Friday, June 8, 2018

Bugged Out In Virginia: Part 4 - In Which We Find Where Bugs Go On Vacation

There are times on the trail where you meet somebody coming the other way and stop to chat for a moment or two. This is common, but what you cannot quite get from the reading or watching in a movie or video, is how we know how long the person has been out on the trail...they go on and we say 'whew! That's, a through hiker!' You smell bad out there, and it's not just homeless-looking guys with large beards. The women that look like your school teacher back in elementary school, or a hot-looking young girl, they all get the smell, and what is worse is that you can smell it on yourself. We were going for 7 days out on the trail without going into town, and by the third day, we could easily be mistaken for 'professionals!' 
Part of our ultra-light packing methodology was to only take 2 sets of clothes, 1 to hike in and 1 to sleep in at night. When we stopped for the night, I'd try to wipe down with a washcloth, stand my hiking clothes up in a corner in front of the tent to ward off bears, and put on my shorts and shirt for sleeping. Unfortunately, by the 3rd day that washcloth smelled so bad that it about knocked me out when I got it near my face. No amount of swishing it in a stream seemed to help. You are probably wondering why we didn't just jump in the creeks we came across. Well as sticky and miserable as we were, we are still from Florida and 30 degree water is just plain too cold to jump in, I tried but without waves and a wetsuit and a surfboard, I wasn't going in cold water.
Normally, when we stop for the day, the last thing I wanted to do was to get in a small tent and just lay there for over 12 hours, wishing I could fall asleep but this trip had a new wrinkle: bugs were everywhere. You could not put your foot on a rock without having a large black ant crawl over to establish his ownership of the new piece of flesh in his territory. Apparently, the rains had brought on a population surge of everything that had an exoskeleton. The only way to truly avoid them was to get in the tent and zip up the mosquito netting. To make things a little more interesting, Pam had started texting me about ticks and Lyme disease, and how the governor of Virginia had declared a state emergency. I got this message while hiking through some tall wet grass on the trail. She also told me to make sure that I didn't get bit by a female tick, because 50% of them carried Lyme disease. I never did figure out how to tell which ones were female and
I'm not certain that my skin ever really stopped crawling until I got home. I did find a tick on my leg once and then went around asking everyone for the guaranteed way to remove a tick without leaving the head in your skin, it getting infected and then Paul having to amputate my leg on the trail while I bit down on a stick....yes, I had some more sleepless nights after that.
There was one night in particular that I won't forget. I was wedged into my tent before it was even dark. We were tired and I was sick of having insects on everything I owned. I lay back with my arms behind my head while I listened to a conversation between two campers near me. They were an interesting couple. They pretty much spoke only in French, although the girl did speak English to a young guy walking by that I would say fit the typical description of the kind of guy a hiker girl would fall in love with, skinny, big black beard, and some kind of skullcap that looked like it should be worn by a guy with dreadlocks. Before I got into my tent, I got a good look over there and the girl was sitting outside the tent, while her guy was inside. I didn't need to understand the words to get the meaning. The guy was speaking in a high whiny voice and the girl would reply in short guttural retorts. I imagine she was telling him she needed a real man on this trip, not some snively little thing that was hiding in his tent. 
Meanwhile, I lay back thinking that I was fine with Paul on this trip. He was down at the shelter, swapping stories with the other guys that were hanging out. Popeye was there, and about 4 other guys that had plenty to say about the soggy conditions and the crowded shelters. I had been down there for a while, but I started getting that feeling that every little black speck I saw on my leg was another tick crawling up for the homeland.
So, I lay back in my tent, quite content to listen to the French girl telling her guy to 'man up', while I enjoyed the one place in the world that was without bugs....except, that eventually I realized that there was one little black thing inside the tent at the top, and then I slowly noticed that it had those funny legs, and was starting to move down the side. I quickly stuffed my hand in my mouth so French girl wouldn't have one more sissy boy to mock, and then bravely grabbed the tick and smashed him to death on the floor of the tent. But, not unlike the Terminator, one leg started moving and then another and he started moving towards me. This time I smashed him with my flashlight, giving it everything I had, knowing that nothing could survive my 195lbs that I put into it. Then one leg started moving and another. I finally pinched him between my fingers and tossed him out of the night..spending the rest of the night half awake, waiting for the zipper to start to move...

No comments:

Post a Comment