Current status on ticks and overgrowth on the Ozark Highlands Trail

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TimeOutside

a.k.a. Andrew
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Any thoughts on the prevalence of ticks and overgrowth on the OHT right now? Next week I am hoping to get out and hike a section or two. I understand the seed ticks and ticks in general can be amazingly bad there at times. Is early enough yet that I shouldn't have a problem? Then what about overgrowth (especially stinging nettles) on the trail this early in the season. Does anyone have a status?

I'd really like to hike the trail a bit, but I'm not real keen on Lyme disease or dealing with nettles. I could head to another trail if the ticks are going to be bad. (Yes, I will wear trousers, long sleeves, use repellent, and treat my outer clothing and pack with permethrin.)

Thanks in advance,
Andrew
 

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b.stark

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No local knowledge of that area, but I did a short ~2.5mi hike here in Northern Nebraska yesterday and found five ticks on myself. Would think the ticks would be out in force down South if they're getting friendly up here already.
 

Titans

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No knowledge of the Ozark trail, but I found the first tick crawling on my shirt this week, here in the Northeast, so I agree with @b.stark . They would be out in full force. I only sprayed the bottom of my pants tucked inside my socks- but that was clearly not enough. You can encounter ticks much earlier in the season.
Permethrin:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CD9192V/?tag=backcountrypo-20
 

TimeOutside

a.k.a. Andrew
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Thanks. I haven't been out since February. I've run trails in the Ozarks many times during leaf-on months and never had a problem. But I've never hiked in locations such as the OHT. Normally, ticks and chiggers don't like me as compared to other people. I'll be out with others and they have to pull off several ticks each and I have none. But I don't want to tempt fate either. So now I'm in a bit of a dilemma. I really want to get out an do some hiking and was looking forward to the OHT. The OHT is close. But maybe I should drive a couple hours farther and do something like Caprock Canyons. Hmmm. Decisions, decisions.

Thanks again,
Andrew
 

Titans

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Thanks. I haven't been out since February. I've run trails in the Ozarks many times during leaf-on months and never had a problem. But I've never hiked in locations such as the OHT. Normally, ticks and chiggers don't like me as compared to other people. I'll be out with others and they have to pull off several ticks each and I have none. But I don't want to tempt fate either. So now I'm in a bit of a dilemma. I really want to get out an do some hiking and was looking forward to the OHT. The OHT is close. But maybe I should drive a couple hours farther and do something like Caprock Canyons. Hmmm. Decisions, decisions.

Thanks again,
Andrew
I read the report posted some months ago and it was thoughtful of someone to take the time to describe how bad it is with ticks along that trail in the summer. There is no reason why that should be any better during spring, as suggested. I'm tagging @LarryBoy - he has probably done the trail and he might have some input, when he comes off trail. The risk of Lyme, Anaplasmosis and the many other tick carrying diseases is very very high in the Northeast. But not all ticks carry diseases and I don't know how far south or southwest Lyme has gotten.

You have been lucky on your running trips or maybe you applied 3 cans of DEET on yourself or correctly used Permethrin on your clothing?.... ;) But ticks don't behave like mosquitos (so mosquitos "like me", but Rick will ask "what mosquito's?"). Ticks crawl on you - and they crawl freaking fast- if you brush up against something and they quickly attach themself. Tall grass falling in over a trail is especially bad, that's a very high risk area. We get them just by walking over mowed (short) grass. I have no idea how a tick got up chest high on my shirt, considering I sprayed the bottom of my pants (not enough). I tried to brush it off, which resulted in the tick digging itself into the fibers of my shirt! I had to use a knife to scrape it off and kill it :mad:

Hunters wash all their clothing in a solution with PERMETHRIN. I have spoken with hunters who had zero ticks crawling on them after spending days out hunting. The hunters who didn't wash their clothing with Permethrin had ticks crawling and ticks attached all over them. Permethrin works, if it's applied correctly, TICKS DO NOT LIKE PERMETHRIN.
There are plenty of people who still go hiking up north here, but you have to go nuclear on the chemicals. (If you are going out alone backpacking, who is going to help remove a tick from an area that you cannot reach yourself?). And the ones you find and remove quickly are usually not the problem, it's the ones you do NOT find.
 
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LarryBoy

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I did the trail in early March and it didn't get above freezing for the first four days - so ticks were not a problem. :)

The trail is somewhat overgrown in spots. The worst were the thornyplants. Definitely bled a little when wearing shorts. That said, still totally doable and relatively easy to follow. The toughest navigational bit will be the Hurricane Creek Wilderness, where the trail is a bit of a vague suggestion at points. Other than that, no problema.

Other bit of advice: you will almost certainly make slower progress than you expect. It's a rocky trail but covered in leaf detritus, so the footing is frequently uncertain until you actually plant.

If you're looking for more, I wrote a snippet on my site. Warning though, it's a bit of a downer.
https://www.lbhikes.com/2019/03/redemption-on-ozark-highlands-trail.html?m=1
 

TimeOutside

a.k.a. Andrew
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Thanks @Titans and @LarryBoy. No, I hadn't seen that particular post about the ticks. I'd seen others on personal blogs and some YouTube videos. The one you referenced was worse! Ugh.

I don't know what it is about me and ticks. Maybe I've just been insanely lucky. But I hiked a lot when younger, have hunted and camped all my life, and have taken up trail running these last few years. My graduate studies were in ecology and I spent a lot of time in grasslands, woods, swamps, and marshes. I've never used more than DEET and quite often nothing. I've found somewhere between 12 and 18 ticks on me in my entire life. Buddies alongside me have had more on a single outing. Perhaps only a half dozen found on me were even slightly attached. I have no explanation. It's quite bizarre. But that said, these last two years I've had five ticks on me. Three were attached. My wife found them after I returned home. I sent all three into the state and testing came back negative for all tick borne diseases. But this all makes me much more cautious than I have been previously. Lyme disease has made it south. It's not common, but it's here. I've purchased permethrin and will be using it going forward.

@Titans you made a good point about tick checks. My wife said the same yesterday when I was talking about my dilemma on where I should go.

I still haven't made up my mind for positive whether to go to Caprock or OHT. I love the Ozarks in the spring. But I'm not normally one for this much apprehension or caution about an outing. Perhaps I should be listening to my gut and save the OHT for next February or March.

Thank you everyone for your input. It's very much appreciated.
 

LarryBoy

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Everybody's risk tolerance is different, but I wouldn't be too nervous about ticks in AR. Lyme isn't tha common in the region - unlike the NE. I'd permethrin everything, wear long pants and shirt that have factory-applied permethrin treatment. Many physicians will also write you a prescription for doxycycline, which you can fill beforehand and carry with you. See the bullseye or feel awful, and just take it right away.

With these precautions I would be very cool with hiking in those environs at this time of year. YMMV
 

Venchka

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Naturally ticks, chiggers, red bugs, etc. are a concern.
However, I live about 100 miles east of Plano. In the last week we've had 2 2" rain events a few days apart. On top of a really soggy spring.
I would think that November through February would be a better time for central Arkansas.
In the meantime, there's always New Mexico. There are a lot of videos from the Pecos Wilderness. You should be able to get there in a day. I don't have any trouble getting from my house to Capulin Volcano or Cimmaron Canyon State Park before dark.
Good luck!
Wayne
 

TimeOutside

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Thanks again for all the input. But poo!

I'd decided to head to the OHT. But then we've been battling issues at work, so the whole trip was likely going to be cancelled. I just got it worked out so I could still go, but then I looked at the weather. Poo! It looks like it will be raining most of the time I'd be on the OHT. Since my time there is limited, I don't know that I want to be even further slowed down by swollen creeks and streams. @LarryBoy any thoughts on this?

So despite it being another two hours away, it seems I'll be headed to Caprock Canyons. Capulin Volcano and Cimmaron Canyon State Park will go on my list for the future. But they are too far away for the limited amount of time I have available. I can get to Caprock in 6 hours, so I'll still be able to get a little hiking in on both Wednesday and Saturday.


Weather.jpg
 

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LarryBoy

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My first trip on the OHT, we had 11 in of rain in 3 days, and stream crossings became hairy. Short of that, I think you'd probably be fine as long as you chose your crossing locations thoughtfully.
 

TimeOutside

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Thanks @LarryBoy

Now I just need to decide whether I want to deal with lightning in the mountains and being wet head-to-toe for four days or play it lazy and only deal with it for only the last few hours of the trip. :)
 

TimeOutside

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The rain forecast just gets worse for OHT. I don't mind getting wet, but four days of rain and thunderstorms isn't my preference. I'll just go next winter. I just went online and purchased my park pass for Caprock Canyons. I'll head out absurdly early tomorrow morning. I'll post a trail report when I return. Thanks for all the input.
 

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