I sit down at my computer, trying to put 101 mosquito bites out of my mind for now. I have a post to write, I remind myself, and no time to delay: I’d better get it down on paper while my memories, and those bites, are fresh. But how did I come to have so many bug bites and memories to write down?
It all started with an idea, like most adventures. It was simple enough: Mom and I were going to backpack around Fish Lake, Utah. It was, allegedly, an eleven mile hike, and we planned to take two days for it. We would hike up to the summit, set up camp and spend the night, and then we would head down the mountain again and around to the car.
We reached the lake at about 1:00, and started up with a pre-hike paddle. Kind of ridiculous, really, but we kayaked for an hour. It was a good warm up. Then we tied the kayaks back on top of the Jeep and put on our backpacks. It was time to get going.
At first, my backpack felt a bit strange. I wasn’t used to carrying something this heavy, and it cut into my legs and shoulders a bit, but I ignored the discomfort and it soon passed. After a short while we had gotten around the edge of the lake and we were on the other side, but we hadn’t yet started the assent. We needed to stop, however, because we were already getting eaten by mosquitoes. We put on leggings and long-sleeve shirts to protect ourselves, and then got back on the trail.
The hike was fairly steep once we started up the mountain, but we were fresh and energetic, and we got up easily with the help of trail mix. I was, at the time, practicing for a Radio Drama, in which I was doing sound effects, and so I passed the time by practicing. Mostly, it was frog noises. Angry frog, encouraged frog, hungry frog, offended frog… the list went on, and I had to come up with a sound for each. As Mom and I walked up the trail, I discovered and perfected each noise, with her help.
A couple of hours before sunset we had arrived at the peak, and it was time to start looking for a campsite. Ideally, it would be a fair-sized clearing amidst the quakie (also called aspen) trees, close to the trail and with plenty of wood at hand for a fire. After a while of “That one’s good,” and “But maybe there’s a better one just ahead,” we found a site that was indisputably perfect. It was even near a nice overlook from which we could see over the whole lake. We took off our packs and I started clearing up the site, gathering kindling and bigger bits of fire wood, while Mom made our tarp tent in the trees. When camp was all ready we made a fire. Mom had brought a lighter, but we made the kindling up in a sort of “nest,” as is the primitive way. While tending the fire we started on our dinner, eating pineapple out of cans. Once we had finished, the cans were our pots to cook soup, which was eaten with beef jerky. Mom had brought a book on constellations, which I read while we ate. After dinner, we crawled into our sleeping bags, on our ground pads, under our tarp tent, and fell quickly asleep.
The next day we woke early and had a breakfast of tea and sandwiches, before clearing up camp. We were back on the trail by nine o’clock, and I was terribly sore. The places where my pack rubbed on my legs and shoulders were bruised, and it took quite a while to get used to. Our first hour or so of walking was uneventful and quiet, until Mom found a raspberry bush. We picked berries for a minute, and then got going again, but it wasn’t long before a second patch came up. It was absolutely huge, and after a minute we had the sense to take off our packs. With mine on, every time I leaned over to get a particularly juicy berry I nearly toppled over. After several minutes of raspberry picking, however, Mom remarked that it was like the Land of the Lotus Eaters. You couldn’t leave, you simply couldn’t, but the paradise was guarded by monsters… er, mosquitoes. Same thing. Finally, we hoisted our packs on our backs and got going again.
We headed on until two o’clock, by which time Mom and I both felt we ought to have reached the end of our journey. We had walked at least five miles since the morning, and that was what we had estimated was left. Had we really covered such a small distance yesterday? There was a bridge just ahead that lead over the creek at the end of Fish Lake and connected the lake to a bay about a mile north. We would stop for lunch in a trail-head parking lot near the river.
We ate sandwiches and, since our water was running low, made a fire and boiled some river water for tea. I made three trips across a trail to the creek to get water, but all in vain. For when I finally sat down with my lunch, I spilled my tea all over my leggings. I drank the remaining half a cup and changed into shorts, but my legs were much more susceptible to mosquito bites after that.
The last several miles were draining. It was threatening to rain, and Mom was on the lookout for a patch of quakies to set up a temporary camp in. She was even up for hitchhiking the rest of the way, but I wouldn’t hear of it. We had come at least eleven miles, I wasn’t going to give in at the end! After a while, lightning flashed. In Southern Utah, lightning is no laughing matter. Everyone in Wayne County has a story about someone they know being struck, or almost struck. So we headed for the quakies (which, though trees, are great protection, because they’re so much shorter than the others around them), and made a hasty shelter. Pushing under our backpacks, we sat under the tarp until the storm passed over. It never got really bad, but it poured pretty hard, and better safe than sorry!
After the storm we started up again. It didn’t take long to reach a marina store, where we got sodas to give us a bit of fresh energy, and then we lost the trail several times and followed the water instead. Eventually we made it back to our path, and found we were so close to the car, but yet so, so far away! Mom began a song about “The trail that never ends,” and we were kept occupied by trying to make up new verses without messing up the rhythm. For example:
And when your back does cease to bend
It is the trail that never ends!
And when your knees will never mend
It is the trail that never ends!
It went on for quite a while, while we searched high and low for the Jeep. Finally, Mom looked back and saw that we had passed it! Needless to say, we hurried back, dropped our packs in the trunk, and drove home, exhausted. We ate at a burger place that night with Dad, and whenever Mom or I tried to walk we stumbled and tripped over our own stiff legs.
BY THE WAY: I updated the About Page.