Deep Thoughts by Smug Hiker

Have you ever shared photos or stories of your transformative outdoor adventures and felt like the listeners (or non-listeners, as the case may be), just didn't get it?

They just don't appreciate the profound beauty and grandeur of the outdoors, you might tell yourself smugly. Not like me. They may be weak and shallow, but I am strong and deep. Hah!

It's so easy to feel pompous about yourself and what you care about.


A deer fly (it only looks life-sized). (Image credit: Bruce Marlin/Wikimedia Commons)

Well, I recently celebrated a birthday and as is my semi-official custom, I went for a hike. (I have an until-now, unwritten rule that I run, hike, or both on my birthday. Feel free to analyze.)

This particular birthday I woke to steady rain, loaded up a pack with more than 40 pounds of water (Rainier training), and headed out sans spouse (the babysitter canceled) for a local hike. The hike itself was quite nice, peaceful, despite the water in the air, on my back, and slicking the rocks underfoot.

Then, on the loop back, I hit a short section of old logging road, the rain let up, and a large welcoming party of deer flies began circling my head like low-Earth orbit satellites, then relentlessly diving onto my neck, hair, arms. I managed to kill several, but they were the slow, weak ones. It did nothing to lessen the intensity of the overall assault.

I was forced to run down the trail, water sloshing on my back (40 pounds!), aiming the target zone (my head) for low-hanging leafy branches, waving my trekking poles with one hand, and repeatedly slapping my hat on my own head and neck with the other.

I knew I looked like a maniac. I did not care. If you had been near me I would have begged you to whack every fly as hard as necessary and put all of us out of our misery.

Despite appearances, I was not unhappy.

However, while running on the trail, a little voice started making detached observations from the back of my head: What an interesting way to celebrate one's birthday. Do normal people choose to run around in the woods in the rain, carrying umpteen bottles of water, while hitting themselves over and over again on the heads, to celebrate their initial arrival into the world? Probably not. They'd go out for drinks or dinner or do something that at least appears pleasurable. What an odd ritual.

Back at the trailhead I ran in circles in the parking lot while trying to: stow away my poles, take off my pack, get my keys out of my rain coat, unlock the car, and dive in without being joined by the one tenacious fly who'd now followed me for nearly two miles.

This blog could end with a smug summation about birthday wisdom and how I persevered despite annoyances and am a better, stronger, wiser person for facing the challenges of the outdoors (and deer flies) blah blah blah…

But, c'mon, I think we all know who the real hero is in this tale. It's the never-give-up deer fly. Talk about showing who's strong and who's weak.

I wonder if he's recounting a self-satisfied story about me to some other bored deer flies right now: You should have seen it! Everyone else had dropped off or been killed, but I really had her going there, waving her poles and hat all around, like some nut. Hah! Hey, listen up, this is a really good story...


Filed under: People & Organizations

Comments

noddlehead
0 reviewer rep
263 forum posts
June 25, 2010 at 6:18 p.m. (EDT)

Be careful Alicia on a willing act to kill a defenseless organism. Do we have any PITA members?

Actually, I trap them in the winter and sell the skins overseas. They move a bit slower in the winter and they love Big Mack's and fries and orange soda. (Which I use for trap bait) I have a collection of hide stretchers in my garage. During a good season I need to park outside. I hate that if it snows.

whomeworry
102 reviewer rep
2,295 forum posts
June 25, 2010 at 9:07 p.m. (EDT)

What a scream! I had a very similar experience on one birthday, but should have known better. I took a solo daytrip into the Experimental Forest, a quarantined location in the San Gabriel Mountains above the Los Angeles Basin. The forest was originally set off bounds both as a buffer to man caused wild fires, and as an ecosystem to study for the effects of air pollution on forest fauna. (the Experimental Forest is probably most utilized now days for growing pot.) In any case there was this little nook up a particularly inaccessible canyon with a small year round spring on the hill side that made the immediate area a virtual JR Tolken-like micro oasis of ferns and flower gardens in an otherwise arid live oak and jeffrey pine studded mountainside. The nook was very closed in, and the only sign there was tens of millions of people just a few miles away was if you looked down canyon, and there, through a small window through the tree canopy, you could see downtown Los Angeles some thirty five miles away.

My favorite place to sit in this glen was under a hanging water fall created by the spring as it made its way to the bottom of the gully. I could sit there for hours, letting the sound of water, birds, and the sultry warm breeze lull me into a delightful stupor. I had discovered this location mid winter, earlier that year, but now it was October, with day time temperatures reaching 85 degrees, bringing out the bugs. I had learned in spring to never venture up there in warm weather unless I was wearing full on Levis jeans, with a Levis jacket, gloves and bug net covering my head. For some stupid reason I did not bring this attire that day, and when it did get warm, out came the flies, and like you, Alicia, I was forced to run for cover, in this case over two miles of steep uphill cross country through thick chaparral. At one point the biting seemed to get fiercer, but then I realized I had disturbed a nest of yellow jackets, and now had them to contend with also. (Thank God I didn’t step on a rattle snake; the area has lots of those too.) I spent awhile after getting home, nursing bites, stings, and removing numerous ticks. Nature reminded me again that day just where we actually fit in the food chain: somewhere subordinate to insects! So much for the smug hiker in me.

Ed

peter_o
0 reviewer rep
34 forum posts
June 26, 2010 at 2:58 a.m. (EDT)

"PITA" LOL! Good one.

rescue_ranger
25 reviewer rep
67 forum posts
June 26, 2010 at 8:16 a.m. (EDT)

I thought PITA stood for "Please Eat Tasty Animals"

trouthunter
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
998 reviewer rep
3,556 forum posts
June 26, 2010 at 11:23 a.m. (EDT)

Be careful Alicia on a willing act to kill a defenseless organism. Do we have any PITA members?

Actually, I trap them in the winter and sell the skins overseas. They move a bit slower in the winter and they love Big Mack's and fries and orange soda. (Which I use for trap bait) I have a collection of hide stretchers in my garage. During a good season I need to park outside. I hate that if it snows.

That's very interesting, I guess you're just a wholesaler of fly skins, but could you recommend a reliable person who knows how to sew them into tarps?

I'm sure they would need details and probably have a lengthy wait list but I would be willing to wait, and can provide a deposit if necessary.

I love Big Mack's too, thanks for the tip, it's good to know I've been causing some of my own fly problems. At least now I know it's not the lack of bathing as I had suspected.

noddlehead
0 reviewer rep
263 forum posts
June 26, 2010 at 9:40 p.m. (EDT)

noddlehead said:

Be careful Alicia on a willing act to kill a defenseless organism. Do we have any PITA members?

Actually, I trap them in the winter and sell the skins overseas. They move a bit slower in the winter and they love Big Mack's and fries and orange soda. (Which I use for trap bait) I have a collection of hide stretchers in my garage. During a good season I need to park outside. I hate that if it snows.

That's very interesting, I guess you're just a wholesaler of fly skins, but could you recommend a reliable person who knows how to sew them into tarps?

I'm sure they would need details and probably have a lengthy wait list but I would be willing to wait, and can provide a deposit if necessary.

I love Big Mack's too, thanks for the tip, it's good to know I've been causing some of my own fly problems. At least now I know it's not the lack of bathing as I had suspected.


Actually the skins have become the fashion rage of Europe for women. It has not hit the states yet but that is how it was with beaver hats.


if you decide to trap them as well just a small bit of advice.................

f_klock
110 reviewer rep
762 forum posts
June 27, 2010 at 9:03 a.m. (EDT)

I thought PITA stood for "Please Eat Tasty Animals"

That would be PETA.

Explorer Robby
141 reviewer rep
218 forum posts
June 27, 2010 at 1:26 p.m. (EDT)

Backpacking on for my birthday is my custom. I have many times wondered how truely abnormal I am when hiking in rain and lighting, fighting bugs, and enduring excessive heat/cold that would have me calling a repair man were I at my house. And I call it fun.

Alicia
TRAILSPACE STAFF
715 reviewer rep
3,166 forum posts
June 27, 2010 at 8:16 p.m. (EDT)

Yes, it's amazing how easy it is for a tiny little insect to bring you down. It's good to be humbled.

Ed, your story was pretty funny (in hindsight only, of course!). Glad you made it out alive. The yellow jackets must have been fierce.

I think it's nice to have an outdoor ritual on your actual birthday too, Robby.

Also, it's very good to get an outdoor outing or two for you birthday. That's what my spouse "gave" me: two trips I want to do this summer with him but sans kids: a very long day hike and a three-day backpacking loop. The grandparents will be babysitting for both. We've got other hikes and things going on, but these were two that we wanted to do together, but wouldn't work with two small kids.

(Hint hint to other outdoor spouses: give your partner the time and ability to do a trip he or she wants. For some of us that is way more important and appreciated than any gear.)

trouthunter
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
998 reviewer rep
3,556 forum posts
June 27, 2010 at 8:34 p.m. (EDT)

".... We've got other hikes and things going on, but these were two that we wanted to do together, but wouldn't work with two small kids.

(Hint hint to other outdoor spouses: give your partner the time and ability to do a trip he or she wants. For some of us that is way more important and appreciated than any gear.)"

Yes that is very true!

When the kids were little I could get no better gift than the occasional weekend off to go backpacking so I could relax and unwind from my hectic work week. If you have a spouse, like I did, that does not enjoy hiking as much, make time for them to go do something they consider special. This mutual demonstration of caring and understanding can make all the difference in the world.

Funny how insects can make or break a trip, of course there is strength in numbers and insects employ this tactic unwittingly in some cases, but effectively.

I think Permethrin makes a good gift.

Bill S
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,472 reviewer rep
5,393 forum posts
June 28, 2010 at 9:12 p.m. (EDT)

rescue_ranger said:

I thought PITA stood for "Please Eat Tasty Animals"

That would be PETA.

"People Eating Tasty Animals"

So far, PETA has not discovered fish and crustaceans. I do not eat mammal meat, myself.

However, in Switzerland, the law requires you to respect the feelings of plants.

Tipi Walter
225 reviewer rep
1,202 forum posts
June 28, 2010 at 9:29 p.m. (EDT)

I hate to be the one to tell you, but deer flies only attack DAY HIKERS, and will not bother overnight backpackers. Gnats and noseeums, on the other hand, leave dayhikers alone and go for the long-term backpackers. This has been field-tested and is true.

Alicia
TRAILSPACE STAFF
715 reviewer rep
3,166 forum posts
June 29, 2010 at 7:04 a.m. (EDT)

So far, PETA has not discovered fish and crustaceans.

Not true, Bill.

http://www.lobsterlib.com/

(I live in Maine. We hear lots of lobster news stories around here.)

Bill S
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,472 reviewer rep
5,393 forum posts
June 29, 2010 at 12:56 p.m. (EDT)

Bill S said:

So far, PETA has not discovered fish and crustaceans.

Not true, Bill.

http://www.lobsterlib.com/

(I live in Maine. We hear lots of lobster news stories around here.)

AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!! So there is nothing left to eat. Next thing you know, someone will discover that water and air have feelings, so there will be nothing left to drink or breathe. And you can't die, because if you get buried, the embalming fluids will contaminate the soil, non-embalmed will also contaminate the soil, cremation will put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and launching into space will clutter up the planetary system. You can't put the body on a platform for the vultures to eat, since present-day humans have so many artificial hormones, pesticides, and herbicides in them that the vultures will stop laying eggs (or the eggshells will be too fragile).

Wait! I know! Twinkies are completely artificial and sodas and "juices" are made from artificial colors, flavorings, and sweeteners. Those artificial things won't have any feelings!

If I eat rocks and dirt, can I get all the vitamins and minerals I need? If so, I could go on month-long backpacks and not have to carry any food - that freezedry stuff mostly tastes like dirt and often has the consistency of sand anyway. Live Off LAND!! Great acronym, anyway.

This post has been locked and is not accepting new comments