Day 20: White Cap & The Mosquito Marathon

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We left our small clearing that had provided us privacy for the night and began our climb up Gulf Hagas Mountain. Darkness still hung in the trees. The white bush tail of a deer flashed out of the corner of our eyes as it quickly disappeared into the shadows of dawn. This first peak was wooded and so was the next and the next. We climbed up and over West Peak and Hay Mountain. Beginning finally on our final ascent over White Cap. We exited the trees to find the summit post held up by a pile of rocks. A small side trail led us to an overlook on the other side of a patch of trees. Katahdin stood in the distance. Nothing around even compared and instead felt

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like the mountains became rolling hills bowing to the greatness of Katahdin. We were so close. We stumbled over rocks back up to the summit post where trail followed a path on the other side, out of view of the North. We ducked down below tree line heading back into conifers and patchy sunlight.

For the most part that was our final climb of the 100 Mile. With some peaks like Nesuntabunt and Little Boardman, the rest of the walking would be a breeze. But then came the mosquitoes. First there was one then there were many. They seemed to be following us. We each had our own cloud of dense buzzing. Milo even had one. We sought an easy solution. Walk faster we thought, simple. So we did. Our hands swung behind us as we picked up our pace. With each swing of the hand, we both could feel the wall of mosquitoes still trailing behind us. Don't mosquitoes only go 1.5mph? We were going at least 3. Were we running into new groups of them? But we could see the cloud stay as the other walked ahead. They were large and meaty mosquitoes, too. The ones that you can hear crunch when you press them between your fingers. They bit us through our clothes. Our hands turned black from mushing them. Critter had black streaks down her shirt sleeves where she slapped at them. Milo tried to bury himself in leaves. The three of us broke into a run. Fortunately, the terrain had leveled out quite a bit.

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Our goal was Antlers Campground on lower Jo-Mary Lake. A handful of people had told us that it was the best camp site on the whole AT. Someone even mentioned that there weren't that many mosquitoes. To us, it sounded like heaven. So we ran. The day was getting late and our twenty-seven mile day was coming to a close, but we couldn't stop. The mosquitoes were still tapping at our skin. We jump on the side trail that took us over to camp. With the buzzing close behind, we threw down our bags and starting setting up the tent. Critter was completely covered at this point, head net, rain jacket and rain pants. While they were still swarming her, she finally had a little bit of relief. Garbelly and Milo on the other hand did not. So they jumped into the tent first as Critter finished setting up the rain fly and moving the thrown packs closer to the tent’s doors. Meanwhile, Garbelly tried to kill all the mosquitoes that had made it inside when he got in. Some bursted with blood which was now splattered on the olive walls, other laid lifeless in a pile of little bodies. When Critter got inside, another round happened and the body count heightened. When nothing else buzzed inside the tent we sat there in exhaustion. Thousands surrounded the mesh of our tent. We couldn't hear anything over the hum of the low pitch buzz. We had envisioned a relaxing evening by the lake but we had instead been thrown into a fly-ridden hell. We felt defeated. We stayed in our tent until it was completely dark out. We had to get water and get to sleep. The buzzing still beat at the walls and doors. Garbelly jumped out and took off on a full sprint to the lake. After killing the bugs that had made it in, Critter followed. But when she came to a stop, there wasn't buzzing or the needle pricks of the mosquitoes mouth. Instead there was quiet and stillness. The stars were out and the Milky Way painted across the sky. The lake reflected the brightest stars, and the small horizon of silhouetted trees was the only distinction of where the lake stopped and the sky started. They were entirely one. Made of the same fibers. True darkness rest on the lake. Our mosquito worn hearts immediately filled. We wanted to remember this feeling forever, so we stood at the waters edge, eyes wide, afraid to even blink.

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Back at our tent the mosquitoes were still swarming. We jumped in for the final time, hunting down all of the ones that made it inside. Our tent became still. We became still. Darkness fell on us, and the buzzing drifted us off to sleep.