Picture Peak and stream, Sabrina Basin, Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains

“The mosquitoes will eat you alive.”

2011 had been an extremely snowy year in the Sierra and the massive snowpack was keeping the meadows marshy and bugs buggy a full month later than usual. As I chugged my way up the Blue Lake trail into the Eastern Sierras’ Sabrina Basin that refrain kept ringing in my ears and I debated turning back because of the dire warnings.

Yet 45 minutes into the hike I was still bite-free. I began to think the mosquito warnings were just a bit of overblown trail rhetoric, the kind of things you whine and bitch about but really aren’t all that bad. The more I hiked, the more confident I felt that things had been blown out of proportion. “Those foolish people and their mosquito talk, what were they afraid of. Ha ha ha, I’m so cool, and they are not.” And then I decided to stop and check my map.

Like little bloodsucking ninjas, a horde of mozzies swept out of the shadows to inflict bodily harm upon me. Every patch of my exposed skin was a target as they relentlessly swooped in to slurp the blood out of me. There was only one way out of this: keep walking.

But the mosquitoes weren’t going to be fooled that easily. Oh no, they had caught my scent and were sticking to me like tiny bloodhounds. So I fell back on another alternative: DEET, lots and lots of DEET. I imagined I could hear the mosquitoes sizzling and popping whenever they touched down on the chemical death now covering my body. But I didn’t feel any sympathy; quite the opposite: I was almost dancing in my petty triumph.

Over the next few days I fell into a standard routine: walk, DEET, swat. Eventually the mosquitoes and I came to an uneasy truce and they seemed to understand that if they got too close I was going to turn them into mosquito pulp. Soon the bugs stopped bothering me altogether and gave me the freedom to take pictures. Even the occasional sneak attack didn’t rile me up, because I learned a valuable lesson that trip: some views are worth the itch.

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