Appalachian Trail Histories


It's Lyme Disease, not "Lymes" Disease.

Guy on a Buffalo 2014

"I think I may have Lyme's Disease.  I've been having a headache, stiff neck, and a backache At first I thought the headache was from dehydration or hunger, but it didn't go away with water or food.  I did the "cow/cat" (yoga stretches) to work out the backache but it didn't help.  And I've also been having chills, then I'd get real hot.  Are chills part of having a fever?  These things are NOT going away, so...."

Guy on a Buffalo was experiencing the symptoms of Lyme disease.  Many areas of the Appalachian Trail provide suitable habitats for ticks.  Buffalo also wrote about visiting the doctor soon after his symptoms emerged.  He was prescribed antibiotics to eradicate the disease.  It is common for hikers to find ticks on their bodies, clothing, or gear. 


Lyme Disease is a European and Asian based illness that emerged in America in the middle of the 1970s.  Lyme disease is caused a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. It is carried by Blacklegged ticks (deer ticks) that usually inhabit wilderness areas.  As the population of the United States migrated to more urban and suburban areas in the mid-20th century, nature reclaimed the abandon farmland left behind.  This expanded the tick’s habitat and caused an increase in reported cases of Lyme disease in the 1970s.  The name Lyme comes from a large number of cases reported in a town called Old Lyme, Connecticut. 

Transmission and Symptoms

Buffalo immediately recognized the symptoms of Lyme disease and reached out for help.  Lyme is contracted when an infected tick latches onto a human or animal.  It takes about 24-48 hours for the bacteria to be transmitted from the tick to host.  A red bull-eye rash is one of the most common symptoms of Lyme.  It will appear between a week to a month after transmission.  Other symptoms are dizziness, achy or swelling joints, headaches, severe pain, heart palpitations and loss of muscle tone in the face. 


A doctor will prescribe antibiotics.  If left untreated, symptoms may become worse.  There have been a few cases where people who did not seek treatment for Lyme disease developed chronic neurological problems later on in life.

Avoiding Lyme Disease

Hikers can avoid contracting Lyme disease by wearing long pants, long sleeve shirts, and using insect repellent.  Do a thorough self-examination after hiking and have someone in spots you cannot see.  Immediately remove any ticks found during your self-examination.  Bathe yourself and wash your clothes if you have the opportunity to do so. 



Guy on a Buffalo. Day 93: Lyme’s Disease. “Guy on a Buffalo’s 2014 Appalachian Trail Journal.” Trail July 13, 2014.  Accessed December 5, 2016.

Levy, Sharon. History of Lyme Disease. 2013. Accessed December 2, 2016.

Tange, Lennart. “Female Blacklegged Tick.” Flicker. May 18, 2012.  Accessed November 23, 2016.

The History of the Lyme Disease Vaccine. The History of Vaccines. The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.