"There usually are black flies as the snow melts," Beekeeper wrote of my upcoming section hike. Ugh! If it's one thing that will take me off trail, it's bitey bugs. A couple of years ago near White Pass, I hiked at a run clutching so called natural repellent one hand, considering quitting. Another memorable time in the interior of Alaska, my fire crew dug line in headnets, a truly awful experience. Then there were the sand flies on the long tramps of New Zealand. While I don't mind insects in general, the biting kind make a good adventure a nightmare.
In the Cascades, we passed a southbound couple, looks of anger on their faces, swathed in rain gear. Exchanging looks of puzzlement, Flash and I pressed on, soon to discover the reason. Stumbles and Hobbit, two thru hikers, approached carrying full size cans of Raid, the only repellent available at the Kracker Barrel store. "We heard the mosquitoes stop after sixteen miles," they said. I laughed; how could that be possible? But, strangely, it was. It was the same last year--northbound hikers grimly warned us that "the mosquitoes start at Yosemite." Oddly, this was true. Flash got out a pair of mosquito netting pants she had cleverly sewn, and we picked breezy campsites. We hadn't seen any mosquitoes until we crossed the park boundary.
I feel like I am good at most backcountry travel. But it's hard to prepare for a cloud of whining mosquitoes, except to just go. Some people treat their clothes with permethrin, but I'm not crazy about the idea. It's highly toxic to fish and wildlife and also cats are sensitive to it. Since I live in a tiny house, there's hardly any way to keep my pets from my hiking clothes. Also, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has been unwilling to state whether exposure causes cancer. So, no clothes treatment for me.
Of course, deet isn't any better, although you can clean it off your skin so it isn't always present. I try to use the more natural ones, weighing the possibility of a bear smelling eucalyptus from my tent. Because the natural ones don't last long, I spray all day like a teenager in the 1980s used to spray Loves Baby Soft (Don't ask). For camping, I climb high into the rocks. I bring a tent that I can throw up quickly instead of a fiddly hiking pole supported one. I bring food that doesn't need cooking. I wear lighter colors.
Reluctantly I add my head net to the to go pile. I hope I don't need it. Usually on a long hike there are two items you are glad you don't need: your first aid kit and your rescue beacon. I'm okay with three things.