9 Miles, 3 Hours, and a Pint of Blood

3 June 2014 in Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Trails/Hiking, Traveling, Yosemite National Park

While I can’t say I slept soundly, without waking I can say that my tossing and turning in the twilight hours was some of the most pleasant unease I’ve ever had. After 13 miles of hiking with a 30 pound pack on my back I was just a little sore and the inch of partially inflated foam below me didn’t provide much relief. But I did sleep. For stretches of an hour or so at a time. And when I did wake with pain pulsing from which ever side of me was on the bottom, the bright moon was always there, illuminating the stunning silhouettes of the mountains just outside of our tent.

And as dawn began to glow I eagerly anticipated sunrise. Drifting off for just minutes at a time and awaking, startled, fearing I had missed it—like a kid on Christmas morning. Finally the very tips of the peaks caught the first light of day and I emerged from the tent to watch the fire of the morning sun slowly creep down the coarse and jagged rocks.

While doing so I began to cook breakfast and awoke Lindsay to join me. We sat on a flat rock in our campsite, sharing oatmeal and tea while the rest of the world was ignited before us. The mosquitos that had pestered us the night before were probably too gorged still this morning to bother us and the ants had found someone else to bother as well. It was the peace we were hoping for last night.

After eating and packing up our camp the heavy packs were once again hoisted up upon our backs and we continued our ascent. A short distance in we came across our first creek and filled and purified our water. As we did so the early birds of the mosquito kingdom greeted us in small droves. This would only be the beginning.

At first the mosquitos were bearable if we just kept moving. And so we did, only occasionally stopping to take in a view, snap a photo or refill our water. As we came over the top of the ridge we crossed more small creeks and the large patches of snow that was still feeding them. It was a whole new world on this side and despite our tired bodies and the beating sun we were in high spirits.

Then we began a long descent. Switchback, after switchback, after switchback carried us down off the top of the mountain. It seemed endless and was only made worse by the increase in buzzing little bloodsuckers. We had applied OFF! before starting the day, but it seemed to be doing little, if anything. Our pace quickened and we were soon barreling down the hillside at a record pace.

I had hopes that a breeze would kick up as the day went on or that maybe we’d soon be out of this heavily infested breeding ground, but it never let up, only worsened. When we got to more level ground we were forced to pass through countless meadows, thick and green and damp. Here there seemed to be thousands of mosquitos floating in clouds around us and attacking every area of exposed skin and sometimes going right through our clothing with their tiny, little straws.

In desperation we tried to apply more of the ineffective OFF!, but the aerosol ran out and now a dose strong enough to lay waste to our enemies was trapped inside the can. I carried this can in vain, cursing it’s very existence for miles and miles as we marched at a speed walkers pace. I have never been so distraught and filled with anger on a trail. We were miserable and couldn’t even enjoy the beautiful scenery or the wonderful day. We just kept going. And going. And going. The trail seemed to have no end. The minutes felt like hours and the miles lightyears.

I think we both were on the brink of cracking and going mad out there. I was swearing at the mosquitos and actually felt fleeting vindication when I was able to smash one against my polka dotted skin. There was this brief sense of retribution, but it soon disappeared as their seemingly infinite army filled in the fallen ranks. We were at war and loosing. I began to retreat and leave my fellow soldier in the dust. We had stuck together for hours now, but I had to escape. I had to find the end of the trail and emerge from the madness.

Had it been a minute longer I don’t know what I would have done. An hour would have surely left a lasting crack in my psyche. A day longer and I would have been found laying by the trail side, sucked dry like some human raisin. But I found the end and emerged from the horror and soon Lindsay was there beside me, itching manically. It’s no wonder, in our state we had a hard time hitching a ride. It would end up taking us another hour just to get back to the truck.

Our wounds would last us a week. Lindsay fairing far worse than me. Somehow my bites barely itched and there remnants were few and far between. Lindsay on the other hand was covered from head to ankles in bumps and some clusters numbered in the hundreds. We tried all of the usual remedies and surprisingly the newest and oddest one helped the most. So here’s a tip from one of our fellow rangers for treating mosquito bites – Vick’s Vapor Rub. Yep, the stuff your mom used to apply to your chest when you were very young and had a cold. It smells pretty intense and out of place in the middle of summer, but it works.

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