My wife and I really love to go rock climbing. We try to get out once a week during the summer to enjoy the mountains and get a little exercise. It also gives us a chance to get away from the busy lives we lead.
So about a month ago we agreed that on Friday evening we would meet at the mouth of Rock Canyon, in Provo, Utah, to go climbing. I would be coming from work and she would drop off our son at Grandma’s and hurry over to the parking lot from which we determined to set out. We met at 6:00 pm and hurried off hiking up the canyon. The cliff that we were decided to climb on was about a 30-minute hike from the parking lot. Knowing the sun would set around 8:30, we were hiking at a very brisk pace.
Just prior to cutting off the main trail for the base of the rock wall/cliff, there is a drinking fountain. We stopped for a drink and to fill up our water bottle. I suddenly felt the need to relieve myself. Then I gasped when I realized that in my haste to pack the gear that morning I hadn’t put any toilet paper in my pack. I always bring T.P. because something about hiking gets things going for me and I often find myself seeking a quite refuge in the forest to take care of business.
“What are you going to do?” “No matter,” I said, “I’ll just find some maple leaves or something. It’s not like this is the first time that I’ve forgotten the TP.” “No doubt,” jeered Cynthia, and with a little chuckle added, “have fun.”
So I ventured off a ways. This summer had been exceptionally dry and I was noticing that although there was still an abundance of maple trees that the leaves were extra small. I didn’t think I’d find anything of usable size. “The drought isn’t making this easy,” I thought. Just then I spotted a small ground plant with sizable leaves. After picking about a dozen or more I settled in to take care of business. I wondered how this plant had managed to get such large leaves during such a dry year. It must be the natural spring nearby that fed the water fountain.
Our climb went well. It was a new climb for us and we both enjoyed ourselves. Once done we were off to Grandma’s to pick up our son and then an hour drive home. While at Grandma’s house, I started to feel a little itchy in my pants. I thought it was from sweating so much from the hike and climb and that a good shower would cure that. The drive home became less and less comfortable. “Man, I am really itchy,” I said to myself.
When I got home and hopped in the shower, I noticed that things were quite red and swollen down there. This wasn’t looking so good. That night was one of the worst nights ever. The next day, which was Sunday, was miserable. No doctor was around and the on call nurse said to use Benadryl. This rash laughed in the face of Benadryl. Sunday night was the worst night ever. It made Saturday night look easy.
Monday I saw the doctor. He saw the rash that had now spread to my arm and hand and sent me off to the pharmacy. He asked where else I had the rash and after telling him the Reader’s Digest version of my story he and the med. student got a good laugh but certainly not a good look.
While at Rite-Aid waiting for my steroid prescription, which I insisted on when given the choice, I looked over to see a pamphlet that said, “Facts and Fiction about Poison Ivy.” “THERE IT IS!” I mentally screamed. There on the cover of the pamphlet was a picture of the perpetrator. I couldn’t believe that I had done the unimaginable. I had wiped with Poison Ivy. I didn’t even know we had Poison Ivy in Utah. I do now.
So when out in the woods this summer and fall, beware the large leafed ground plant and always carry an ample supply of TP.
Afterward: Our families still laugh about it. My mother-in-law wrote to my brother-in-law in Philadelphia and told him about it. He sent me a card the other day that had a pilgrim squatting in the woods with an Indian near by shaking his head saying, “Why you make poop in Poison Ivy?” The cover of the card read “In the New World, the pilgrims learned many valuable survival lessons from their Indian neighbors.” The caption inside read: “Just had an itching to say hi.” This is the first we’ve heard from him in over a year.