Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Comedy of Circumstances (and errors), Day 2

July 18th - Rosary Lakes to Betty Lake - 7.8 miles (and 600 feet up followed by about 800 feet down)

Image borrowed from

I rummaged through my pack for the maps and trip guide for this section of the trail wasn't there. Anywhere. Oops. I don't think I've ever been on a trip where nobody had a map and I felt pretty stupid for not packing it. The odd part is that I still haven't found that stuff around the house yet. Weird. At any rate, I wasn't too worried because I had major portions of it memorized and the Pacific Crest Trail is very well marked. Combine all that with the American love of roadbuilding and the risk lowers considerably of such a blunder.

We hiked away from the pesky skeeters into...well...even more skeeters. Apparently proximity of ready water is not a prerequisite. Although I only saw one patch of remaining snow above the 6000 foot elevation we traversed, I knew that it was a big snow year and that portions of this trail were impassible to hikers as recently as a month ago. I imagined there were plenty of mosquito spawning grounds. As we climbed to the crest of the saddle that passed the western slopes of Maiden Peak, we were treated to a wonderful view of the valley below along with a large portion of the area we covered last year south of Willamette Pass. The title picture for this entry shows the three Rosary Lakes along with Odell Lake and Crescent Lake in the distance. We were also treated to views of Diamond Peak, Mt. Yoran, and the tippy-top of Mt. Thielsen (mountains not shown in this borrowed pic). This was the physical, emotional, and mental high point of the trip enjoying the view from 6300 feet above sea level.

Coming down the northern side into the next valley, the mosquito situation turned from a moderate irritant into a real problem. The mosquitoes were so aggressive that the DEET was not stopping them. Places where we sweated or failed to reach with DEET were hammered even harder. While we both had about a dozen bites each at Rosary Lakes, we quickly eclipsed the 100+ mark. I was bit twice on the lip, inhaled two of the little devils and spat them out again, and I ended the trip with probably 20 bites on each elbow alone. We were covered.

A new dance was invented by me because I was truly being driven nuts by the mosquitoes on my face. I was slapping and cussing as we zigzagged down the path. I am not sure what happened because I did not step on anything wrong, but the end of one step sent a sharp pain through my knee. After that, audible crunchings and a good deal of pain were evident with each step. After a while the crunches subsided but the knee was sore and it felt like something was definitely wrong. When Ladybug and I stopped for a rest, I told Ladybug that I was inclined to "bag this trip." Ladybug assented and we had to figure out how to end this trip 30 miles short of our destination.

Though I did not have the map, I knew that Waldo Lake was large (and therefore developed) and it was to our north and west. I wrote down a number of trail junctions on my itinerary (which we did bring) and we decided we would take the first one that mentioned Waldo Lake. We still had a couple of miles to walk before the first junction and I found that resting my knee only made it stiffer and more painful, so on we walked. At this point, there were clouds of hundreds mosquitoes surrounding both of us that appeared as buzzing spherical swarms around us whenever we walked into a sunny area. [For reference to those who were there on our Boy Scout trip those many years ago, Sisters Mirror Lake was losing its status as a mosquito-filled trip.]

The only good thing happening at this point was that we were done climbing large hills for the remainder of the trip. The trail sloped gently onward and downward. We finally reached the trail junction for the Eugene to Pacific Crest trail about a 1/2 mile short of our planned turn off to go to Bobby Lake. After confirming our intentions to finish up the trip, we saw a sign that said Waldo Lake Trail was only about 5 miles ahead. We hit the Waldo Lake Road about two miles later. We were about 7.5 miles into the day and my knee was hurting quite badly at this point. A sign showed that Betty Lake was a quarter mile past the road. I rested while Ladybug went to make sure it wasn't a mosquito breeding ground. She returned and reported a good stiff wind with no mosquitoes at the lake, so she walked and I limped the last 1/4 mile to camp. We arrived early (about 1pm), so there was plenty of time to relax, enjoy the breeze, and finally set up camp. I took some wonderful pictures (which I can't show you because of something later in the story) and we had a nice dinner. Ladybug refilled the water bottles, we talked for a while, then went to bed.

When the sun went down, the wind died. When the wind died, the mosquitoes began swarming our mosquito netting. We went to sleep to the high-pitched whine of a phalanx of blood-seeking mosquitoes. Ladybug finally gave up on sleep at about 3am, left the netting, and put on rain gear to thwart the bugs. I was so sore, I could only sleep in fits until sunrise. At one point, my back was so stiff and sore, I couldn't stand laying on my Therm-a-rest in any position, so I curled up face-down on hands and knees to give my back a rest. When it was light enough to see, I got up, applied DEET, and put on rain gear to hold back the hordes. We ate granola bars for breakfast, jammed everything in our packs, and prepared to get the heck out. I should mention at this point that I could barely stand up when I tried to roll out of the mosquito netting. With repeated moving around, I loosened up enough to hike.

Side Note: Going potty in the woods

Unless you can hold it forever, you eventually need to heed the call of nature when backpacking. Nature does not provide a covered shelter with seats for this activity. While men are able to conduct liquid business relatively easily, conducting the expulsion of solid human waste and the liquid waste of females is an entirely different matter. In addition to the trench digging and difficult squatting techniques required for backcountry hygiene, we found another menace that proved even worse. Unless you haven't been paying attention I've written so far, you've probably guessed that it is mosquitoes. I won't really elaborate much more than to say that soft and private areas hurt and itch much worse with mosquito bites than the more exposed parts of the human anatomy...and I think I will just leave it at that because I am becoming traumatized again.


Pandabonium said...

So much for my envy of your hiking experiences. Next time bring the NASA EVA suits with plenty of oxygen and built in diapers.

ladybug said...

Yea, we met a guy doing a section hike like us, and he mentioned putting on his raingear to get away from them 'fugging' mosquitoes. I now refer to them as 'fuggers'.