Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mosquito Camp - June 2012

Like a seal with a beach ball perched on his nose, waiting, waiting.  Waiting collectively for the color blue on the horizon, for that warm sun to come back from the promised land.  It always does, somehow right on time.

It also means that the snow has melted from all but the highest elevations, freeing the high country for a short season of fertility.  Mountain meadows are exquisite with an explosion of color.  It is a time of life, and for celebrating life.

Mosquitoes are a formidable force in the few weeks after a snow melt.  Let me tell you.

Black Wolf is a very ancient place.  Humans have been passing through or hanging out for thousands of years, as it was once the crossroads of a well defined network of cross-Cascades trails.  Like many of the historic sites on public land, the area has survived by accident rather than design.  Camp sites are hard to find in the area, and the impact of past logging activities is significant.  But there is still that feeling of ancient when you travel these lonely mountain meadows.

You know, I was only here once before, in the very late Autumn.  I camped here alone, with frost covering all.  It was a very beautiful experience, and I wanted to come back.  

"Black Wolf, Kids!", I said to my kids.  2 of them, both girls by no fault of their own.  They are my sweethearts, and I'm always very excited to spend a few days in the wilderness with them.

After packing and planning for 5 days in the backcountry, it is wonderful to finally climb like a bird into the high mountains, where the air is pure and all is right with the world.  

As we open the doors, we are accosted by mosquitoes.  In the first 5 minutes, before we could stop them, they flew off with:
a sleeping bag
a watermelon
my extra underwear
pack of gum
a whistle

At that point, I knew we were in for it.  
Clouds of them.  Deet ineffective.
Ok then.

find the mosquito

Somehow, like idiots we decide to stay.  It is incredible - the relentless blood sucking swarm that nature unleashes upon mammals.  I will never again take for granted things like "meadow" or "marsh" in the Cascades high country.  The mosquitoes are the guardians of this place, keeping it wild and free, as only the insane would sit there and take that crap.

But that's the breaks.  Suffer through a long wet cold rainy season, to have summer arrive LATE.  And then what?  Drag your friends and family into a bloodbath.  Man I'll tell you, no breaks.

Well, there's no use in sitting at camp getting eaten alive, let's keep moving and go for a hike.

 cute stuff x2

#724 Trail

The trail ducks through woods and bypasses meadows on its eventual way towards Deschutes Country and beyond.  Stretches are lost to logging and roads, but powerful sections remain.  There is a strange feeling to a trail that you know has been used for thousands of years.  It is an electric and humbling experience.

It is also hard to pay attention, you see, because of those damned mosquitoes - millions of them per acre, buzzing, flying, getting in your eyes...keep moving, keep moving.

In drier seasons, the meadow is a pathway.  In this season, the meadow is a grassy lake.  The Old Guys had a way around this predicament: a blazed trail.  It was thoughtfully abandoned 50 or so years ago.  Keep moving, oh God the mosquitoes...

 the old way around, trees still blazed and faint tread

follow the flagging

The mosquitoes aren't as bad in the windy meadow.  But it is too boggy to linger.

cute stuff

The trail, like most Cascades trails keeps going, to God knows what fate or end befalls either the hiker or the mountain.  We are in it lockstep together - mountain, man, and mosquito.

"Maybe the mosquitoes won't be as bad once we get past the meadows and into the forest."

 a little bit of trail work

As the mosquitoes steal my hat and my ham sandwich, I realize it's a lost cause.
They didn't stop attacking for 5 days - until it rained.  And then it made them meaner.

 1938 map - once useful, then obsolete, now useful again.

The other end of the trail, semi-abandoned on this stretch.  Over 20 down logs in 2 miles!  The trail continued east at this point, but it is now abandoned and it's fate unknown.

And then rain!  Oh God the cold wet mosquito-stopping RAIN.  At this point it could rain frogs, as long as it stopped those DAMNED mosquitoes.

So we eat frogs and run off feral into the woods.

The end.

P.S. stay the hell away from mountain meadows or water bodies in the early summer.  Don't say I didn't warn you.


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