The Leach Story

The Leach Story

So if you think I’m some tough bad ass hiker dude because of my 1000’s of miles of hiking, this story may change your mind some.  It will tell you how a tiny little creature turned this trail harden man into a screaming school girl.  (No offense ladies)  -scatman

I was on my first ever thru-hike.  On February 28th I started hiking the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain in Georgia.  When I started it was cold, windy, and the trees had no leaves.  The nights were even colder and I prayed for warmer weather.  I would get my share of warmer weather and even more cold and snow as late as April but eventually the tress had leaves, the weather stayed warm and trail life was great.  I started out with little experience but by mid July I was a veteran.  My mind was sharp, well maybe not sharp, as I’m convinced the lack of using ones brain while hiking makes us dumber at times.  “Use it or lost it” comes to mind.  As I was saying, I had changed.  Mostly for the better I’d like to believe.

After 145 days of hiking I was in Maine.  Maine is consider the hardest state of all 14 the trail goes through.  I was now hiking the hardest part of the trail at my body’s weakest point.  I had just survived 10 days of straight rain and now I was in the mists of a heat wave with stifling humidity.  The heat I had prayed for in Georgia was here but it was more than I wanted.  Lucky for me Maine is full of lakes and streams one can cool off in.

It was day two of the heat wave and I was in the middle of an 18 mile day.  All my mind could think about was getting to Monson and having a Coke and some pizza, if I could find some.  The heat drained the water from every cell in my body.  It was the type of day where you couldn’t drink enough water to keep up with the loss.  I could have wrung my shirt out ever ten minutes if I stopped to take it off and done so.  We were approaching the second of two rivers in this section.  I took my shoes off forge the river and when I got to the other side, Trail Wind who I had been hiking with at the time said he wanted to cool off in the river.  He got down to just his shorts and in he went.  He found a nice deep pool and dunked himself.  I figured I’d at least get my lower half wet and walk back into the river.  I stood in the cool flowing water for maybe five minutes or so.  Realizing we still had many miles to go we decided it was time to leave.

I exited the river and sat down to put my socks and shoes back on.  I looked at my feet and noticed something between my big toe and the next one.  I lean in closer and couldn’t figure out what it was.  Whatever it was it was about the size of the lead in a number 2 pencil.  I attempted to wipe whatever it is off and it didn’t wipe off.  Though I’ve never seen them so small and so many at once, it hits me like a sack of potatoes as to what they are.  LEACHES!!!!  Lots of baby leaches!  Upon this realization I scream. Yes, like a school girl.  Being curious in nature I spread my next two toes, more LEACHES!  I scream.  Well, two for two so far, let’s keep going.  I spread my next two toes, more LEACHES!  I scream and louder each time.  Finally I spread my last two toes and  you guessed it, LEACHES!  Yes, and I screamed.

Mom looked like the fat on here but at least twice as fat

I began scraping the little bastards off with my finger nail.  The process went like this:  scrape, scrape, flick; scrape, scrape, flick; scrape, scrape, flick and I would repeat this until my toes were clear of the baby monsters.  At this point I was paranoid and for good reason.  My toes were littered with the little blood suckers.  My next step was to inspect the rest of my foot.  Before this could begin the first shudder ran through me.  It was one of those shudders that starts in your core and builds in intensity as it works its way outward leaving your hands shaking uncontrollably and the hair on the back of your next standing on end.

I gained my composure the best I could and prepared for the worst as I begin inspecting the rest of my foot.  There were a few stragglers around the sides and base of my ankle but not too many.  Fearing the worst I took a deep breath to calm myself and slowly I twisted my foot to expose the bottom.  As expected it wasn’t pretty.  More of the little bastards clung to the underside of my foot.  The real shocker was the huge mother leach dead smack in the middle of my foot.  Now seeing where all those little bastards came from I yelled, “COME ON!!!, GIVE ME A $*&#ING BREAK!”

Mom wasn’t coming off without a fight and my fingers were not going to cut it.  I was forced to dig into my pack and find my license which I used to pry her off.  Now stuck to my license I flung her off.  Unfortunately she landed on Trail Wind’s pack.  He promptly flicked her off back towards me.  I said something like, “I don’t want it!” and he responded, “Neither do I!”  I went to work on finishing the removal of the stragglers.  Once done I realized I lost track of mom.  Of course she perfectly blended into the rocks and soil.  I was taking no chances and must have asked Trail Wind ten times if she had landed on my stuff.  He didn’t do a good job of convincing me, so I started a thorough inspection of my pack to be sure.

Trail Wind was ready to go at this point and I still didn’t even have my shoes or socks on.  I got them on and now was faced with what to do with my sandals.  They were the kind of sandals that have all the little finger like extrusions on the bottom.  This meant that there were still dozens of those little bastards stuck down in between the fingers.  There was no way in hell those sandals were going  in or on my pack.  I knew there was no way to get them clean sitting next to this river in the middle of the woods so I dug two plastic bags out of my pack.  I double bagged them and tied the bag onto my pack.  We started to hike and the bag swayed back and forth.  I quickly realized I was going to have to put the leach covered sandals right behind my head sandwiched between the top of my pack and the main body.  I was not thrilled about his idea at all.  I knew they couldn’t get through the bags but my mind wouldn’t listen to reason.

I knew I would win in the end.  I had already formed a master plan to rid my sandals of the little bastards.  Even with this plan in place another shudder rocked my body and Trail Wind just laughed under his breather.  In the following hours the shudders subsided but the mental scar was still there.

We finally made it to the trail head and got a ride into town, found the kids at the Pie Lady’s place and settled in.  I tossed the leach covered sandals which were still in the bags outside the door as I entered the cabin.  Someone asked me what I had just thrown down, and I just responded with, “I don’t want to talk about it!”  I just wanted to enjoy my shower without the thought of leaches.  They pressed the matter and I said, “Just drop it!”  with that they did.  When I came out of the shower I was ready to wage my war on the remaining leaches.  I marched into the kitchen and asked for salt.  I was handed a small salt shaker.  I looked at it and said, “Do you have anything bigger?”  I got an odd stare and was handed a large container of Mortons salt.  I smiled and walked away leaving them to wonder what the hell I needed that much salt for.  Next I found where the  hose was located.  Once to the hose I opened the bags containing my sandals.  I proceeded to spray them at full power.  Using a stick I moved the finger like extrusions to better risen my sandals.  As I waged war on the leaches with the hose the kids sat drinking beer.  I told them the story as I waged on.  They laughed uncontrollably at my story and me.  The last step was to poured a ton of salt on them and leave them in the sun for the rest of the day.

Later I came back and rinsed  off the salt and gave them an final inspection.  Satisfied I ridded them of the leaches and won I put my sandals back on.   For the remaining few days and 100 miles of my thru-hike I would cringe at the idea of going in any body of water despite the temperature being well into the mid to high 90’s and the humidity being about the same.

Oh, and did I mention I wore my socks with my sandals…

Get out there!
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  1. Joe D. says:

    OMG…not sure I want to go hiking anymore..haha..Man thats aloooot of leeches..

  2. Dani says:

    Great story. I’ve had a couple of leech experiences and reading this brought them all back!

    Dani @ ONNO Organic Clothing