I’m excited to have the amazing Mara on the blog today with a little story about when flies came buzzing into her backpacking trip causing quite the stir. Have you ever had to cope with bugs on a backpacking trip?

I absolutely love backpacking, but at least once every trip I have the thought, “Why did I think this was fun?”

It’s in those trials and tests of our strength that I love the backcountry so much. It reminds me of a T-shirt I saw once that said “I love running” in big letters with “when I’m done” in smaller letters underneath.

And although I love backpacking while I am doing it and when I’m finished, there are certain aspects that can make life miserable in the backcountry. But that miserable feeling is more than worth it to be in the backcountry and see all the beauty of nature.

The most miserable I have been while backpacking was this past summer while hiking in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Everything about the trip was wonderful and amazing, except these swarming black flies. Fortunately the Plague of the Flies, as I call it, only lasted about 24 hours.

My college friend, Lagena, and I spent a week camping, day hiking, and backpacking at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The park is maintained and run by the National Park Service. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is 40 miles of protected shoreline on Lake Superior. It has high bluffs along the lake, sandy beaches, and high sand dunes, making the park amazing.

The last three days and three nights of our trip, we spent in the backcountry. Before that the flies were annoying, but we could handle them. It was about 5 p.m. on our first day of backpacking when the flies started to become more bothersome.

These were not just a bunch of house flies, they were swarming, biting flies. And they drew blood. I was wearing a tank top and long pants. The pants saved my legs, but the tank top gave the flies a wide area for their dinner

I was already tired from backpacking all day, and now I was expending energy to swat the flies when they bit me. When they got really thick, they also bit my head, causing me to put my baseball cap on.

Along the trail there are several spur trails that lead to vistas along the cliffs of Lake Superior. Lagena walked out on one and I saw a black cloud overtake her. I said “I don’t want to go out there.” She agreed.

The last two miles of our hike for the day, Lagena and I picked up the pace despite how tired we were because we just wanted to get in the tent.

When we got to our backcountry site, we quickly set up the tent and opted out of cooking dinner.

From my ankle to my knee was literally black with flies! Bug spray was no help.

We just wanted to get away from the flies, unfortunately about 10 got in the tent with us. And an hour was spent trying to kill the flies in the tent with us.

As I read my book in the tent I could here them swarming outside and see the flies crawling along the wall.

I was disappointed when I woke up in the morning to find that the flies were not gone. We continued our trek along the Lake Superior shoreline. This time I wore a long sleeve T-shirt and long pants. Unfortunately it was hot. I drank about four liters of water in a few hours.

We got to our next backcountry site early in the day, about 2:30 p.m. Again we quickly set up the tent and dove inside. As I was in the tent, I seriously considered leaving the backcountry early. Those flies were almost too much to deal with.

Both Lagena and I took a nap and when we woke up the flies were gone. It was heavenly.

Other hikers we met along the way said that when the wind changed the flies would leave, but I didn’t believe them until they actually left. I read later on Pictured Rocks’ Facebook page that when the winds are out of the south, the flies are bad.

Lagena and I enjoyed being outside without the flies. We cooked our dinner and visited with the other campers, a woman and her grandson. I was happy the flies were gone and we got to meet and visit with such interesting people.

Sitting outside without the flies was like a weight off my shoulders.

At the end of our hike, both Lagena and I both said we loved the trip, even with the flies. When we go camping, especially when we backpack, it’s a simpler lifestyle. You always sacrifice creature comforts when you camp and backpack. Sometimes it’s more of a sacrifice than others. But when you are uncomfortable for a little while, it makes you appreciate life more.

My favorite part of the trip was sitting outside as the temperature dropped that evening without having our blood sucked out of us. It was so nice to enjoy the quiet and still of nature.

Do you think that no matter what, backpacking is always worth it?

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