Alaska is a land of extremes. We have all heard that or seen it on TV. Extreme size, extreme terrain, extreme wildlife, extreme fishing, extreme weather, extreme people. Everything I had heard about Alaskan extremes appears to be true from my brief time here on this trip. Oh, did I mention extreme mosquitoes? The mosquitoes here can be amazing!
I learned this on our most recent backcountry camping experience, which we completed yesterday. Now, to be clear, we saw plenty of mosquitoes at our previous camping location near the LeConte Glacier. Oddly enough, however, the little critters didn’t bother us too much there. They just didn’t seem to be hungry. Some members of the group were bitten, but personally, I only received two bites over the period of several days. Consequently, I fell into the psychological trap of thinking that Alaskan mosquitoes were no big deal. Big mistake!
I learned the errors of my ways during our third backcountry outing. Our campsite for this leg of the trip was located near Mt. Maury, which is about 30 miles north of Petersburg as the crow flies, or, in this case, as the helicopter flies. Almost immediately after the helicopter dropped us off on the flanks of Mt. Maury, I was assaulted by mosquitoes. And these little guys had an appetite. Big time. They hovered around us like stealth bombers waiting to strike. I quickly learned that my only defense for open skin was DEET. 100%, full octane DEET. And there was a lot of open skin because it was uncharacteristically warm, so I bathed myself with lots of DEET. It was DEET or die!
Fortunately, DEET is some highly effective stuff. Together with mosquito netting over my head, I could concentrate on setting up camp and getting ready for photography. And what a gorgeous location Mr. Adamus had selected for us! I positioned my tent with a view of three waterfalls and an unnamed glacier that carved a winding path below me across the base of Mt. Maury. It was amazing. The attached iPhone shot shows the view of the glacier with my swanky tent in the foreground. See? I told you it was an amazing view!
Next on tap for us is aerial photography from our base here in Petersburg. Granite spires, glaciers, low clouds, and sunset light await us as we shoot out of an open helicopter. I’m not sure which is more exciting to me: the landscape or being in a helicopter with no doors. I’m excited to find out! After that, the final phase of my Alaskan adventure begins. We head to Skagway tomorrow for two nights of backcountry camping. I’m already looking forward to seeing how the Skagway mosquitoes compare to those at Mt. Maury and the LeConte Glacier! Wish me luck! 😮