PCT Day 8 – mosquito alley

July 31
Miles hiked: 19.6
Total trip miles: 156.8

In the end we don’t take the Oregon Skyline Alternate. I’m just not comfortable hiking without a map, and Marc doesn’t like the idea of a shortcut. As we hike up the other side of Windigo Pass, we see a lovely flat tent site right next to the trail after about a mile. Oh, well. We had to have at least one crappy campsite on this trip, right?

The mosquitoes are fierce. Here’s what you need to do in mosquito country:

  1. Spray your clothing ahead of time with Permethrin. They won’t land on it.
  2. Spray deet-based repellent on any exposed skin except your face (the stuff’s toxic!)
  3. Wear a head net. Remember when eating to lift the net up before attempting to put food in your mouth.

If you’ve got those three dialed in, then the biggest problem you’ll have when hiking through mosquito-infested terrain is that you won’t want to stop and rest. But one can only hike so far without pause for water and food …

We cross paths with a woman who looks like a 60-year old version of a boy scout —clanking metal cup dangling from her pack straps, Mounties-style hat, the works. Not long after, there’s another woman, this one sporting an ancient external-frame pack, wearing a Little House on the Prairie style sunbonnet and carrying a plastic gallon jug of water in one hand and a wooden walking stick in the other. Holly Hobbie! I think as she trudges heavily by. Strange.

The trail is actually quite pleasant, despite the mozzies, as Marc likes to call mosquitoes, with some views of lakes and distant mountains.

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After 11 miles, we arrive at Summit Lake, the first water since Six Horse Spring about 17 miles ago. There’s a dirt road, and a car with Idaho plates parked by a tent site down by the lake. Nobody is there. Marc doesn’t want to deal with the mosquitoes and is in favor of continuing to hike, but the lake looks cool and blue and I am dying for a swim, plus we need water.

We head over to a little spot along the shore by the tent site —and find paradise. There’s a strip of soft sand. A mossy bank to sit on. The wind is blowing steadily off the water, driving all the mosquitoes back into the forest. And to top all that off, we’re protected by a posse of brilliant blue dragonflies.

Dragonflies are predators, I explain to Marc. No mosquito is going to bother us here. I quickly strip down to my undies and wade into the water. I have never, ever, ever in my life enjoyed a swim as much as I do on this day! I paddle way out (that’s me in the second photo in the distance), exulting in the glint of sunlight on the lake, the beauty of the mountain in the distance, the feel of cold water caressing my body. Marc even gets in for a swim!

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I am brim-full of joy.

Unfortunately we do need to keep hiking, so after that wonderful long relaxing break, we continue on. The app tells us that the two seasonal streams at mile 1894 and 1896.7 are both running, and there’s a tent site between them, so we aim for that. It’s a climb of about 1500 feet, which isn’t much, but it takes us up into some lovely high country.

Lingering snow fields are why the streams are running. Also why the mosquitoes are out in force. I can just imagine them saying to themselves Bingo! Human over here! Smorgasbord! The terrain reminds us of the Colorado Trail —high alpine, even though the altitude is only around 7000′. I love this kind of hiking, even when being hounded by mozzies. The tent site is perfect, with a view out over some distant mountain range. We don our headnets and prepare dinner. The happiness from our perfect lake experience still lingers. Life is good.

Oddly enough we encountered no one today except those two strange women and a single southbound backpacker at the end of the day while we were setting up camp. Perhaps everyone else is doing the Oregon Skyline Alternate. We’re so glad we came this way! The lake and the dragonflies! The beautiful mountains behind us!

We debate eating dinner in the tent to avoid the mozzies, but ultimately my fear of bears wins out and we spoon up our goop under the headnets.

Later, when Marc enters the tent, at least 20 famished mosquitoes enter with him, and we spend a few minutes murdering them all. I watch as the sun sets and the mozzies buzz in swarms outside the tent. I’ve never seen anything like it. Getting up to pee this night will be a real test of fortitude.

Tomorrow it’s only about 10 miles into Shelter Cove, where we have a resupply box awaiting us. Civilization! Beer! Ice Cream! I like that name, Shelter Cove. Very welcoming. I’m hoping there’s a good restaurant.

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