Poison Oak--lessons learned

posted Dec 6, 2011, 8:31 AM by Paul Wagner

On our hike up to the top of Stag’s Leap last week, we had a bit of a misadventure.  The problem was, we didn’t know how much of a misadventure until more recently.

We followed the use trail, and it climbed straight up to the top of the ridge, then clambered over every single rock and hummock on the top of the ridge.  That made for great view of the scenery, but we got a little tired of the constant up and down. 

So on the return trip I suggested that we parallel the trail below the top of the ridge. 

Now the West side of the ridge is sheer cliffs in many places, so we stayed on the East side.  And the plan worked perfectly for quite a while.  And then we came to a hillside covered with brush that lay between us and the final descent into the valley. 

We poked away at game trails for a while, but like most game trails, they didn’t go where we wanted to go.  And so I finally decided to break through the brush for about fifty feet, and did so.  On the other side, the trail waited for us calmly.

Yeah, I thought about poison oak when I did it. And I knew that poison oak can affect you even in the winter, when it has no leaves.  But this didn’t look like poison oak to me—at least most of it.  And I also seemed to remember that poison oak was a bit uncomfortable, but nothing to really worry about.  And besides, we were close to home, and ready to hop into a shower to soap up immediately after we got home.


So what have we learned?


I was right.  Most of what we hiked through wasn’t poison oak.  Thank God.  Because a week later a few of those scratches on me were bad enough that I had to go see a doctor about getting some kind of help.  The heavy use of Benadryl and Cortisone cream was making no headway. 


And all the rest of that stuff I remembered about poison oak?  Forget it. A quick and intensive session with soap and water did not prevent the poison oak reaction.  And poison oak is a lot more than a little uncomfortable.


And yeah, yeah.  I know.  You told me so.
No need for photos--some of you may be eating breakfast.  Or lunch.  Or a donut.