Sunday, July 22, 2012
Maine Mosquitoes and Me: The Epic Final Battle
If you haven’t done so already, you really need to read my previous post on mosquitoes in order for what follows to have the proper context.
Before I turned in on the first night of my most recent camping trip, I made a fateful decision. Not wanting to contaminate my bedding and the inside of my tent with that sour insect repellant smell, I decided that I would make my way up to the camp showers just before turning in, scrub all that toxic crap off, and then race back and jump into the tent for the night. Even though it was only a few hundred yards, I drove up to the showers in my car, so I would not have to walk back to my campsite in my clean but vulnerable state, once again delicious to mosquitoes. I’d finished my last bottle of lemonade, my campfire was extinguished, everything was put away, and all I would have to do when I got back from the showers would be to make a beeline from the car to the tent.
This plan worked pretty well at first. I got to the showers, scrubbed down thoroughly, and got back to my tent in short order with a minimum of mosquito bites. Once inside the tent, I found that a few mosquitoes had followed me in, but that was to be expected. I spent a few minutes hunting them down, and then settled in to sleep, feeling pretty good about it all. I was exhausted from the heat and the physical activity of the day, so drifting off was not difficult.
Staying drifted off was more challenging, as several hours later, nature called, as it sometimes will in the middle of the night. I looked at my clock and saw that it was only 2 AM, leaving way too much time before dawn to put off going. As much as I didn’t want to, I had to get out of the tent and take care of business again.
Being rather groggy, I then made two tactical errors. First, I turned on my battery-powered lantern in the tent and left it on while I stepped out. And secondly, and much more problematic, I left the tent flap open while I was out. I just didn’t think about it. There were a few mosquitoes pestering me while I went, but nothing like I had experienced during my stop in the woods on the way there the previous day. Afterward, I climbed back into the tent and tried to fall back to sleep.
And that’s when the high-pitched whining began, and no, it wasn’t me.
While I had been out, it seems that quite a few mosquitoes had been attracted to the light in my tent and had made themselves at home. There were more than I would ever be able to track down and swat at this time of night. I spent the next few minutes slaughtering the ones I could find. In time, I gave up and laid down, the remaining mosquitoes buzzing in my ears, apparently angry about their recently deceased brethren who were now just smears on the walls of the tent. Getting back to sleep was very, very difficult. I’m a light sleeper under the best of circumstances, but with these insects buzzing around me like biplanes around King Kong, it was especially hard. Every sensation I felt on my skin felt like a mosquito landing, and I slapped accordingly. In the dark, I was not sure if I had hit my targets or not. It didn’t sound like I had any fewer tentmates.
Eventually I was able to reach that tipping point, where I was still vaguely lucid, but almost about to fall into honest-to-goodness sleep. My mind was misting over, my muscles relaxed, and I had almost tuned out the drone of the remaining mosquitoes. Then I felt a slight but sharp pinch right between my eyes. A mosquito had gone in for blood. It was sudden and just painful enough that in my barely-awake state I reacted without thought and hit myself very hard right in the face. It was a real roundhouse, and I could see stars.
I was just far enough out of consciousness to be surprised by this and immediately sprang to my feet, which is not something those in the know recommend one should do in a small tent. I thrashed and stumbled for a few seconds, the tent collapsing around me and supplies scattering in every direction. From the outside, I must have looked like a clumsy baby dinosaur trying to hatch from an egg. My bare foot came down hard on the corner of a storage container, and I fell with a thud into the middle of the wreckage. Fortunately, I landed on my air mattress, so nothing more than my pride was seriously hurt. None of my supplies were damaged either, miraculously, but my tent was in a shambles and my stuff was everywhere.
At that hour of the night, with the darkness, the mosquitoes, and my now outrageously foul mood, I was in no condition to reassemble it all. I grabbed my sleeping bag and made for my car, where I settled in and slept fitfully for a couple more hours before getting up at dawn and rebuilding that which I had inadvertently destroyed.
The rest of my trip was an all-out war between me and the mosquitoes. I wore long clothing most of the time in spite of the heat, and kept myself doused in insect repellant day and night. The flap on my tent stayed shut at all times except for when I was getting in to go to sleep, and I did not allow myself any liquids after 6:00 in the evening in hopes of avoiding any midnight calls of nature. I’m happy to say that it paid off, and the second night went much more quietly than the first, mosquito-wise.
Regardless of how this account sounds, my most recent trip to the Maine coast was relaxing and wonderful. For the purposes of this post, I’ve just chosen to focus in on one small aspect of it all, but it was much more fun than anything else. If you ever visit rural Maine yourself, you will have a terrific time. Just come prepared.
And remember to always use the bathroom when you have the chance, even if you don’t have to go.