June 30, 2018
With singing heart and a bounce in my step, I headed north from Hwy 140 through a fairly flat forest filled with evergreens. My pack, stuffed with ten meals and all my gear, felt light, mirroring my mood.
Streamers of usnea adorned the trees.
I grinned at Jay. “Blue sky, warm sun, cool breeze – what more could a person want?”
“Mosquito repellent?” Jay asked as he slapped his arm. “I can’t believe these things are biting through my jacket!”
I realized that the bloodthirsty insects were penetrating my shirt and pants also. Quickly I pulled out DEET, applying it liberally to my clothes, more sparingly to my bare skin. The repellent did make the tiny monsters back off a bit. Instead of biting, they just followed me, eagerly seeking a chink in my armor.
We continued hiking, and I went back to contemplating the natural wonders around me. Every now and then a mosquito would commit suicide by diving into my ear or nose or mouth. Jay could hear me behind him, choking and spitting. Aack!
After 11 miles, we reached the trail to Christi’s Spring, and were delighted to meet an old acquaintance, Phoenix from France, last seen on May 6, approaching Tehachapi. As we chatted, catching up with each other, another hiker, Hollywood, approached from the spring. Seeing empty water bottles, he asked Phoenix, “Are you prepared to meet Armageddon?”
“Mosquitoes are that bad down there?” Phoenix sounded surprised.
“You wouldn’t believe,” Hollywood shuddered.
I had read about Christi’s Spring in Guthook, the online PCT map. Chaucer, a PCT hiker, had written, ‘Get your water and RUN!’
Phoenix eyed my preparations, and decided to put on a bit more protection.
Hiker PapaDen refers to this type of outfit as a “hazmat suit”.
We camped early, just for the relief of crawling into a bug-free space. I love our tent! As we lay on our sleeping bags, listening to the whine of frustrated tiny vampires, Jay asked, “Hey, can you hear the nighthawks?”
I strained my ears, and suddenly heard “bbeerrnt“, a distinctive nasal vocalization, sounding much like a miniature airplane diving. I imagined the birds, plummeting through the air above me, intent upon filling their bellies with insects. Cheered by this sign of mosquito demise, I fell asleep.
July 1, 2018
Nighthawks provided air support as dawn peered between the tree trunks, but the mosquitoes were undaunted, tinnily demanding that we emerge from our tent haven.
These bloodsucking winged terrors provided escort service for our first eight miles, until we finally left them behind by climbing onto dry Shale Butte.
Jay pulled ahead of me, disappearing as he topped out on a long, breezy arm of the butte.
Suddenly, I heard a loud, rattling fall of rock. ‘An avalanche?‘ I wondered. The sounds of disturbed rocks continued. ‘I hope that’s not Jay falling off this ridge,’ I thought with sudden anxiety. ‘No,’ I reasoned. ‘I would have heard a yell. Maybe it’s a bear taking the short way down the mountain.’ (I never did see the cause of the sliding rocks, so I have only my bear theory.)
I continued walking, contouring around the ridge, and noticed musical notes emanating from beneath my feet. I looked down. The trail at this point had been hacked across a scree field. My footsteps clinked over loose pieces of flat shale, making a faint tune, as if someone were gently tapping each pitch in a set of wind chimes. Charmed, I slowed my steps, immersed in the unexpected enchantment of the moment.
Flowers began making a show as I caught up with Jay. Penstemon, western wallflowers, Indian paintbrush, and bleeding hearts splashed the rocks with pockets of color.
Suddenly I saw a new flower! Shaggy gray and white feathers swirled in coiffed mops, looking exactly like miniature versions of the truffula trees in the Dr Seuss book, The Lorax!
Jay looked it up, and we had a name, the white pasqueflower, it’s feathery top the flower gone to seed.
We came to a side trail for Devil’s Peak. The top looked so close, we couldn’t resist dropping our packs to climb. Another couple with the same goal took our picture before we started. The view was well worth the effort. Mt McLoughlin and far off Mt Shasta greeted us from behind, Klamath Lake lay on our right, a wilderness of jumbled green ridges stretched out on our left, and the rim of Crater Lake loomed before us.
A familiar whine greeted us as we descended the mountain, and once again I was thankful to dive inside our tent that night, leaving bloodthirsty insects mindlessly battering the mosquito netting.
Jay surveyed the day’s collection of mosquito bites in disgust. “To think, only the female half of the population was after me! Being a babe magnet is overrated.”