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Washington Voices

Dealing with hiking bug’s bite

Sat., May 25, 2013, midnight

We caught a nasty bug in Yellowstone National Park last August that hounded us through winter. I’m not talking about illness or disease. This bug penetrates the soul, making one search for clear skies and warm weather. If it had a scientific name, it would be hikissmoretrailias; commonly known as the hiking bug.

In Yellowstone, we picked easy, short hikes because dogs aren’t allowed on national park trails and our Italian greyhounds, Sam and Lucky, honestly believe spending time with us is better than a bowl of food.

Well, almost.

In order to appease separation anxiety of both humans and canines, we used Snoozers. Picture a roll-around suitcase with a zippered screen compartment for the pooch. This gem also converts to a backpack. And yes, we’re officially nuts.

At the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Snoozers caused a stir as we rolled the dogs around. Then we converted them to backpacks and hit the trails. On the upside, the dogs quietly surveyed the landscape from our backs. On the downside, the extra weight made the hikes challenging, particularly for newbie hikers.

Nevertheless, the hiking bug bit hard that summer. Hiking became our thing. REI became our new best outfitter friend. Then, as if the hiking gods heard our pleas, the sun shone bright in April on the flora of Dishman Hills Natural Area and the scab lands of Turnbull Natural Wildlife Refuge. Soon we were wondering if there were other local trails.

The answer is yes.

On May 2 at Mountain Gear, Rich Landers, outdoor aficionado and Spokesman-Review writer, gave an informative and entertaining talk to a full house on hiking in Eastern Washington. Landers also co-wrote the book “Day Hiking in Eastern Washington” with Craig Romano that’s chock-full of area trails.

Hikissmoretrailias was finally getting an antidote. We read the book, picked up good pointers on bugs and bears, chose a hike, then headed out with trail book in hand and two trusty pooches (this time on leads) to Antoine Peak in Spokane. This was just the beginning!

On Mother’s Day, we packed up our little trailer and went to Williams Lake in Cheney, which is close to Turnbull and the perfect setting to test a new camera lens. The day was breezy but warm with sun peeking out from wispy clouds. We had on hiking gear and our two buddies on leads as we walked the paved trail. My husband snapped pictures of trumpeter swans and assorted ducks as they lumbered to flight, water splashing, wings flapping. An array of birds darted around the pond. Canada geese and goslings floated by. At one point, we went off trail to a duck blind.

That’s when we caught the other bug.

The prairie grass bounced across the backs of the canines. “Hmmm …,” I thought, remembering the book’s section on ticks. Sure enough, one red beastie popped out on Sam’s light tan coat. I flicked it off.

Back onto the paved path and minutes later, two more were on Sam. I said the famous line, “Houston, we’ve got a problem,” to my husband. We thoroughly examined both dogs and pulled seven beasties off Sam, five off Lucky. Returning to the car and after one more dog inspection, it was our turn.

This is where reading the trail book saved a lot of grief. I was wearing hiking pants with pant legs that zip off and I recalled the book said to check under the zipper flap. I pulled up the flap and found three more ticks. Sneaky little critters.

Hikissmoretrailias has some drawbacks but fear not. With an affliction such as this, we’ve decided there are too many hikes to take and too many wonders to behold to get ticked off over ticks. Tuck pant legs into socks, wear a hat, look like a geek, Landers suggested.

Good advice.

Voices correspondent Sandra Babcock can be reached by email at Previous columns are available at columnists/.

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