Monday, August 17, 2009

Skeeters, Olallie, and the Big Limp

At the time, it seemed like a smart idea. I was losing weight. I was able to ride on my "acoustic" (read non-electric) bike for pretty much everything and I felt ready to take the next step. It turned out to be a step backwards, but it was still worthwhile.

I've been Jonesing for a decent backtrip trip ever since I wrenched my knee 3 years ago on the Pacific Crest Trail. I decided a trip to Olallie Lake in the northern Oregon Cascades was a good choice. The slopes were mostly gentle and there were many possible camping spots owing to the plentiful lakes in the area.

It was the maiden voyage (for me, anyway) of a 1992 Honda Accord that was a birthday present for the MiniSnab (and she still didn't know about it). Even though the lake is not far as the crow flies from the Willamette Valley, I'd forgotten how far it was as the car flies (about 150 miles from our house). In addition, the last dozen or so miles were on gravel roads.

I pulled up to the trailhead, had some lunch and donned the backpack for this trip. Mosquitoes are a problem in July, but they didn't seem too terrible, so I didn't think much about it. I packed extremely light, but I recently purchased a new CPAP machine that runs on Li-ion batteries and 2 batteries etc. weighed about 8 pounds, so the backpack was a bit hefty. Since this was a solo outing, there would be no splitting of cook gear, tentage, etc. to save weight.

My first mile and a half (or so) held most of the climbing, about 700 feet. The trails were not well kept (when compared to the Pacific Crest trail). Much of the way resembled a dry creek bed. I suspect anyone with a mountain bike would be better off carrying it up a trail like this. The terrible truth is that, even with biking, I am out of shape. When I reached the top, I enjoyed a limited view of the mountain, then decided to find a lake to camp at.

Apparently, the trailmakers had never heard of a switchback because I basically walked straight down a hillside to the first lake. Young me wouldn't have cared, but old and banged up me had to pick my way slowly down the hill. Even so, I ended up turning my ankle and wincing in pain.

Fine, I thought. I will get down to the lake and take stock of the situation. I picked my way VERY slowly the rest of the way, noting a rather exponential increase in mosquitoes as I went. I finally found a stopping place by the lake and dropped my pack. I looked down and saw dozens of mosquitoes on each leg. I wiped one calf and left a black and red smear down my leg.

In a panic, I started throwing everything out of my pack and found the bottle of 100% DEET. That should help. I aimed straight at my calf and sprayed...right into my open mouth. Shit. I turned the nozzle 180 degrees and started spraying the rest of myself, spitting and trying not to swallow. My saliva turned gummy, but I had to staunch the attack. Finally, I coated myself in enough poison to be able to rinse my mouth out a dozen times or so with water.

I continued on to a possible camping spot. The DEET was effective. The skeeters were flying around me, but not biting. I sat there looking over the lake as my foot stiffened up. I realized it was not going to be better by tomorrow, so I made the decision to bag the trip. (mmhmm)

The way back avoided the mountain and was all downhill, but it was more stairsteps of dry creekbed, each of which had me muttering ouches and expletives. When Olallie Lake hove back in view, there was great relief. A quarter mile limp up the service road took me back to the car. I sat in the car, safe from mosquitoes and plotted my next move.

I made my way down the gravel road, then down to the Forest Service road between Estacada and Detroit. Even though Detroit led away from home, I decided to see if there was somewhere to stay and so there was.

My big packpack trip ended at a hotel in Detroit Lake. I went over and had a burger and enough wine to mask my foot pain and headed back to my room. The hotel had a nightly campfire, so I hung out and enjoyed the company of a number of people I didn't know. My CPAP performed admirably in the hotel room that evening. In the morning, I checked my legs. I started counting bites on my left calf and stopped at 42 exrapolating an easy triple digit figure overall. So far, no West Nile or malaria. Whew!

The drive home was relatively uneventful.

So here are the few pics I took...

The view from part way up the hill.

Olallie Lake and Mount Jefferson

The hotel I stayed at.


The Moody Minstrel said...

I'm sorry this outdoor trek wasn't much more successful than the last one, but I'm sure it was still a valuable chance to get away from it all.

One "home remedy" for avoiding mosquitoes that you might try next time is drinking a small bottle of tonic water the night before going on your hike. Tonic water contains quinine, which apparently leaches out through your skin and acts as a natural mosquito repellent.

I read an interesting article about the topic in a Scientific American magazine recently. It says that mosquitoes don't need blood to survive (evidenced strongly be the fact that males don't bite); rather, the females seem to need a chemical found in blood to help them produce eggs. Tellingly, when multiple people are involved, mosquitoes always seem to prefer the person with the highest cholesterol level.

ladybug said...

I wanna go, but not during skeeter time!

I hate those fuggers! Looks so fine, love to have a nice slow "hike" up there...(sigh)

Tee Hee

Don Snabulus said...


It might have sounded like a lot of adversity and not much fun, but even during the most challenging moments, I still absolutely love it in the mountains. You tonic water plan sounds interesting...Vitamin B12 supplements are also supposed to help.


Maybe we can escape up there some day soon.

Pandabonium said...

What an absolutley beautiful place to go to hell in a handbasket. I hope your ankle feels better soon. Glad you had the wisdom to call it quits before making things worse.

Next time, take Moody, let him test the quinine theory while you slather deet on BEFORE encountering mosquitoes. Tell him it's for science.

Arkonbey said...

am I a bad person for laughing at your DEET incident?

Mosquitos go for high cholesterol? Wow. Maybe that explains why I hardly ever get poked by 'em...
I also heard that they are attracted to blue.

Don Snabulus said...


Indeed, a pretty decent handbasket location. The experiment sounds fun too. >:)


I think mosquito cures may be like hiccup cures. Nothing works until it works for you, but you might be the only one it works on.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Mosquitoes are attracted to BLUE???!?

The Colorman said...

...but not green.

Dean Wormer said...

Didn't you know you were delicious? At least that's what the mosquitos say.

Don Snabulus said...



Dave said...

Sorry to hear about your ankle. You seem to have bad luck that way. I remember a similar thing happened to you on our scouting fifty miler. There ought to be some exercise that strenghtens the ankle.

Pandabonium said...

The old twisted ankle on the 50 miler trick. The "Kobayashi Maru" of Scouting. Two less clever fellows end up schlepping the "injured" Scout home on a stretcher. Guess who gets the badge?

Don Snabulus said...

It was my arm on that 50 miler (though I don't doubt I probably twisted the ankle cuz I always seem to do that).


I sense a story there. Luckily, I've always been able to ambulate out of my wilderness clumsiness.

ze bulette said...

i'd forgotten about the tonic water trick, nice one! once in phrance, i slathered myself in chainsaw oil and fuel as there was no where to run to and nowhere to hide from the mosquitoes. ridiculous but it worked. nice pics, hope your next hike is a good one!

ElTigrez said...

Damn those "carnivorous" flying beasties!