A tale of two insects, and Julian
The vortex of Julian only grazed us –
we had Mom’s pie of course, and we walked over to Carmen’s Place, where we immediately fell to the task of devouring burgers. After the meal I was shown the other world of Carmen’s: the back dock, alive with hiker culture. People idled everywhere, washing feet, talking, charging devices, doing laundry, napping, tending to blisters. I dozed off while Zog chatted with a trail angel. Carmen hugged and loved and scolded us, smoked with us, laughed with us, helped us, and (apparently immune to the smell) hugged us.
There was talk about how, at the end of the night,
the tables and chairs would be shoved to the side, and the restaurant – now filled with the polite conversation and buzz of regular customers – would be filled instead with exhausted but jubilant hikertrash. No doubt it was tempting. Zog and I conferred with each other, and ultimately decided to hit the trail after a few hours’ rest and a small resupply. We said goodbye to Bubbles, who had other pursuits to chase. The afternoon drifted lazily on, the hours at Carmen’s as healing as they were brief.
After extricating ourselves from the comforts of town and being dropped at the trail by an angel,
we began the slow and hot climb out of the low desert around Scissors Crossing. It was sweaty work. Our path alternated full light and shade as we wound around the mountain. The sun settled slowly down west where it would bother us no more – the bridge where the smart hikers were waiting (for the hottest part of the day to pass) grew further and further into the distance, until we could no longer see it. We hiked on, not sure where we would stop.
When we eventually did, it was dark. We found a lovely flat site and pitched our homes. I don’t know about the rest of you, but the people I hike with (including myself) get their housekeeping chores done and crash. Within a few minutes we were preparing to pass out.
Now, the next day Zog swore he never heard this happen.
He was only a few feet away from me, so I kind of can’t believe it. But so it was, just a few minutes past bedtime, I heard a bug making a very distinctive sound on one side of my tent.
I strained to listen, having never heard an insect call quite like that before. I went through the rolodex of bugs in my mind. Hmm, I thought. Interesting, no clue what that is. Never mind though. And I tried to fall asleep again.
Bleep blop bloop*, said the bug. So weird, so loud, again I woke up. But this time, on the exact other side of my tent, another bug answered in kind: Bloop bleep blop.
I cannot emphasize how loud these bugs were talking.
Their conversation went on and on, lurching at a pace just erratic enough to ensure that I would never fall asleep, just loud enough that my subconscious could not take over and see it as white noise. Inconceivably, hours ticked on in this way.
Bleep bleep bloop bleep blop bop, they said, all flipping night, first from one side of the tent, then from the other. I unzipped my door and crawled out with my headlamp, searching around for any sign of an unusual insect. All I saw were rocks and scrub and stars and normal things – just a quiet desert night. They weren’t saying anything now anyway – maybe they had moved along.
Back in my tent, I heard them again. I began to think strange thoughts as it neared 3am and sleep deprivation took hold: Maybe they were in love, and this was all part of some elaborate, multi-hour mating ceremony? No longer caring if I woke Zog up, I said, “Let me solve the mystery, y’all both like each other. Will you please just move it along to the next step?!” They got quiet again. I think they may have been embarrassed.
Several minutes of quiet ensued, and I drifted. Then, the jarring screech began again: Screechy bleeper blopper bloop, they insisted back and forth, louder this time, and with gusto.
Okay so they aren’t in love, I thought. Perhaps they’re warring insect tribes. “Shut up, PLEASE. Stop fighting and find some common ground,” I begged them. I knew on some level I was beginning to lose my mind, but all was quiet also from Zog’s tarp, so I wasn’t too worried. I’m pretty sure they stopped to think about what I said because it got really still again. I slowly lowered myself to my quilt and within no time I was falling down the elevator shaft of troubled exhaustion again.
Some undetermined amount of time later, they started back up. This time though, they seemed more sedate, taking turns politely, and not interrupting. I woke up but kept my eyes closed, listening. Suddenly the thought came to me: maybe they were discussing ME. Then, the deeper realization: No matter what they were discussing, they were TALKING and I was hearing INSECT LANGUAGE.
For some reason, this super creepy thought pushed me over the edge and I gave in to the sweet release of dreamless sleep. When I broke camp in the morning, the little miscreants were nowhere to be found. They left no trace, as instructed.
Be careful out there peeps, especially just outside of Julian,
*The bugs did not actually say bleep blop bloop
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