical tunnel conveniently located for the occupant to scamper out claim its unfortunate prey that found itself entangled in the finely woven trap. We have found that if you quietly sneak up on the lair and gently poke the edge of the web with a twig or long straw of grass. the spider will scamper out to investigate the signal of success. It doesn’t take long for it to figure this was a false alarm and in a flash it dashes back to the seclusion of its home.

We cross the first heavily used trail near the fort and walk down through Wagner’s Draw. When we hit the second trail, we follow it to the east {right) toward the rising sun in hopes of kicking up elk or other wildlife.

If you keep walking toward the east, you will come upon the primitive road that will either take to back to the entrance of Sky Hi Retreat or to the left, Lake Side which is about ten miles away. Right is better.

If you take one of the trails to the West or left, you will come upon the •Iron Horse” rail way bed. This is an excellent want to get back to Sky Hi Retreat if you head to the left or south. When you near Sky Hi Retreat you will come to a stationary gate where you will cross the forest boundary fence. From this spot, you have a great view of Mullins Mountain. Just beyond the fence you will come up on Bonanza where you will turn left and head up the gradual incline back to the cabin.

On this day, we decided to walk a little further to Elk Spring Draw. We wanted to check out the remaining ponds of snow melt water that are used by the local wildlife as water holes. This time, we found them dry. There were remnants of crayfish probably eaten by the local raccoons and several kinds of wild flowers at various stages of their life cycle.

We decided to cross the draw and head further north. Two miles from the draw is another small mountain similar to Mullin’s Mountain. This is the area that we like to drive the timber trails that circle from the primitive road, out through the forest for a couple of miles and then back to the road. We have spotted a lot of wildlife on these little treks. We walk about a mile beyond the draw and then usually follow a game trail that heads back to the railroad train track bed. By this time in our hike, its nice to be on fairly flat ground with just a little uphill grade to it. The ups and down thought the rolling forest floor is sometimes a little grueling, especially when the ground has be churned up by the forest thinning crews. They not only thin out the trees but they also use bull dozers equipped with the large forked blades to create ruts that help retain the winter snow melt and seasonal rains.

On the game trail we noticed several set of elk tracks and a fore amount of deer track. Deer are much more elusive, light footed and graceful. You may pass several deer without noticing them, but elk find it harder to hide from the two legged intruders.

As we get close to Sky Hi, we pass some of our neighbors that live down the street and around the corner from us. They are full time residence and go hiking down the track bed just about everyday. Some of us folks just like to hike, others are out here jogging, ridding horses or mountain bikes. There are very few ATVs here on most weekends, but they are out in force on three day holiday weekends, but keep pretty much on the back trails and track bed. We make a point not to be up here on those special times. Our regular weekend jaunt work out just fine when we can enjoy the peace and quite.

Back at the cabin, we trade in our hiking boots for our work sneakers. Why did they ever call them sneakers? Are they quite? They’re not tennis shoes unless you are playing tennis; not basketball shoes, unless your playing basketball; Well, I get mine from Costco and wear them as casual shoes. What do you call them then? When they get dirty and grubby, I wear them to work around the cabin. I guess they would be my work shoes. But what if I decide to rest in the hammock? I wouldn’t want to wear shoes that are called •hammock shoes” so I take them off in that case. Oh, does that feel good when they are resting beside the hammock! I like ·resting shoes” the best!

Where was I? Oh yeah. I have my work shoes on now. Got to go! But what is that feeling around the top of my sock. It feels like mosquito bites. Oh no! Got chiggers! That’s a whole story by itself. I think I will do a medical paper on that subject. What do the call them, ·white Papers”?

In a nut shell, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of Champho-Phenique. The prevention would be any type of mosquito repellant that contains •Deet”.

Chiggers, which are actually mites, are found mostly in places like the Midwest. They are found near tall grasses and where there has been a lot of moisture. Their favorite thing to do is jump on your legs and nestle in just below the top of your sock line or sometimes around your waist band or other tight fitting clothes. They are microscopic in side and usually red in color. To see if there are in an area, you lay out a piece of cardboard and check on it in a half an hour or so. If the cardboard has a pinkish hue, then you’ve found them.

I you suspect you have been attached, then you need to wash the affected areas with hot, soapy water and then start applying one of the remedies that helps prevent itching. This condition may be worse than poison ivy and will last up to a week. I went on two hikes in the tall grass, so I had a double whammy because I had my socks at two different heights, one about one inch above the other.

Two summers ago, I got into chiggers and the lower lake just below the Rainbow Lake Dam. It wasn’t as bad as this last bout.

Chiggers actually go into your hair follicles and secrete a substance that breaks down your flesh so that it can slurp it up. You notice I’m a little light on the medical terms, but that’s what happens. Some suggest that after you clean the affected area, you coat the bite with fingernail polish. I think this idea came from the sales staff at Revlon. This coating is supposed to keep you from itching. I did go that route this time, but I may try if there is a next time. After all the years of being in the forest of Arizona, I get hit twice in three years.

The moral of this story is if you ever hear someone say “Chiggers! Let’s get out of here!!” Make tracks!!