Wildlife and Mosquitoes (June 12-13)

June 12– I got started early this morning, hiking in the cool shadow of a mountain, along a lake.  I kept thinking about how peaceful and pretty it was there, in that shaded quiet.  Not to mention, the trail grade was a nice mild descent all morning, which felt wonderful.

I saw a few deer on the granite slabs by the lake.  I walked by with them watching, alert but not fearful, me moving slowly by.  The evening before I had been walking over the granite landscape, sensed movement, and looked up to see a coyote trotting over some slabs nearby.  It seemed so right to see him there, in that wild, open, stark landscape.  Pretty neat part of the evening.

Sooty grouse right by the trail.

I felt so satisfied on this day, free, peaceful, happy to be out there on the path with a full day ahead, somehow getting a lot out of just being there with myself.  I continue to play around with that balance between hiking with others and hiking alone, and the gifts to be found in both of those settings.  I’d hiked off and on with a friend the last few days, and felt content with hiking alone once more, left with some of our conversations to think over.  Looking around at all that beauty.  Seemed pretty close to heaven on earth, feeling peace and joy in the present moment.

I was looking to hike to sunlight in the valley ahead, before sitting down to eat breakfast.  It looked beautiful up there, too, and warmer.  I hiked towards a hiker packing up his gear, and sure enough, it was my most recent friend.  He said, “I can’t believe it, I said to myself, I’m going to get up as early as Old Soul this morning!  You caught me!”  We laughed a while about that.

Even though I’d just been reveling in hiking alone, I was glad to see him there. I felt like I had a few things to laugh about with him from the evening before- the full shelter I’d passed, the campers in their tents so early by the time I rolled up to the site.  I chatted with him as he finished packing up, then we continued on down the path.

Throughout the day, we hiked by pretty creeks, pines, quaking aspens.  I thought once more about how these green forested areas are much more familiar to me, than the wide open spaces and exposed granite of the Sierra.  I feel comforted whenever I’m back among the trees again!

We’ve also started hearing cicadas singing recently, another sound I find familiar and comforting, a reminder of all the life that surrounds us.

The afternoon was a hot one.  We attempted multiple lunch breaks, but every time we saw put down our packs at a pretty spot, it was only moments before mosquitoes started swarming us.  We were getting hungrier each minute, and finally sat down anyway, and did our best to wave them away while we ate.  That was a quick lunch.

That evening was terribly buggy at my camp site as well.  I set my tent up as quickly as I could, threw everything in, then crawled in myself.  I killed at least 8 mosquitoes that had flown in with me, then felt sweet relief, just watching them land and sit on the mesh outside, unable to get to me.  It’s really something to camp in a site that is so buggy you can hear the whine of the mosquitoes surrounding you!  I’d forgotten.

The ability to get in a mesh tent and escape mosquitoes is invaluable. You better believe I zipped my tent door up tight that night.

In the weeks to come, I noticed that the mosquito activity seems to die down with darkness, and they don’t start to stir again until the sun’s beams start hitting them.  It’s also really something to be packing up in the morning, feel the first of the sun’s warmth, and notice that where the air had just been clear, now mosquitoes are gathering, whining, and soon biting.

I’ll keep playing around with my mosquito strategies.  Maybe I’ll need to start getting up earlier, then napping in my tent mid-day.

June 13– Another early morning, hiking by some pretty lakes to begin the day.  I saw a bald eagle startle from a pine that I hiked under, and soar over the lake.  So close I could hear his wing beats.

I’ve been appreciating how clear these snow fed lakes are, and the fact that I frequently walk by and see something darting, in that pretty water.  If you stop to look, often you can find a golden trout or two.  I’ve seen many backpackers carrying collapsible fishing rods in their packs, taking advantage of the opportunity to catch a trout in this pristine habitat.

View from Selden Pass.

I hiked up Selden Pass in the morning, then descended down into the beautiful view on the other side, of multiple blue lakes.  As I had suspected might happen, the warming morning brought the mosquitoes back again.  It was so bad that I dug out my bug head net.  I had always imagined that wearing a head net would be so stuffy and terrible, but I was really thankful to have it, and time and again to hear the mosquitoes bounce against it, deterred.  Maybe my favorite piece of gear today!

I took a look at myself with my camera, with sunglasses, hat, head net, and laughed and laughed.  I’m definitely not looking fashionable lately, with that dowdy netting, and bent sunglasses I found out on a log recently.  I have a friend out here who laughs at himself and says, “Fashion over function” when he describes his own wardrobe choices, but I find that a tough and undesirable road to follow.

Head net = great.

Here in the Sierra, I continue to hike over passes, appreciate wildlife in this pristine setting, meet other thru hikers, and adapt to the mosquito challenge.



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