Oh! Mom! Your Poor Face!

Oh, Mom, your poor face!  I heard this many times yesterday… what else would you say to a tired, middle-age woman with 15+ mosquito bites all over her face?
I had sympathy until the children learned that I had been warned… Plenty of people have told me that Indian Heaven Wilderness Area is a haven for mosquitoes in June and July – Just the day before, my beautiful, huntress-friend Michelle had told me one of her experiences, but it was hard to imagine just how bad it could be.  We have hiked there in early September and had a beautiful time – taking photos, picking huckleberries… what a beautiful place.  Yesterday it was straight from a horror movie.

Not quite there – still smiling –

We arrived at the trailhead around 10:00 a.m.  As I opened my car door there was already a welcoming bite – I should’ve shut the door and headed right back down the mountain.  I did, however, have a mission.  I had most of my children and one of our young women from church – we were here to find campsites for a youth backpack trip in August and were not to be deterred.  We loaded up on sunscreen and bug spray and began our trek.  We had gone about 1/2 mile when I said, “Let’s turn around and find a Dairy Queen!”  We were already going crazy – we began to carry pine boughs to swat ourselves – we never quit swishing them, like a horse’s tail.  The poor kids dreamed of Dairy Queen for the next 4 hours.

These branches were our best friends.
When we got to Blue Lake, we were supposed to eat, put our feet in the water, enjoy the beautiful setting, and then go further in to find a few other lakes as potential campsites.   As it worked out, we got there and were pleased to see only a few mosquitoes.  We sat down, admired the clear water, pulled out our lunches… and the swarm hit.  That was it – we threw our lunches back into our packs and headed back down the mountain – the other lakes/campsites would have to wait for another time. It was discouraging to know that we would be doubling the number of bites we already had.


Branches in action – a tail would be nice.

Seven or eight miles of never-ending mosquitoes – I sent the three youngest kids to hurry back to the car so that they could kill all bugs (of course we had cracked the windows).  Greg’s “bionic” leg was wearing out fast, and Natalie was beginning to remember that she was only three weeks postop from TWO brain surgeries (she loves to say TWO).  We had to take a slower pace, but NO STOPPING!!   Partway down, Natalie began a maniacal laugh and couldn’t stop – that had us all worried for a bit, especially her.  We only saw two other hikers – two ladies on their way up.  Usually we would greet each other and perhaps ask about the hike – instead they looked at us and inquired as to our sanity.  They were already losing it – we all understood each other.

Reason to smile again!!

When we got to the van we dove in as quickly as we could, with all gear still on.  Nothing would entice us to reopen the doors, the dashboard was littered with several mosquito carcasses – it felt like an Alfred Hitchcock film… We were about halfway back to civilization when we saw a river where we could stop and soak our feet.  It seemed important for us to know that we could be outside and have a positive experience.
Greg counted 23 bites on my right upper arm – today I have counted 25 and 27 on the upper arms of a couple children.  With two upper arms, two lower arms, two legs, back and faces all partially devoured, we think that 100 bites each is a conservative estimate.   Ewww don’t forget the knuckles – those are painful!

It is a beautiful hike!

For some reason, the boys didn’t flare up until the middle of the night.  Today they are full partakers of the mosquito misery.   I kept an ice pack on my face knowing I would need to be in public today – as it turned out, we all went to a matinee and then ran errands… all the time worrying that someone would ask us to leave due to our appearance.  We seriously look like we have a once-erradicated infectious disease.
It will be another long night.
So why didn’t I get back in the car when I realized that my friends’ warning were correct?  Why not turn around and try to find a Dairy Queen?  Maybe it was because I had been recently reading a talk by Joseph B. Wirthlin called “Never Give Up” – encouraging us to identify our course, our goal and the obstacles that would hinder or divert us from achieving it.  He says things like,  “Perseverance is a positive, active characteristic…” So, I was going to persevere…

Really not a pretty sight.

So then, why did we turn around once we got to the lake rather than persevering?  Why not complete our mission of exploring other lakes and finding campsites?  Well, I have heard another talk that had an impact on me.  It was also about goals – but I remember that it said that sometimes we have to change our goals midway through them because of unforeseen circumstances (medical situations, new opportunities, etc)- and this is ok.  In fact, it usually works out that our new path is better than the one we were on before.
Our new path of cutting our little adventure short was indeed better than the original.  We got back to town, bought some pizza,  showered and settled down to watch a movie or two (with an ice bag on the face).  There’s no place like home.
Today – no sympathy for Mom – “How could you take us there after you had been warned?” “We look like freaks!”  “Walk close to me so that our arms touch and no one else can see them” – my arms and legs are as swollen, misshapen, and itchy as their’s, but I am smiling.  I am smiling because this will become family folklore – we will tell the story and laugh, and those who were not with us will wish they had been there.
Just because it is hard, doesn’t mean that it is bad… unless those mosquitoes were carrying some sort of infectious disease…. hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t be smiling…
…don’t scratch, don’t scratch, don’t scratch….

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