I have heard warnings about the mosquitoes in Alaska. I have had friends send me videos of the horrors of the buzzing beasts. Did I take it seriously? Not seriously enough.
I have lived in Eastern Washington where they have mosquitoes, and I am not usually bothered much by them—I‘ve heard rumors it’s all about my blood type. But when my friend, who was stationed in Alaska on her archaeology assignment, told me to get “Bug Dope,” I figured I should start researching.
The environment is important to me, and a cancer-causing agent is not something I relish slathering on my body. So, I investigated Avon’s Skin So Soft lotion—which I had heard good reports about, essential oils, and all sorts of natural, plant-based products. Alaskan mosquitos DO. NOT. CARE! I may as well be smearing mosquito pheromones all over my lily-white, delicate skin.
So, I did it, I bought bug repellent with DEET (I can hear the collective gasps of all three of my daughters). My first experience with the new toxin I had chosen to willingly absorb into my blood stream was at a rocky area known for Dall sheep sightings.
With binoculars around my neck and poisonous bug spray at the ready I confidently stepped out of the bus. Two steps away from Tomás and I was under full attack. I began to spray my ankles first, but what I expected to be a mild aerosol spritz was a highly pressurized stream more like that of bear spray than mosquito repellant. My mind went crazy as to what to do with this unexpected turn of events. With no way to wash up, I definitely didn’t want to spray it in my hands to then rub it on myself, and inevitably into my eyes. But with the barrage on full attack mode, I panicked and did the only thing I could think to do (I wasn’t really thinking at all), I turned and sprayed the fire nozzle of liquid killer on the bus.
It was right about then that Kevin walked around the back of Tomás. I heard him cry out, “Wait! Stop! What are you doing?”
Of course, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but it was then that I understood the corrosive power of such a chemical. Another bout of panic. “Oh no,” I shouted. “Get it off the bus.”
We rushed inside with half a dozen intruders hot on our heels and grabbed paper towels and rags, anything to get the toxic substance off my boy’s beautiful paint job. We cleaned him up as best we could then we rushed inside the interpretive center, only to be met with a sign that read Number of sheep sightings today “0.” Sigh!
With a new-found respect for what Kevin goes through when I (used to) say, “they’re biting you? I don’t really notice them,” I decided to add to the munitions and pulled a bug zapper and a contraption that is like an essential oil diffuser out of our stash. Instead of filling the area with healthy, healing essential oils it spewed forth—heaven only knows what, like a noxious geyser. With a renewed hope we set out for a night of boondocking on the banks of a beautiful river. We set up our table and chairs anticipating a nice cold glass of pinot grigio as the sun “didn’t” set (it’s June in Alaska). I immediately started the diffuser to wait the 15 minutes as suggested in the manual. I seemed to work pretty well. The evening was amazing. A light meal of quinoa with tomatoes and black beans and another glass (or two) of wine and we decided to go to bed.
Sidenote: Going to bed here is strange. If you don’t keep track of the time, or listen carefully to your body, you may find yourself staying up until the wee hours of the morning as semi-twilight is as much darkness as you’re going to get.
At some point during the night, the incessant buzzing in our ears awoke the both of us. Armed with telescoping swatters and insect repellant we jumped out of bed and engaged in combat. We fought furiously until the enemy was overcome—Kevin said I moved with that spray like Laura Croft in tomb raiders. I’m quite proud of my cat-like reflexes when it comes to subduing the tiny opponents. We finally fell back into a fitful, itchy slumber. The next morning showed the folly of my ways. As a side note, if you ever want to strip paint off something, try spraying it with DEET.
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My mosquito repellant spraying days are behind me now, I have learned my lesson. I still spray (responsibly) but we have added to our arsenal squares of quilt batting—sounds weird I know but it works great to kill the little buggers when they land on a window—and head nets. What we deemed to silly to purchase on the way up the Dalton highway, we bought at the first place that sold them on the way back. Mosquitos are just a way of life here in Alaska, you either learn to live with them or you hole up in your rig and never experience the amazing hikes, rivers, parks etc.. So, with socks over the top of my pant legs, long sleeves held tight at the wrist and head net over my head, I will venture out into Americas last frontier.