Thursday July 14th, 2022, 0600-1900
Shedroof Divide to trail 37, WEBO mm 293, Segment 3 Selkirk Mountains
29.4 miles, Gain 4380′, Loss 5160′, elevation 5330
We were both off early, anticipating a long day. I have a hard time finding others that can, or want to, keep my pace but Wolverine was game. She’s a very fast hiker and willing to get up early. We had a ways to go along the ridge and then down Jackson creek. I’d been warned by a trail maintenance volunteer that this part of the trail had lots of blowdowns, which was true, but didn’t slow us down much. It just becomes common place after awhile.
In the valley, we entered a beautiful forest of old growth cedar. The big trees were grand and inspiring. Soft light filtered through to the forest floor, creating a fairy tale -like atmosphere. We stopped for a bit to snack but it would be nice to spend more time in such an area. At some point just before this, we passed into Idaho. I completely missed the marker. Oh well. We began a pretty long but chill dirt road walk. I noticed that mosquitoes were occasionally buzzing my head and biting my legs, but didn’t make much of it. Spoiler Alert: This was a precursor to the UBER species of mosquito that we were about to encounter.
This new species must have hybridized with African bees and honey badgers, as they seemed completely resistant to bug spray, were active in the peak of the day, could fly against a 15 kt headwind, and could bite through Kevlar. As we started down a trail heading through more old growth forest, the UBER mosquitoes began to chase us relentlessly. At first I just started hiking faster, then I was running, then I was digging out my head net. I sprayed my legs with picaridin multiple times, to no effect. I really needed to stop to put on my tights but was too afraid to stop moving for fear of being carried away. I was reduced to the basic instincts of an animal being eaten alive.
I covered 4 miles in about an hour to arrive at the northern reaches of Upper Priest Lake. I found a beach with a strong headwind, pausing to regroup. A swarm of maybe 30 mossies still clung to my pack, but I was able to drop most of them by staying withing a few feet of the water on the beach. Wolverine stumbled out onto the beach just behind me, a look of horror on her face. We both shook out heads at what we’d just experienced. Insane was the only word that came to mind.
To be able to withstand lunch on the beach in full sunlight and fully clothed to cover every inch, I simply went in the water with all my clothes. Between the breeze and cold water, I finally felt relief. Every once in awhile a mosquito wondered out into the stiff breeze, at which point I would dispatch it with zeal. Just 20 feet back into the woods, the horde was still in full effect. I dared not venture back there until I was fully clad with head net again. I’d never experienced anything this bad before, not even in the Everglades!
After refueling and regaining our composure, we left the relative safety of the beach to finish the trail along the lake. The mosquitoes got progressively less bad and eventually I found it possible to take off my tights. I was so hot, I kept having to soak myself in every water source I found. Initially I’d thought it would be nice to camp by the lake but I couldn’t get far enough away from it in the late afternoon. We began a 3k’ climb to set ourselves up well for the bushwhack the next day. Doing such a climb at the end of the day, after so many miles and after such torment with the bugs, was gutting. But I kept telling myself that I was climbing away from them. This was not entirely the case but it did help motivate me.
The trail was unforgivingly steep, overgrown, and with some giant blowdowns. It was barely discernible in places but still a trail that got us where we needed to go. We found water near the top in a stagnant pond and made camp alongside a dirt road. It wasn’t ideal but it could have been a lot worse. I was just so happy to seek refuge from the bugs in my tent. They were swarming outside, so loud that the air seemed to be buzzing. But they still weren’t as bad as earlier.
I was glad for Wolverine’s company and shared misery this day. It could have been one of those days that might have broken me, but it didn’t. We laughed about it in the end, and that’s what matters.