For Anthony Soufflé the first sign it might be bad was checking in at the ranger station and his friend asked about ticks.
“Oh, they’re out in full force,” said the ranger at Glacial Lakes State Park, about 2.5 hours west of the Twin Cities.
Soufflé, an avid hiker and camper and a Star Tribune staff photographer, couldn’t quite imagine what that would mean.
He and his group — his wife Genna, their two dogs and fellow Star Tribune photographer Aaron Lavinsky — trekked in the two miles to their camp site.
By the time they got there, Elsa, the short-haired Australian cattle dog mix was covered in ticks.
Soufflé sat on a foam pad and started pulling them off. Five, 10, 20. At least.
“It was insane,” he said a couple of days after the adventure this past Sunday. “It was unbelievable how many ticks we pulled off her in the first 20 minutes of being at that campsite.”
The campsite, which had looked perfect online as they were planning their overnight, was surrounded by tall grass, a perfect breeding ground for ticks.
“We could see them everywhere.”
They decided to head back toward the parking lot and try a different campsite away from the tall prairie grass.
Halfway back they checked Elsa again: another 10 or 15 ticks.
They found a campsite on a hill, with a breeze to help keep mosquitoes at bay, and set up camp.
They checked both dogs: another 20 or 30 ticks.
His wife woke up in the middle of the night and found six ticks on her and her sleeping bag. Anthony had three on him. That despite the DEET they had sprayed on themselves.
Lavinsky found one. Once he realized the dogs were tick magnets, he tried to keep his distance. He did document the adventure though.
The group headed home early the next morning. The tally? About 100 in less than 24 hours. Five pieces of duct tape covered in ticks. And the NexGard the dogs take to kill fleas and ticks has kicked in too, as they’ve found a few dead ticks since they’ve been home.
Soufflé, who has hiked all over, including along the Appalachian Trail, in Colorado, and Washington, as well as across Minnesota since moving here 18 months ago, said he’s never seen anything likes it.
The hiking they had hoped to do? Didn’t happen.
“It was nonstop ticks the whole time.”