Also visited by Ixodidae Dermacentor (Mr. Tick)
01-Jul-2000 -- "Ticks and Chiggers and Mites, Oh
My!" Little did I know as I set off on my first confluence hunt that
these words would be the theme for the day. I’d been waiting for the
right weather to make the trek to 38N 78W for a couple of months
now, because I wanted to make it a motorcycle trip, and it’s just been
too hot and humid lately. Finally today, the oppressively muggy heat of
Virginia let up a bit and I launched off on my iron horse.
After a scenic two-hour ride from the D.C. metro area down through
rural Northern Virginia, I arrived in Louisa. It was a hot ride and I was
pretty thirsty, so stopping for a soda was pretty tempting. But I decided
I'd reward myself after finding the confluence. In retrospect I
should have been more concerned about staying hydrated than
self-discipline or personal reward, but hey, I was on a quest! :-)
Arriving in the area of the confluence, I initially missed the small
road so helpfully described by both Street Atlas and my GPS’s map as
"road". But the map was dead-on, and after making a
quick "Uee", I discovered it was exactly where the map showed.
It was easy to miss, being more of a driveway than a road, and without
any signs or other markings. I could tell from the heavy growth of grass
and weeds that the road was not well used. About 100 feet down the
road I encountered a rope gate blocking entrance. So I parked the bike
and dismounted, anticipating a door-to-door search for the landowner.
I didn’t want to just start tromping around the backwoods of Virginia, lest
some jealous landowner meet me with a shotgun, or worse, an unpleasant
encounter with the resident canine. (My wife was just attacked by a pack
of dogs a couple of weeks ago, and is currently undergoing the rabies
shot series, so the thought was fresh in my mind.)
I was saved doing the detective thing, though, for as I pulled off my
helmet I could hear someone behind me saying something. I turned
around, and there was the landowner, fresh from the garden. I explained
to him that I was on a scavenger hunt - which I figure is the best way to
relate this to a layman - and then described it to him in more detail. He
was dubious at best, so I showed my GPS and camera, and did my best
to convince him that I was harmless. No doubt he was concerned about
the security of the currently unused house in the area of the confluence,
and rightfully wanted to make sure I wasn’t there with less than honorable
When I showed him the location of the confluence, about two-tenths
of a mile down the road, he told me I’d be hiking through some pretty nasty,
tick-infested country. The last resident of the house used to raise dogs
down there, and there's no shortage of bugs. In my shorts and t-shirt I was
hardly dressed for that. "Well," I told him, "I’ll just get as
close as I can, and take a picture." No way I’m getting covered with
ticks for an extra hundred feet!
So he agreed, no doubt happy to get back to his garden and I started
off down the road. As I got to the end I found the house he mentioned, and
noted that I was much closer to the confluence than he thought I would be.
It was just off to my right, east of the house. The overgrowth was pretty
heavy, but manageable. I picked my path carefully, trying to avoid rubbing up
against the ticky weeds. The confluence is in a wooded area, with a
heavy, low canopy. The ground is clear, which gave me a chance to check
myself for ticks from my walk in. Sure enough, I already had three on me,
which I flicked off with my knife. Nice to get them off before they had a
chance to dig-in.
Now, on to finding the precise location of the confluence. This was a
little difficult, because the tree canopy was throwing my HDOP up pretty
high. Glad SA is off, or it would have been a real chore. As it was, I found
a good clear spot that seemed to be averaging lots of zeros, and set the
GPS down for pictures. I figure I was right on the spot, while the GPS
thought I was off by about 30 feet. Not too shabby. From the pictures, you
can see the view I had. Not a lot to see -- the visibility was pretty limited
by the woods.
I didn't spend a lot of time in the woods. The mosquitoes and other
flying insects flies were thick and so were the ticks, so I was outta there.
Back through the brush and to the road, and time to remove another tick.
Back up the road and into the riding suit (ugh) and with a wave to the
weekend gardener, I was heading back home. After a stop for my
much-deserved soda, that is. The ride home was uneventful, aside from
being very pretty, and due to the setting sun, pleasantly cooler. But as I
was sitting here downloading the pictures, I found yet another tick on my
leg; this one much smaller than the others. Who knows how many more
hitchhikers I brought home with me. :-)
Also see Peter's web page on this topic: http://www.gpsriders.com/confluence.htm.