One beautiful spring morning, after our 3 – 4-hour grueling trek to the top, we sat down to take our lunch break. When one of us sat down (I’m too traumatized to remember who and it doesn’t matter) and brushed against a bush, a black swarm rose from the bush, flew in a circle, and began eating us.
We screamed, “Ahhh.”
We screamed, “WTH?”
We screamed, “Mosquitos!”
We screamed, “Run for your lives,” all at once and together. As one unit, we started shoving food, sunscreen, hats, and what not, back into our packs, hauled our packs over one shoulder, grabbed our boots, and ran along the ridge in our socks. This is exactly what happened without exaggeration.
We ran in our socks, over rocks, yelling, “Owe #J$%@!”
We ran in our socks over sticks, bellowing, “They’re following us!”
We ran in our socks brushing past more bushes, shrieking, “Ahhh, there’s more!”
Somebody, in their socks, hollered at the top of their lungs, opera singer style, “DON’T TOUCH THE BUSHES!”
While somebody else simultaneously, also in her socks, squawked, “THEY’RE IN THE DAMN BUSHES @%#J%!”
We ran, squealed, bellowed, hopped, cussed, and lunged past the antenna towers. There were quite a few. Stuff flew out the top of our packs because no one had time to close them. As one unit, we paused and looked around us. Someone whispered, “Are they still here?”
“OWE #@#%@#$^, YES, RUN,” someone else, still in their socks ran and roared over her shoulder at the rest of us. It might have been me.
Did I mention the rocks? They hurt our unbooted tender sock covered feet. I haven’t been bitten by so many blood sucking vampiric mosquitoes (there you go mom, Vampires!) since I lived at Catalina Island and stopped counting at 98 bites on one leg from my knee to the tip of my big toe. My other leg looked just as bad. The bites didn’t stop at my knees; they went all the way up to the top of my head. My hair didn’t get bitten, at least as far as I could tell.
Back then, the wee devils’ bit and fed on me so many times that a fever flushed through me. A naïve me, went with the “eh whatever” response and self-indulged in scratching myself into a bloody swollen mess. I poured rubbing alcohol down my legs to try to prevent infection. When the screaming subsided, I felt a wee bit better. This lasted about 10 solid golden minutes. I was miserable for a week, but how miserable can you be when you’re 20 years old living the dream working a summer job on Catalina Island? Not very miserable.
Mount Lukens, on the other hand, reflected every definition of miserable. Blood sucking vampires made it unbearable. It wasn’t until we reached a wide dirt fire road with no nearby bushes, that we escaped the tiny mighty vampires. I immediately started itching. I haven’t been so itchy and miserable since I sat in poison oak and then walked through nettles. In my defense, I knew not a thing what they looked like nor that they existed. I trod confidently through the ‘learn the hard way’ path.
“What…the…. hell…was…that,” someone asked? Standing in their dirt covered holey socks.
“They must have just hatched,” another person suggested, in her grime encapsulated punctured socks.
“And there’s nothing to eat up here if you’re a vampire,” another person added, in her perforated filthy socks.
“That was jacked up,” the last she said. In her boots.
“Hey, you’re still in your boots,” one of us whined!
“I didn’t have time to take them off,” the dawdler answered (bragged).
That was the last time we ate lunch at the top of the world. After that, we tip toed with our arms held tightly against our sides, not talking, and stalked past the bushes at the top of Lukens. After that trauma, we ate lunches and took our first big break on the wide dirt fire road where no bushes lay to hide a bevy of teeny blood sucking vampires. The view from there? Non-existent. Forget about the view, we didn’t care about the view anymore. In all our combined hiking, none of us ever encountered such a swarm. Ugh, I shiver and itch just thinking about it.
Now that I think about it, there is no standing water at the top of desert-like Lukens, so how did a gazillion mosquitoes hatch there? Maybe the horde of tiny bloodsuckers weren’t mosquitos? Maybe they really were tiny blood sucking vampires! Dunt dunt dunnnn!