Mosquitos, Blowdowns and Lakes, Oh My!
Oregon so far, has been a blur. I have been looking forward to this section of trail but unfortunately it seems as though this state is currently under mosquito siege. Two days into hiking Oregon they hit us like a brick wall. I hike fast to avoid them because If I stop, I am instantly covered. I swat and itch as I walk. The buzzing is maddening, I feel them in my ears, my eyes, my nose. To make matters worse, this section has a lot of blowdowns. I have to maintain a quick pace in order to avoid being swarmed but I as I scramble and trip over the blowdowns, I am forced to slow down and feel the flying terrors moving in on me. I feel panicked as i try to scramble over the fallen trees as quickly as possible. Sharp branches and bark tear at my legs. Why is this section of trail so unmaintained? I feel annoyed at everything, trapped like I can’t get away, I can’t even stop to pee or rest my legs or drink water. I feel robbed. I am hiking thru a lush green beautiful forest but I don’t see any of it. I want so badly to be at peace and to enjoy this beauty. My instincts are that of an animal as I try to get through the terrain as quickly as possible. I feel as though I am running and can’t stop. All I can do is put my head down and try to drown out the maddening sounds of buzzing. I put in an audiobook to try to transport my mind somewhere else.
6.5 hours go by and at last, I am on a ridge, out of the wet forest and there is a breeze which keeps most of the flying terrors away. It is only then, when I am finally still that I realize how tired and hungry my body is and how much my feet are aching. We eat lunch in mostly silence, too tired and too discouraged to talk. We finish eating and reluctantly carry on. There is a solemn yet anxious mood throughout the day as we wonder how long this will be our reality. Hikers barely acknowledge one another, too preoccupied with avoiding mosquitos to stop and talk. With our heads down we mutter a word or two. There is nothing to say, nothing to talk about. We are all in survival mode. I keep hiking, only stopping to filter water or to go to the bathroom.
28 miles later, I get to camp. It is 6pm. The fastest 28 mile day I have hiked, but not without cost. I set up my tent and get in as quickly as possible. I take off my shoes, peel off my socks, and immediately my heart sinks. My heels are raw and red, the skin is torn up. I got new shoes in the last town, and my hiker feet have grown at least one size bigger and my fast pace and too small shoes have taken quite the toll on them today. I try to fall asleep, but there are hundreds of mosquitos buzzing between my tent and rain fly. My feet are stinging inside my sleeping bag.
I awake from a few blissful hours of mosquito free sleep and open my eyes to see them still buzzing outside my tent. I groan when I realize the mosquito hell we are in. I put on my rain pants and rain jacket and quickly pack up my gear. Today is a 21 mile water carry to Crater Lake. I pack 4 liters of water. I haul my pack onto my back and wince under the weight of the extra water. I hike as fast as I can but the extra weight slows me down significantly. The sun comes out and I begin to sweat in my rain clothes. I feel the moisture dripping down my itchy skin, but this clothing is my best defense against the flying terrors. My face, the only exposed part of my body continues to get attacked. I pick dead mosquitos out of my nose and eyes. I hike with my head down and put in an audiobook to distract me from my misery.
At last I am in the park, miraculously the mosquitos are not too bad here. All my worries seem to dissipate when I find my friends at the general store and sit down to eat an ice cream. We made it. We know we have a long mosquito-filled road ahead, but today we made it, and that is enough.
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