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Long Trails

PCT Week 10: Cracked By Mosquitoes

Our correspondent battles bugs as she continues her trek

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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.

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