My most nightmarish bushwalking/leech experience was when my husband and I strayed from the track on a three day walk in Tasmania’s Central Highlands. We stopped briefly to consult the map, and within nanoseconds the leeches were on to us. From every direction, a black, seething mass wiggled toward us. Frozen panic, followed by an embarrassing jumping session were what ensued. (That was just me actually; my husband is much more mature), but it was uncanny how those leeches - hundreds - no thousands of them smelled blood and set out for a sucking frenzy.
Actually, my husband has the best bushwalking/leech story. One of his university professors, a mad keen bushwalker, awoke one morning with an odd, lumpy, feeling in his throat. Upon asking his chum to investigate the matter, he was informed that a leech had in fact made its way into his gaping orifice during the night and ensconced itself there. The prof’s response was to regurgitate the little – insert expletive here – and bite it in half on the way through, just to teach it a lesson.
The sheer exhilaration and sense of achievement when walking in the wilderness and conquering that mountain top certainly makes any potential leech invasion nugatory. Even bashing through relentless horizontal scrub, with the burden of a full pack and soggy gear, is no restraint to the ultimate reward. Bush beasties do, unfortunately, go hand in hand with any outdoor experience, especially around Thunder Bay, but knowing how to deal with them is the vital key. Ticks, mosquitoes, black flies and leeches are amongst the greatest disincentives to venture outdoors. For some helpful information, try Ticks and What You Can Do About Them, by Roger Drummond. It’s an all-you’ll-ever-need-to-know guide and includes information on what to do if a tick lands on you.
The Complete Guide to Walking in Canada, by Elliott Katz also has a chapter entitled Avoiding Insects That Bite. He accurately describes mosquitoes as flying piranhas and recommends against wearing dark coloured clothing, favouring whites and yellows instead. Blue jeans are not an option!
As far as leeches go, try searching our Virtual Collection with Environment as the search category. It brings up some interesting article titles. For example: Leech therapy among notable spa offerings across Canada; These blood suckers die for us; or The analytical bend of the leech.
The region in and around Thunder Bay offers some great opportunities for bushwalking, and with summer here it’s time to get out and explore it. TBPL houses a number of practical publications on the topic. The Thunder Bay Hiking Association’s Trail Guide is regularly updated and contains details on graded walks, including Mink Mountain and Mills Block Forest. Check out their website at www.tbha.ca
Another book recently added to our collection is the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists’, Thunder Bay Nature Guide: A Guide to Natural Spaces in the Thunder Bay Area. It goes one step further by describing the flora and fauna associated with specific walks.
If you’re after a good, general bushwalking guide, the Wilderness Education Association’s, Hiking and Backpacking covers everything from buying gear to packing up camp. Also try the Canadian Hiker’s and Backpacker’s Handbook: Your How-to Guide for Hitting the Trails, Coast to Coast to Coast by Ben Gadd.
Or if climbing is your thing, Thunder Bay Rock: A Climber’s Guide to Thunder Bay, Ontario and Environs grades routes and provides tips on tackling specific climbs.
So, whether you’re a novice walker or a seasoned trekker, our region has a lot to offer. I certainly feel privileged to live here: Thunder Bay is one of Canada’s best kept secrets!
Rosemary Melville, Library Technician