I took the cub scouts on a bike hike on a Midewin prairie trail that was a little overgrown. Four days prior when I confirmed the suitability of the trail for bikers as young as 7 years old, I figured the excessive weeds lining the limestone trail would just enhance the rugged ambiance. I underestimated the weeds or the weather or both.
We received 3.9 inches of rain the night before the hike. I assume the weeds succumbed to the rain because they were bent over the trail. While this may not mean much to you, I’ve neglected to mention that these weeds are actually giant ragweed. I’m not even using ‘giant’ as an exaggeration. That is their actual name. Giant ragweed grows to be 8 + feet tall.
So when I say that weeds were bent over the trail, it was so bad that we really should have used machetes to get through. I went first, forcing myself and my bike to break through the overlapping stalks. I tried to push back the weeds as much as I could.
Fortunately, about 100 yards into the trail the weeds receded allowing the kids to actually ride a couple of miles. Then the giant ragweed was pleasant to have around because it provided endless shade on a treeless trail on a hot August evening. The challenging trail became fun. The kids were excited to ride farther and farther.
Too soon, I had to turn us back because I had developed massive hives from armpit to wrist, was sneezing endlessly, and was told my face was all blotchy. Luckily, I was still breathing at the end of the ride, and I was the only one in a pack of 14 that reacted so quickly to the giant ragweed.
Every year growing up, my mom would try to convince me to have an allergy scratch test so that we could resolve my itchy eyes and endless sneezes but I stubbornly refused believing that an allergy test would only elevate my sensitivity to 100 million things in my environment? (I started my hypochondriac career at an early age). I’m pretty sure it would have been positive for ragweed.