Now that it’s mid-August, Blake and I naively thought that Calgary’s mosquito population had been quietly killed off by the summer heat. So we took the children for a six-kilometre “hike” in the Weaselhead Flats natural environment area, a wetland delta where the Elbow River empties into Glenmore Reservoir.
Yeah, I know — what were we thinking?! I assure you it was not: “Let’s do a Burmese March through a mosquito-infested wetland when it’s 30C outside!” It was more like: “Hey, this sounds like a nice, shady interpretive trail by the Elbow River. Maybe we’ll see a weasel or a black bear!”
A misleading sign lured us into the swamp with talk of birds and bears.
Oddly, the interpretive sign was lacking a picture of the most prevalent Weaselhead inhabitant:
Dear hikers, this is the only “wildlife” you will see. Suckers!
In real life they look like this:
Now, multiply this by 200. I think that’s how many bites we received as a family of four.
The hike began ominously, when we opted to bushwack our way down a lesser-used path, thus alerting the mosquitoes to our presence. Once the swarm knew we were in the vicinity they followed us to the bridge:
And down to the riverbank:
I assure you as soon as Avery and I completed our “royalty waves” we used those hands to kill mosquitoes.
Then, sensing we were easy prey (no insect repellent) they tormented our family for the next 90 minutes as we sprinted, swatted and swore our way out of the swamp. We were so busy trying to kill them that we probably marched right past a weasel. Really, we just wanted it to end.
Avery: “I’m itchy! Why did we do this hike? I hate it!”
Me: “Just keep walking — it’s harder for them to land on you that way.”
Bennett: “Look! A mosquito’s biting me, Mommy.”
Blake (swatting Bennett’s back): “Got it!”
Avery (crying): “I’m itchy! I want to die!”
Me: “Well, if you lie down on the ground they’ll just land on you all at once. So keep moving!”
Avery: “You don’t have to yell at me! I wish I was in Jell-O!” (Yes, so irritating and menacing were the blood suckers, my daughted wanted to be encased in Jell-O, out of harm’s way.)
Now, reread the above dialogue 20 times to get a sense of the final 20 minutes of our hike. When we finally climbed the hill out of the marsh back to the parking lot, the sky had clouded over and you could actually see the mosquitoes thick in the air. I imagine my back looked something like this hat:
Thankfully, I’ll never know. And I’ll never again go hiking in Weaselhead Flats without a full bottle of bug spray.