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The Predator Supreme

11 June 2005

On the Continental Divide
Northern BC

I did not mean to come this far. I can't stop, you see. I'm running for my life. I have met the Savage Beast that rules these northern lands. The Predator Supreme, who feasts on all others. No, it is not the Grizzly Bear. And certainly not Man. Nor even the Dreaded Logging Truck. Pity them all.

It is the Mosquito.

I've been wanting for days to stop somewhere. I considered lovely Meziadin Lake, but I daren't get out of the truck. The bugs were actually pelting themselves against the window, trying to get at me. I stopped again at Kinaskan Lake, which had as pretty and empty a campground as you could want. Nearly every site is level, and backs right up to a shallow beach. That lake begs to be kayaked.

But my God, the Bloodsuckers.

Some people seem oblivious, and I suppose future generations will all be descended from them. While trolling through the campground I saw a pale, tubby, bearded man sitting at a table in a pair of swim trunks. He was covered with the things. Perhaps he is a lingering advocate of 17th century medicine, seeking a replacement for the leech.

He did not look happy, exactly. Dourly determined to endure, is more like it. My hat would be off to him, if doffing it did not expose critical areas of unbitten flesh, where blood flows close to the skin.

I was forced to stop at Tatogga for fuel. I've learned to be lively getting in and out of the truck, but there's no stopping certain forward elements of the invasion. At speed, on the highway, it is safe to leave the windows open. Indeed it is necessary, since the breeze of passage helps keep the hitchhiking critters pinned in the back seat.

I asked the gentlemen with the vaguely European accent, who was filling my tank, how he deals with them. He was dressed in long sleeves and a gimme cap. He kept blinking rapidly to keep them out of his eyes. He shrugged his shoulders.

"Ach, you take it as comes, eh?"

My Hero.

After a beat of two he stolidly added something about how they got better in July, when it got a little hotter and didn't rain as much. All during this brief conversation, I myself resembled a dervish whirling in place. Or perhaps someone practicing the Macarena. Swat, swat, swat. Swat, swat, swat.

My pioneer forebears would be disgusted with me. I don't care. I've got bumps all over my neck and arms.

The gas guy also said something about how last winter was milder than usual. Mosquito eggs can survive being frozen for a long time, but the shorter the time, the more there are. May God save Canada, if Global Warming proceeds as expected.

All this lovely water is just a wonderful breeding ground for the wee beasties. And the water is lovely to look at, though in general my passage along the Cassiar Highway is a bit like watching a travel documentary on TV. Everything has to be viewed from behind the protection of safety glass.

I moved on. And on. And on. No rest for the wicked.

Finally I stopped at a turnout here, near the Continental Divide. Around 4000 feet, above something inauspiciously called Upper Gnat Lake. It is just cool enough up here to discourage the worst of them. I am thinking of staying until the propane runs out, and then make a dash for Watson Lake.

But wait. According to the map, the road rises again as Hwy 1 goes west from there. Back to the Continental Divide. Maybe I can make it that far before dusk. Dusk doesn't come until midnight just now. Well, almost. I have not yet reached the Land of the Midnight Sun, but I am definitely in the Land of the 11:30 Twilight.

I really need to stop somewhere and lay over until the July dieback. Maybe Skagway. But here along the Cassiar there is no peace. No balm to be had, as in Gilead. Part of the problem may be an excess of imagination. I've been accused of that before. I feel them crawling on my skin even when I see they are not there.

I wonder if there is some way to rig the Northern Lights as a giant bug zapper? Anyone? Anyone? Hello?

Who knows? In years to come there may arise a new Legend of the North, one to rival even Sam McGee. People may whisper stories to their children of "The Flying Texan", condemned by a few bugs and an overwrought imagination to flee ever farther into the newly unfrozen north, with nary a place of succor, nary a place to rest. No land of hope and glory for the addled traveler. Only an unending dogged journey to the Pole.

Come to think of it, though, at least a few people have to survive for such a story to be told. The Predator Clouds do not auger well for that. History has always been a story of struggle, written in blood. Mosquitoes may have their own version of that.

Winners usually do.


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