Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 35.61648°N / 79.91081°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jul 15, 2011
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Knee Surgery and Ticks

I decided to get out of the house yesterday and test my knee. I've hardly been anywhere since the surgery, so I needed to work my muscles a bit. The hike went okay. I chose to go to the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness which is about 60 miles from my door. I'd never visited the place so I thought it would be interesting and as they are very low mountains, that it would also be easy on my knee.


What I didn't count on is the fact that ALL of my muscles are out of shape due to the fact that I've gotten little exercise over the past few weeks. I hiked about seven miles and while there were only some moderate ups and downs on the hike, I was exhausted and sore when I returned to my truck.

Shattered RyholiteRhyolite
Also, I was covered in ticks. There were four attached to me, mainly on my thighs. I pulled about a dozen from my clothing, including my socks and pants. Found them crawling on my arms. I never leave a living tick when I find them. I don't toss them back in the brush. I take care to completely kill them, which is a chore when you're talking about ticks. You have to take the time to crush them between hard or sharp objects. I don't stop crushing their bodies until I'm sure that they're pulped.

As for other wildlife, I saw a single white-tailed deer and an indigo
snake. That was the first indigo snake that I've seen in many years. I've been told that they're not very common anymore, so from personal experience I'd have to agree with that. Both of these animals fled so quickly that I could not get any photos. The snake actually crawled between my boots as I stood and watched. It's amazing that something with no legs can move so fast.

The Birkhead Mountains Wilderness is made up of a bit over 5,000 acres of second growth forest. There are no old trees there, as this was all a working farm/plantation in recent history. Most of it was owned by a single family in whose name these old "mountains" were named. And they're not much in the way of mountains. The highest peak in there is just a whisker over 1,000 feet in elevation and only a few of the peaks rise as much as 600 feet above the Piedmont. But, as they're the oldest range of summits in the USA, I will cut them some slack and refer to them as mountains.

They're composed mainly of rhyolite which is a metamorphic rock of igneous origin. Apparently at one time these mountains were volcanic. Ryholite resembles flint and is easily worked and holds an amazing edge. I looked around in some cleared fields for arrowheads or other Native American tools, but found nothing. Not even worked chips or blanks. I also found a lot of quartz along the hike and sometimes quartz was used to make tools, but again I found no sign of worked quartz anywhere I looked. I know Indians must have lived here, but unlike the nearby Morrow Mountain, the signs of tool-making is not obvious wherever rock is exposed.

Rhyolite CapstoneCaprock

One thing that did surprise me about the wilderness is that there are large tracts of nice hardwood forests. It's not virgin forest, of course, and there are no really big trees, but the recovering habitat is pleasing to see. The bottomlands and the woods in the little canyons and coves are very nice. I'd like to go back in the winter and do some bushwhacking in there. But I wouldn't recommend it during the spring and summer. The tick population is just way out of control and I certainly don't want to emerge from these forests coated in these blood-sucking pests.

I had a good walk, but I realized by the time that I made it back to my truck how out of shape I've become. Fortunately, I haven't gained any weight since the surgery, but my muscles have atrophied to an alarming degree. I was exhausted and sore after the hike. But now I know that I can get out and start reconditioning the knee. More hikes are in the planning stages, and then it's back to work.



Uwharrie National Forest Site for Birkhead Mountains.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-4 of 4

BobSmith - Jul 17, 2011 5:49 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Ticks

Hell if I know. It could be the warmer winters. That's the only thing I can imagine. As far as the hike in the Birkhead Wilderness goes, it wasn't an overpopulation of deer that created the explosion of ticks, because the understory of the forest indicates that the deer population is right about where it should be.


BobSmith - Jul 17, 2011 9:19 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Ticks

Maybe they just go through population boom and bust cycles. I know I've gone into the woods week after week all during some summers with never a sign of a tick. But this year and two years ago were both really bad ones for ticks. This is the worst I've ever seen it, though.

Bark Eater

Bark Eater - Jul 18, 2011 7:53 pm - Voted 10/10


Bob, glad you are starting to be on the mend. My dogs and I used to collect ticks in the NE Florida woods like they were going out of style. Since we moved to Delaware five years ago I've found no more than a handful. Everyone up here is understandably paranoid about lyme disease but the deer tick population is only a tiny bit what it was down south.


BobSmith - Jul 18, 2011 7:59 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Ticks

Two years ago was bad here in NC, but this year is even worse. I've never seen ticks like I did on that hike this week. I saw some backpackers heading into the wilderness but they were on an adjacent trail and I would have had to backtrack to warn them. I hope they took precautions. I used DEET and they still got all over me, and that generally keeps them at bay.

Viewing: 1-4 of 4