Why did God create mosquitoes? I personally despise the blood-sucking fiends. And yet ... and yet it was due to these ferocious crazed insects that I have a tale to tell.
The story begins, well, two weeks ago. Tristan is turning ten. Thus, it was time to take him out for his double-digit trip with dad. I planned a 3 day backpacking trip in East Algonquin Provincial Park. We packed our bags with great food dehydrated by a loving mother, new gear and a rental car and sped off to begin our adventure.
And adventure it was. True adventure is not something you plan for. It simply happens to you. It is unexpected, unplanned, and tests your manliness. Simply planning a trip and having everything go as planned is not true adventure. And we did not plan for this.
We stepped out of the car and were slapped in the face by a mob of insects of diverse variety. I asked a near-by Warden what was going on. He chuckled as he looked at us without bug nets and in t-shirts and stated simply that in 30 years this is one of the worst years he's ever seen in regards to bugs. Bugs. Bugs. Black flies. Ticks. Mosquitoes. Bugs.
O.k. Now what?
We are here. We must move forward. It must get better. We had hope!
We boldly entered the foray and foliage. The first thing I noticed was the amount of stagnant water which lay around us. This I noticed only after swiping the bugs away from my face and even then the look was quick for to pause would result in an all out frontal assault. Let me explain more clearly. The mosquitos were so thick that we had to walk briskly (carrying three days of gear and food) without pause in order to provide enough wind to keep the majority of mosquitoes buzzing behind us and not in front of us. I would watch Tristan walk in front of me and marvelled at the swell of creatures buzzing around his backpack and being thankful I couldn't see my own back. If a shoe lace became untied, or we needed a drink, or simply wanted to take a photo, the one person would need to stand guard and swipe away mosquitoes around all exposed parts of the body while the shoe was being tied. This was frustrating, but not the worst of it by far. Both of us needed to always have one hand free. Why? To sweep the fiends away from our face when we breathed in. Often we would hear the other choke and cough and spit as another insect found its way into our mouths.
Finally, we entered upon our camping spot. On a lake. Well, the map said lake. I would call it more of a pond-marsh-lake. We quickly set up and made a fire. Made a fire not for heat, nor for food, but for ... smoke. Smoke. Thank God for smoke. We ate in smoke. Read in smoke. Brushed our teeth in smoke. Cooked in smoke. We gathered wood for fire and everything else that would make it smoke. This worked for a while and we enjoyed each other's company and good conversation. Until 8pm. Smoke no longer worked to keep the savage beasts at bay as they militantly marched upon us and attacked unceasingly. We dove for cover in the tent, spent 20 minutes killing every insect that followed us in there and lay down to the sound of buzzing. Unending buzzing. The mosquitoes lined up like sentinels along the screen of our tent waiting ... waiting for the water we drank at dinner to make it down to our bladder ...
Which brings me to something even worse than hiking and camping in the mosquito infested woods, namely, nature calling in the mosquito infested woods. We were bit in places that should never be bit. The discourteous creatures couldn't even let us a second's peace at our most vulnerable time.
That night, that first night, we lay down, burning with itches all over our bodies and tried to sleep. But, little did we know that this particular pond-marsh-lake was known for its high population of bull frogs. If you have ever been in the forest and heard what you thought to be a cow when there should be no cows about, you have just been greeted by a bull frog. Don't let anyone tell you that the forest at night is peaceful and quiet. No. No. Every nocturnal creature creeps out and without respecting us beings of the light, and engages in excitable conversation and arguments till well past 4am.
The morning came too quickly, but brought with it some silence. We laid as long as our bladders could hold out. Then, a quick breakfast and pack-up and we said 'Good Riddance' and with hope still in our hearts trudged back into the forest.
Our second day's hike was worse. The mosquitoes were thicker and unrelenting and only a continual fresh spray of 'Off' would keep them at bay. We had only one partially full canister and were using it sparingly in case it became even worse. (Could it get worse?) Finally, after hiking 6km at break-neck speed without so much a reprieve even for water, I caved and gave Tristan the option of hiking out and going home. Tristan looked at me. Thought. And answered: "No Dad. We'll stay. We won't let the mosquitoes beat us." I felt beat already. But agreed whole-heartedly and we pushed forward.
The second lake, larger and actually a lake supplied us with a breeze for most of the day. Thus, if we kept a fire smoking and stayed near the open water we could relax. We enjoyed our day. We swam and let the fish nibble our toes. We practiced knife throwing and made a checkers game out of rocks and twigs. I began to relax and plan for a great evening around the fire with my son. Then, quite unexpectedly, at dusk, the wind died down. The lake was a mirror. Perfectly placid. It was then, then in the beauty of the setting sun, that the trumpet of war was sounded. The vanguard hit us first and drove us to the water's edge. Soon, however we we flanked on all sides. We dashed along the water's edge, over boulders and around trees looking for a space of safety. There was none. We were surrounded. We had but one choice. We had to go to bed early.
Running pellmell, we cleaned up our site and with much chagrin emptied our bowels. Soon, we were safe in our tent thanking God for the man who invented the tent. The night came. With it came the haunting sounds of the loon, the deep hoots of the owl, the thumping of a beaver's tail and ... and the buzzing of mosquitoes.
We made it back to the car the next day. Beaten up, but not beaten. My son persevered mosquito hell with me. I swelled with pride. He looked at me in the car and said, "Thanks Dad, I had a really great time with you."
We have a memory that neither of us will ever forget.
Thank you God for the mosquitoes.