We are having our first encounters with the mosquitoes and biting black flies here in Minnesota. We had been told they could be bad so we came prepared with extra DEET in the form of Deep Woods Off. Which is fine if you don’t mind smelling like you bathed in DEET every time you go outside.
Our first encounter with the black flies was our first evening of work, Memorial Day, when we had a picnic outside with the other staff and volunteers. The wind had been blowing hard all day, so we had not noticed any problem during the hike we took in the morning. In fact, we set up a screen room for the picnic and I almost got blown away when I was holding on to it before we got it staked in. Around supper time, however, the wind died down and the flies immediately took advantage. They swarmed around us. They are similar to the buffalo gnats at Death Valley although smaller and with less of a bite. Still pretty irritating. I used lots of DEET and took a shower before I went to bed.
But I also ordered a mosquito hat so when we went for our next outing I was prepared for the mosquitoes and biting black flies.
The next outing was an encounter with mosquitoes. We drove the Gunflint Trail into the interior Boundary Waters area (more on that tomorrow) with fellow volunteers Val and Johnny. One of the hikes we took was to Magnetic Rock. It was rainy and the trail was wet. Every time we stopped to look at the scenery the mosquitoes and black flies flocked to us. But they didn’t bother me much because I had my mosquito net hat on. When we got to Magnetic Rock, Johnny couldn’t stay to look at it much because the mosquitoes were so bad he was afraid he was “going to scream like a little girl.” Even Tom, Mr. Stoic, admitted that they were bad. On the way home we stopped in a store in Grand Marais that sold some mosquito netting. Tom, Johnny and Val all got some to wear.
Yesterday we had a chance to try out our new protection. As part of our training, we went on a ranger-led hike on part of the Grand Portage Trail. The trail was very muddy and wet and the mosquitoes and biting black flies were out in force. Everyone else was either spraying on DEET like crazy or swatting and swiping at bugs the whole hike. The four of us hiked in perfect comfort with nary a bite. We all agreed that from now on, our mosquito and black fly protection was going everywhere with us!