Thursday, June 18, 2009

Surrounded by Rhus Radicans!

Brady and I made another hot but pleasantly philosophical hike today, this time up the Whiteside Road trail on Lookout, starting from Ochs Highway just above St. Elmo. The Whiteside trail follows an old roadbed dating back to the 1850's. Above the picnic area on Sanders Road, we reached our objective: the "billboard rock," which advertised the hotel at the top of the mountain to weary travelers. The black paint was still there, but mostly covered by moss. Fifteen years ago I knew what the words were, but I couldn't remember even with the clues there in front of me.

After scouting the rock for climbing possibilities, Brady continued up the old road, which was now parallel to Scenic Highway. The poison ivy, which had been bad, got worse. I was in shorts and running shoes, legs bare, picking my way along. All at once I reached the end: blocked by poison ahead. Behind me, the poison had closed the gap, and seemed to be creeping in from the sides as well even as I stood there, frozen like a man on ledge. Trapped! I imagined I could feel the deadly urushiol oil in the air...did I dare even to breathe?

I have a theory that rubbing alcohol will keep the urushiol from binding with the skin. Once it binds, my body's t-cells will mistake it for a toxic invader, and the allergic reaction will run wild.

Did my skin touch the ivy? Will the drinking water I poured over my legs wash away the oil? Will the rubbing alcohol used at the truck prevent binding? Stay tuned! We'll know in about 24 hours.