We’ve traveled lately and discovered how green the plains and arid Rockies can get when spring rains fall regularly and plentifully. For folks used to mostly desert-like conditions, it’s a thrill to see Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming pastures and meadows lush with belly high to a deer grasses and wildflowers blooming in every hue. What we didn’t enjoy was a mosquito ambush at an isolated rest stop.
For those of us used to lower elevations, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids when visiting higher altitudes. During this trip, I intentionally saturated my cells with water during and between meals to avoid those unpleasant headaches. Unfortunately, that also means a few more pit stops during a journey. One of those led to an adventure I’d just as soon have skipped.
The stretch between Rawlins and Lander Wyoming doesn’t have many options for travelers with full bladders, but the Department of Transportation has conveniently positioned a rest area at Split Rock. This pit stop offers tourists not only relief but a chance to learn something about local history and the environmental. Incidentally, it provided us a chance to meet at least a million newly hatched, starving mosquitoes.
When we drove into the empty parking lot, I was glad I didn’t have to wait in line for a turn at the one-holer. Even though my mind was on urgent matters like direct access to the facility, I did notice a cloud of small insects swarming the area. The part of my brain that could still analyze, thought, heck there’s a fresh caddis fly hatch in the area. After all, we weren’t far from the Sweet Water River, which currently has more water in it than I’ve ever seen.
Too bad my brain was so focused on finding a toilet. If it had been more alert, I might have realized I was about to discover I was the answer to starving mosquitoes’ prayers. Who knows how long it had been since they’d had a warm-blooded victim—perhaps since the last wagon train going down the Oregon Trail way back when.
The minute I got out and recognized these weren’t caddis flies, I raced to the door of the outhouse. Once inside, I had only a thousand or so vampires to contend with. I focused on relief while waving strips of toilet paper like a wimpy pompom to hold those hungry beasts at bay. I didn’t want the buggers to take advantage of the situation.
Afterwards, I fought my way back to the car through that horde of bloodsuckers. To my husband’s distress, a hundred or so stuck close enough to me that they flew into the Toyota despite frantic slapping, arm waving, head jerking and other spastic movements that made it look as though I had a severe case of St. Vitus’s Chorea.
As I slammed the door, my spouse built speed on the highway while rolling down the windows. He intended to use cross ventilation to force invaders out to the green sagebrush flats where they could look for other victims. At least 90 percent exited. Unfortunately, we found ourselves periodically swatting and swiping as tough holdouts came out one by one to torture us.
With all the moisture we’ve had this year, I’m sure this isn’t my last brush with hungry insects. I’m thinking about investing in a case of DEET and making a lanyard to wear it around my neck all summer.