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Long Trails

PCT Week 10: Cracked By Mosquitoes

Our correspondent battles bugs as she continues her trek


Dirty Feet

Sometimes stepping into the water is the only way to escape mosquitoes.

Sierra Vistas

High passes lead to epic views in the Sierras.

Everything in Bloom

The Sierras are stunning this time of year — wildflowers blooming everywhere.

I am running down the trail, pack smashing against my back with every stride. Tears are streaming down my face as I feel sweat trickling down my back. I look back behind me and find the monsters have not been out paced, they are still with me, biting.

It is the mosquitoes. They have driven me mad.

I haven’t slept in days, I just lie awake in my bivvy, sweating and cursing the little buzz of their tiny bodies. They can’t get me inside my bivvy, as I keep it totally zipped up and stuff my head net and my hat at the face opening, but I also can’t breathe or sleep. I am simply too hot. Plus, that high pitched whine of their zombie-like bloodlust creates a visceral anger I can’t shake.

I have been hiking fast for days as well, trying to get away from them. There are so many, though. I can’t slap them — that is how many there are — I just brush them off, push on faster, or try (unsuccessfully) to become a zen master.

Previous days weren’t so bad — they just didn’t allow me any breaks. This was a blessing, of sorts, because I had miles to go and no hiking partner to lounge about with. But right now, running down the trail, they are horrible.

This evening they began directly after I had to run off a pass as menacing storm clouds barreled overhead. I was exhausted. I had dropped down from the pass (advertised, cruelly, as “the easiest pass” by our guidebook — it was not!) to beautiful lakes, all sprawled out in a row. They were deep blue and reflected the white and grey clouds swarming above them, all extremely picturesque.

I was awed and I was also in pain. My feet were weary of tripping on rocks sprawled along the trail. I had already gone eight hours, but planned on another two or three for good measure. I found a perfect, chair-shaped rock and looked at the splendor around me. Then the swarm attacked.

“Fine I am going, I am going,” I yelled at them, crazed, and finished with and impetuous, “Are you happy now?”

I stumbled on and a family told me the mosquitoes were much worse further on. I stopped for a moment to filter water but they were so bad I had to filter while walking (thank you Platypus Gravity Filter!).

The last two hours I could not out walk them. I looked back to see them buzzing just behind my arms, snacking on the backs of my knees.

Terror struck when I pushed on faster and they just kept moving along. The farther I walked, the more arrived. I laughed at my plight, screamed, and then cried.

Finally I broke down, unable to keep it together to walk another second. I put on every item of clothing I owned, despite the high temperatures, and flopped down on a rock. I sobbed in earnest, really wailing and feeling sorry for myself. I was loud.

I looked up, when I was all cried out, and found I was not 50 yards away from another hiker, a unwitting witness to my mad pain.

But that is thru hiking, after all: bearing pain in the open. Here’s to hoping the mosquitoes all die off soon.