One of the goals of the
Now one of my weaknesses as an outdoorsman is that I have never learned to accurately identify Poison Ivy. So I called back, “What’s it look like?” After a moment Steve called back, “Uh green… and leafy…” Thanks, Steve.
Steve found a good path up and out of the jungle, and onto some slickrock where we found decent hand and footholds that brought us up to a slickrock saddle separating the 2 main forks of the side canyon. We poked around for several minutes, agreeing that we should wash our legs when we got back down at the first decent pool of water we found, in case we’d brushed up against the Poison Ivy. We returned the way we came, then continued hiking down-canyon another 10 minutes or so before finding a pool and washing our legs, probably 30-40 minutes after first encountering the Poison Ivy.
In the East, Poison Ivy is common in all sorts of wooded or partially-wooded areas, and does really well in “disturbed” or cleared locations. In fact, one of the interesting things about Poison Ivy in the East is that its frequency is apparently much greater today than it was prior to European settlement, due to all the subsequent “disturbance” of forest and woodland.
The primary catechol molecule in Poison Ivy is Pentadecyclcatechol. The primary catechol molecule in Poison Oak is Heptadecyclcatechol. The main difference between the two: Penta-blah-blah has 15 Carbon atoms in its tail; Hepta-whatitz has 17.
The altered proteins are seen as foreign bodies by the body’s immune system, which is what triggers the itching, blistering, etc.- it’s an autoimmune reaction. The reaction really gets going when the Pentadecyclcatechol binds to membranes of Dendritic T-Cells, which are basically white blood cells with a whole lot of “arms” sticking out. These T-Cells play an important role in triggering autoimmune reactions, and the catechol-affected T-Cells set off the full alarm as it were, kicking the full-blown autoimmune response into high gear.
By the time Steve and I reached the pool and washed our legs, we were probably 15-30 minutes too late; by that time the Pentadecyclcatechol molecules had penetrated into the dermis of our legs and begun binding to cell membranes. Even if we’d reached a pool sooner, it’s unlikely our “washing” (glorified rinsing, really) would have had much effect; without soap we were probably just pushing the urushiols around a bit. Lesson learned? On my next canyon trip, day-hike with a watch and a bit of camp soap in my daypack.