July 4. Day 4.
I spent the Fourth hiking the Sierras with friends. Our first hike, a 12-mile romp along narrow ledges toward a cluster of high mountain lakes (aka The Lakes Hike), culminated with a wimper, not a bang. For I was expecting pristine views, perhaps a gentle lakeside slope studded with sunwarmed boulders where we could sit and eat lunch. But the lakes weren't particularly beautiful, at least compared to the other mountain lakes I'd seen. And I was also not counting on being devoured by mosquitoes.
When I went hiking in Peru in May, I had the right equipment: a hat with a net, several tubes of mosquito creams and sprays, anti-itch spray, malaria medicine and clothes I'd pretreated with pesticide. I ended up not needing any of it.
"You'll look like the American," my local guides told me.
"What about malaria?"
"It's not in this area, it's downriver. Seriously, no worries. Just use your sleeping net and you'll be fine."
They were right. My skin and I stayed largely unscathed. Sure, a few of them buzzed around the camplight and I got bitten a few times. But cloud? Swarm? Amorphous mass of human-bound, airborne, itchy venom? It was 100 times better than I'd feared.
Them Sequoia varmin were nothing like their kindler, gentler Amazon cousins. All we did on that hike was step and swat. Two people put on long sleeve shirts. I'd sprayed myself, but that didn't do much. Short sleeves in July never seemed like a worse idea.
No one was taking in the views.
So, in a moment of desperation, I yelled, "I wish I had a long sleeve shirt!"
One of the women in our group started digging into her backpack. "Here."
I had just used half a bottle of anti-mosquito spray and spritzed sunscreen onto my bare arms. I was slimy and sweaty. I asked if she was sure.
"No problem. Take it."
Gained: Deliverance from venom. Ended the day with just a single bite, behind my right ear!