Dawn Patrol and The Swarm

Day 50: June 12, 2019

Destination: CO114 - “Mosquitoville”(near Saguache)

Today’s Miles: 33.7

Start Location: Great Divide Alternate Mile 111.7

Trip Miles: 809.9

Today was a weirdly interesting day. On trail there are definitely days when I reflect back and think, “today definitely didn’t turn out anything like I expected.”

This was one. As I finished my coffee and got my tent packed up this morning, I couldn’t have even imagined some of the things that would happen today.

It was in the low 40s this morning. I left camp about 6:50 and started hiking. Blasphemy would be about 30-40 minutes behind. I had walked about half a mile when I heard barking and saw two dogs racing towards me from one of the houses on the forest road I was on. My heart sank as I realized there was no fence. Here we go, I thought. The dogs came charging up barking. There was a male and a female and they looked like some kind of herding breed. The male dog was aggressive and trying to get in at me, but I kept him at bay with my poles. The female dog dipped in once and I rapped her on the head with my trekking pole. I didn’t have to swat hard - she moved back. The male dog, on the other hand, wasn’t done with me yet. When he couldn’t bite me, he bit the other dog!! It was almost comical. He bit the female dog three times! I just kept making sure they couldn’t get behind me and sort of continued walking, talking to them, and swiveling with my poles so they couldn’t get close enough to bite. After 5 minutes it was mostly just the male dog that was still crazy, and then after about a quarter mile, he settled down too.

At this point, they both seemed ready to leave me alone. I had established some form of dominance and everyone seemed happy with the pecking order. Then it got weirder. Apparently, they decided I was good fun, and started walking with me. They ran ahead to smell things and investigate, side by side like some kind of dawn patrol. The female dog would come walk beside me and look at me for direction. The male dog just did his thing. I figured they would stop soon and go home, but they did not. I tried to tell them to go home, and said “no,” etc etc. I didn’t want to tick the male dog off again though. I just kept walking, and they kept following.

About 5.5 to 6 miles later, a Jeep was coming my way. I waived and the gentleman stopped. I asked if he knew anyone who lived on the road and explained that the dogs had been following me from where they lived. Unfortunately, he didn’t and just worked for the Forest Service in the area. I was hoping he would know the dogs and take them back, but no luck.

As I walked on, thinking the dogs would follow, I heard some shouting and turned around. The man was using his Jeep, starting and stopping and yelling, to turn the dogs around and get them to go back, and it seemed to be working!

There was a campground in front of me called Storm King Campground. I stopped there to filter some water and waited, but the dogs did not join me. Amazing! I was actually kind of enjoying them trotting along, but I worried about them getting lost. As much as I talk about loose dogs being one of the biggest pains on the trail, I don’t hate dogs at all. I like them, I just absolutely cannot stand inconsiderate owners who let them roam free and don’t care if they might bother people when they are loose. I hope the dogs made it back home! I thought about Blasphemy and wondered if they would go crazy on him. I hoped that they would be too tired, or that seeing me might have mellowed them out.

I picked up three liters of water and kept hiking. The scenery was very much high desert, akin to New Mexico really. The sun was hot, but the weather was great! I took a break in the shade to eat lunch and air out my feet. This is my daily routine, as long as it is not raining.

After lunch, as I was getting ready to walk again, Blasphemy showed up. I asked him about the dogs and he said he did see them heading back towards home. He said they didn’t bark at all - that they largely stayed off the road and wouldn’t really go near him. My guess is that they were tired and ready to be home. Hopefully they weren’t lost.

We walked along and fantasized about running into someone with extra, ice cold cokes. As we walked along, Blasphemy spotted a battery pack and charging cord in the middle of the road. It looked like a hiker had dropped it. Later I found out a biker had, and fortunately I think I can find them and get it back to them because of a card that was in the power bank case. Hopefully this power bank won’t meet the same fate as Wilson!

We got to the CO114 road junction where we would walk that highway into Saguache and leave the Great Divide Alternate Route. There was a small stream there, so we stopped to get more water. The minute we went down to the water, a bunch of mosquitos flew out and started biting us. Needless to say, that was a short break.

The road walk didn’t have the best shoulder. It was mostly ankle high “tick grass,”as I like to call it. We planned to walk as far as we could, though we knew we wouldn’t make it to Saguache until tomorrow. As we walked, a pickup truck pulled over. I was a bit ahead of Blasphemy, but I could see him talking with the driver so I held up. It turned out that the driver had hiked the Appalachian Trail back in ‘83, knew about thru-hiking, and gave us each an ice cold La Croix! Pampelmousse, no less! Our ice cold drink fantasy had come true!!

We sipped our fancy drinks and walked as the occasional 18 wheeler gave us a drive by blow dry. It was about five o’clock when I heard Blasphemy comment that he had a cloud of mosquitos following him. I laughed and thought he was exaggerating. I turned around and, sure enough, there was a horde around him. Then I looked down at my legs and I was covered in mosquitos! I had a horde around me as well, GAH!! I slapped my legs and killed about 12 mosquitos instantly. We walked super fast and swatted, hoping it was temporary. There was a lot of standing water in the surrounding cow fields.

As we trotted along. The mosquitos just got worse. Fortunately, I had some 100% deet, so I told Blasphemy I would sprint ahead, start applying it, and then toss it to him when he caught up, like a deet relay. And yeah, it was that bad! When I stopped and set my pack down I was instantly covered with mosquitos. There were hundreds, maybe thousands, of them everywhere, desperate, bloodthirsty, and relentless. I applied the magic sauce as quickly as I could. My pack was covered with mosquitos, as were my clothes, but now at least they couldn’t stay on my skin! It was surreal standing in a swarm of them that thick! I tossed the baton to Blasphemy and he sprayed himself.

We walked on, and the mosquitos followed. They rode on our packs, clothes, hats, and orbited our heads, occasionally dive bombing our ears. It was absolute madness. I have never seen or experienced anything quite like it. We guessed that it was a combination of the standing water, warmer temperatures, and longer winter. We were probably showing up when the mosquitos were at their peak.

More mountain lion tracks....

We pushed further towards town and started to climb up a bit. We hoped to camp away from water and on higher ground. The mosquitos never stopped though. We finally found a place we could pitch camp for the night. It wasn’t easy given most of the land was private property. The mosquitos swarmed is again as we set up our tents. We basically swatted them off our packs, tossed those in the tents, and then dove in. Once inside, it was Operation Kill ‘Em All and Let God Sort ‘Em Out. I sat there and killed the few that made it in. The outside of my tent was covered with thirsty onlookers.

I’ve been in my tent since! I have to pee but it is not safe yet to go outside! I have about a million mosquito bites so I’m scratching everything. On top of my next town to do list I wrote: “Permethrin, more deet.” As an afterthought, I wrote “bee keeper suit.” That will probably be too heavy and hot....

Tomorrow we will march into Saguache and then head north on a bigger road. When we get a signal we need to warn Mouse about the mosquitos, though it’s probably too late for her to buy any repellent. Hopefully they won’t come out like that tomorrow or I’m going to need a blood transfusion! Good night!

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