Friday, May 30, 2014

106. Perseverance

It's an interesting concept to think about moving one's body constantly for 8 hours. Our bodies are built for it, being descendants of wandering nomads. No matter what your belief system, there is one common thread: at some point in the history of humans, everyone did a whole lot of walking. Maybe it was a pilgrimage, or maybe we were just looking for tastier animals to wrestle to the ground and gnaw on, but whatever the case, humans have many stories of traveling. But at some point our world changed, and that gosh-darn industrial revolution brought a whole bunch of differently shaped fast-moving metal boxes for us to strap ourselves into and hurtle around in at high speed, all while sitting completely stationary.

It's not that we've become lazy, it's that we're just practical. If we spent all day walking to work and back, then we'd only have a little bit of time during which we'd actually produce anything. So yes, I will drive myself to work while what is basically a barely controlled explosion machine fires off over and over again just a few feet from my crotch. But there's air conditioning!

All of this has unfortunately served to make it very difficult for us to compel ourselves to long-lasting feats of physical endurance. It's not so much a need to be physically "in shape" to have endurance, because honestly, if you were being chased by an army of sharks that had grown legs and taken to the land to seek revenge, you'd probably be able to go pretty far! It's mental endurance that is really taxing. Even if you had the muscles to keep walking, your muscles are still controlled by your mind, and if your mind is pooped, those gams o' yours ain't goin' nowhere.

On Sunday I ran the first 15.5 miles of the race nonstop, without slowing to a walk. Though I may at some points have been going at a speed closer to that of a no-legged turtle trying to push itself on a razor scooter, I was still at least making the motion of running with my arms and legs, which was close enough. I kept leap-frogging this other runner, who would run faster than me and pass me, but would then walk the uphills, at which point I would pass him. We passed each other probably 6 times.

"TAG YOU'RE IT!" I yelled as he ran past me.

"You're so much more consistent than I am!" He said as I ran past him on the next hill.

"Ah yes," I puffed, "And later I will be consistently walking."

Which was true. After the first half of my race, I knew I wouldn't be able to run the second half. I was going to finish the race, but I would be going at a swift walk. I had the muscle and cardiovascular strength to finish the race and I wasn't at all physically tired. I had been training insanely, but because I live on the coast where the ground is totally flat, I hadn't been able to build up my skeletal joints to handle the impact of all the downhills.

Tangent: you can always spot a long-distance hiker or runner by whether they prefer uphills or downhills. If someone only goes short distances, then uphills feel difficult and downhills are a relief. However, if you go for a long time, then your muscles strengthen and uphill becomes a breeze, whereas downhill becomes a little like being stabbed in the knees over and over again by a thousand ants with miniature samurai swords. Ants might be small but they're relentless and ORGANIZED.

If I had tried to run this race before I had hiked the Appalachian Trail, I know for a fact that I would have stopped after the first 25k loop. I had several completely valid excuses on top of my aching knees, such as the fact that it had started to rain, but it was warm enough that the bugs were coming out. HORRORS. But I'm allergic to black flies and I didn't have my epipen with me, so: valid. Besides, 15.5 miles is pretty impressive enough! Now let me drink that entire gallon of gatorade that I know you're hiding.

But on Sunday, the thought to quit didn't even occur to me once. I just knew that I'd have to slow down, listen to my body, and not give a hoot about my finishing time. I wasn't racing against anyone else. I was still going to propel my body forward through space for 31 miles, and that was pretty darn cool enough for me. I did end up running a bit more, but I walked the uphills, and just took my time as I saw fit. I knew that whatever pain I was feeling, it would lessen if I was good to myself, but didn't give up.

And you know what? I was right. I went the entire 31 miles and I felt great at the end of the race. By the end of the next day, I felt perfectly physically fine with no long-term aches or pains.

The perseverance that I learned from long-distance hiking wasn't about not giving up. It wasn't about pushing myself beyond my limits in pursuit of some insane goal. No, the type of perseverance that long-distance hiking taught me was how to be completely and totally mindful of my body and what it needs in any given moment. It took me just about 5 months and LOTS OF INJURIES to learn it, but I did. Since I have this awareness, I know exactly how to push myself in a way that won't hurt me. Since I know how to push myself in that way, I know that I can go incredibly far. I trust myself to do the right thing for my body, and so if I keep running, I know it's the right thing to do.

And as of this moment, I know that right now my body needs an entire bag of salt and vinegar potato chips.

Love,
Clever Girl

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival

On May 25th I ran a 50k Ultra Marathon (31 miles) at the Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival. It was muddy and crazy and hills the ENTIRE TIME. It was all on trails through beautiful woods and farmland, and it was absolutely relentless. It was hard, I cried at the end, I loved it, I am totally doing it again. Thank you everyone for all your support and encouragement!

I wore my OWU under armor shirt because that's what was good for the weather, and so I got to show some Ohio Wesleyan Pride! Ohio Wesleyan is where I went for undergrad, and I did no such physical activity like this during college. Does waking up 5 minutes late to class and sprinting across campus in my pajamas count?


I will very soon do a good write-up of the insanity of this experience, but in the meanwhile, here's some photos. One thing I know for certain: I wouldn't have ever been able to do this, or even considered doing something like this, if I hadn't hiked the AT. I didn't do it fast but I DID IT. It was so muddy the whole course was a slip-in-slide (with rocks!). Here's the terrain map. As you can see, it was very flat. I'M JUST KIDDING. IT WAS HILLS THE ENTIRE TIME. I did this 25k map twice! 



Thanks to Dumptruck for these great photos! My parents, my sister, brother-in-law and little brother all came out to support the event. 


Walking to the car in the morning. 

"Nice team name."
"M3OWZ3BA!?!"
"Yes... I have no idea what that means."

I didn't poke myself in the thigh! Success all around!

This is my advanced, professional iPod case that kept my iPod safe from all the elements
while hiking the Appalachian Trail. It rained during the race, so I'm glad I spent
the extra money on this exclusive case. It's a ziploc bag.
It's very posh.

My sister, who has the same face as me.

START THOSE LEGS!

One of the only flat sections of the entire course.


After my first 25k loop, even though the clock was still running, I stopped to
fill my face with a trail favorite: a bagel with tuna and avocado squished on it,
and a nalgene full of gatorade. Maybe it's not the best for trail running,
but long distance hiking is all I know, and I thought it was close enough.

Trail map!



The shoes of the gentleman who ran the 50 mile race the fastest. SEE HOW MUDDY.

Huggin' my mama at the end of the race!

Stretching is very important, people! I felt completely fine by the end of
the next day, not sore at all by Tuesday. 

Post-run food, with my little brother Nate!

Fooooood.

They were emptying out the water barrels at the end of the day, so
I put my whole face in it.



One of the "official" Pineland Farms photos taken along the trail.
Thank you everyone for understanding my need to take a break from writing while I undertook this crazy task! I love you all dearly.

Love,
Clever Girl

Friday, May 23, 2014

Clever Girl Ultramarathon Break

Hey there hikers!

I am running an Ultra Marathon this weekend. It is a 50k race (31 miles) trail running through New Gloucester, Maine over lots of hills during black fly season. I am going to take a small break from writing today and Monday, because I have to sleep for a zillion hours tonight and then on Monday I'm going to be too busy weeping for 12 hours straight while laying in a bathtub of ice, drinking 2 gallons of gatorade and writing mean-spirited love sonnets to my past self in full iambic pentameter (the past self that signed me up for this race). When I have sports-induced fever dreams, I believe that I am Shakespeare, but with more vitriol... and a ladylike figure.

I plan on giving you all a full write up of all the heartache, glory, victory and calories that will undoubtedly go into this race.

I'll see you on the other side. The other side being Wednesday. I'll see you then.

In the meanwhile, here's a photo of Dumptruck in the snow in a speedo. This was taken in January.

Love,
Clever Girl





Wednesday, May 21, 2014

107. Trail Days - Bonfire

Along the trail, hikers have to adhere to Leave No Trace ethics, which means that building a giant fire would just be plainly unethical. Not to mention the danger of Smoky the Bear bursting out of the forest, immediately putting the fire out, lecturing us in that deep bear voice of his and then punching all of us directly in the face. 

But at Trail Days, hikers can finally let loose, build gigantic bonfires, play music, and dance around until they fall asleep at 3am, or, you know, never. There is something beautiful and communal about a campfire, and campfires themselves deserve their own post. Bonfires are not only beautiful and communal, they are also totally frickin' awesome because it's like sitting next to a continual controlled explosion. 

Because we are quite silly, last year we set up our tents less than 10 feet from one of the bonfires. Strangely enough, this didn't keep me awake. Instead, I fell asleep to the warm flicker of a fire, and the carrying laughter and singing voices of a community of people who were all friends and strangers at the same time. There were so many voices that they all ran together, becoming a sort of white noise, like sleeping next to a river.

I slept like a baby in a laundry basket on top of the dryer.

Dumptruck took some photos of the bonfire last year, and I present them to you without further ado. The photo of the hiker jumping over the fire is not recommended. That guy totally got cold-cocked by Smoky, like 30 seconds after the picture was taken. 





Love,
Clever Girl

Monday, May 19, 2014

108. Trail Days - The Hiker Parade

The hiker parade is a longstanding tradition at Trail Days, and all past, present and future hikers are encouraged to gather together and walk down the main street of Damascus, Virginia. In spite of what can only be described as a completely unholy bouquet of smells as hundreds of hikers all prance down the street together, all the local townsfolk gather on the sidewalks to watch the hikers go by. There are no parade floats, no marching bands or acrobats. There is only one goal of the hiker parade: for the hikers to make it down main street, and for all the locals to completely obliterate them with water balloons.

I think it's a way for the locals to be able to celebrate the presence of the hikers for Trail Days, while simultaneously forcing them all to take a bath. Via water balloon.

Last year there was a change in policy, as apparently the Damascus police force got tired of having to clean up the billion tiny bits of latex balloon shrapnel all over their streets. As of 2013, water balloons were banned. Not to be deterred, the locals instead showed up armed to the teeth with squirt guns. Some folks just stood on their lawns with their garden hoses on full blast, completely soaking the already damp hikers. Being part of the parade felt like being involved in some sort of hazing ritual, in which we were fully inducted into the hiker culture via a gauntlet of icy water. To be fair we probably all deserved it. I wore a raincoat but got soaked in the first 5 minutes anyway.

I tried to find some fun videos of last years hiker parade, but I was unsuccessful. Very unfortunately, last year there was an accident in which an elderly man who had been driving his car had a sudden medical emergency that made him lose control of his vehicle and drive into the crowd of hikers in the parade. Several people were struck by the car, including one hiker (Rainbow Brite) who got pinned under the vehicle. No one was seriously injured, though Rainbow Brite was taken to the hospital. I had never met her, but from what I heard down the hiker grapevine, she was able to continue hiking!

I bring this up not to bring down the mood of this post, but in an effort to do just the opposite. In response to the accident, several hikers in the parade sprung into action, and actually lifted the front end of the car up and rolled it backward off of Rainbow Brite. There was an incredible amount of teamwork and fortitude in the hikers that were just on hand at the site of the accident. I was about 75 feet ahead of the accident, so I was not directly involved, but I have seen a few videos of folks moving the car, and it is pretty amazing. Though it was really scary that this happened, it was beautiful to see how hikers were so quick to band together to save the day. In the overall culture of our country, where it can so often feel like everyone is just out for themselves, it can be incredible to see people work together. Alright, that's enough of that mushy stuff.

This year I wasn't able to be there, but I have been told that the hiker parade was just as excellent as ever, and they even had a firetruck actively spraying people down! I've found some photos of this year's hiker parade, and a few from previous years' hiker parade, so that you can get a feel for the fabulous community of it all. Neither Dumptruck nor I were brave enough to bring any photographic devices to our own hiker parade, because we knew they'd just get SOAKED. So, I have to scavenge from the goodness of others.

All of these photos are from the local news website for Damascus and the surrounding towns!

Damascus Hiker Parade - From http://www.TriCities.com (Bristol Herald Courier)

Damascus Hiker Parade - From http://www.TriCities.com (Bristol Herald Courier)

Damascus Hiker Parade - From http://www.TriCities.com (Bristol Herald Courier)

Damascus Hiker Parade - From http://www.TriCities.com (Bristol Herald Courier)

Damascus Hiker Parade - From http://www.TriCities.com (Bristol Herald Courier)

Damascus Hiker Parade - From http://www.TriCities.com (Bristol Herald Courier)

Damascus Hiker Parade - From http://www.TriCities.com (Bristol Herald Courier)

Love,
Clever Girl

Friday, May 16, 2014

109. Trail Days - Talent Show

So it's Trail Days this weekend down in Damascus, Virginia. Dumptruck and I aren't able to go because we weren't able to get the time off of work. We are SO SAD, and we wish we could be there more than anything. In honor of Trail Days, one of the greatest things about being a hiker and part of the hiker culture, I am going to do a couple of entries about all the different, delightful aspects of Trail Days. I'm afraid if I tried to put it all into one post, it would be super long.

The first thing I want to talk about is the Talent Show, which happens on the Saturday of Trail Days. This is a fantastic opportunity to be able to see all the hidden talents of your fellow hikers. Entries are only open to current thru-hikers, and it is typically a great showing of musical talent. Though it is hikers who perform, there are non-hikers and community members that are in the audience. Last year there were several singers, as well as a beat-boxer, a juggler, and someone who sang a song AND juggled.

And then, there was me, who was completely irreverent and probably a little too inappropriate given the setting. But I did it anyway, and somehow, won the thing. A year ago I promised that I would put up a video of my "Firework" dance if anyone took one, and as it turns out, someone did.

It's missing the first 30 seconds of the dance, so you don't get to see my sweet moves to the first verse, but the moves are, as I mentioned a moment ago, totally sweet. If I ever hang out with you in person, I would be happy to do this dance for you.

FAIR WARNING: I MOON EVERYONE AT THE END.

If you are not prepared to see a butt today, then this is probably not the right video for you to be watching.



The thru-hiker who took the video of my performance (Squirrel) also put up a couple of other videos from last year's Talent Show, which are really awesome and sincerely probably more talented than my ridiculous dance. I honestly didn't even know it was a competition talent show, and when I "won" I felt a little silly. What was particularly hilarious is that folks who weren't able to actually witness the talent show heard down the hiker grapevine about the performances, and my performance was apparently distilled down to the verbal clip: "This chick just got up on stage and mooned everyone and won the talent show."

I like to think that's all I did: Stone face, walk up on stage, no explanation or performance, just a butt.

This one is an original song about the Noro Virus, which is absolutely glorious.



This one is a cover of Tecumseh Valley, and it's adorable.



I wish I could be there to see this year's Talent Show, but I can only imagine that it's going to be incredible, as usual. If you live anywhere near Damascus, Virginia, you should check out Trail Days, and revel in the glory of the hiker fest.

Here are some fantastic photos taken from last year's Trail Days, by a photographer named Jason Barnette. If you scroll to the bottom, there are some great ones of other Talent Show performers:

Jason Barnette Photography - Trail Days 2013

Love,
Clever Girl


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

110. Hiking Poles

You know when you're going up several flights of stairs, and after a little while, you start to feel grateful that there's a banister? At first maybe you take the stairs 2 at a time, feeling confident and lively. Then you dial it back a little bit, realizing that you've still got several more flights to go and you  really want to avoid the onset of jelly legs. Then maybe at some point you just get totally pooped, and you lean forward to grab the rungs a few steps up, then hoist your body forward like some tired swinging pendulum in the world's oldest grandfather clock.

The same thing sometimes happens when you're going down several flights of steps. If you're feeling a little loopy from a long day's work, like maybe you're a boxer and you just got clocked in the head a few times, then having the bannister to hold onto while you descend can be quite a relief. Maybe you're the titular "Nude Descending a Staircase" and your entire existence hangs on the balance of you successfully getting down those stairs without falling down, for all eternity (or for at least as long as your painting exists).  Or maybe the stairs are icy and you have to hold onto the bannister so that you don't slip and break your tailbone and have to carry around one of those little inflatable bum donuts to sit on for the next 6 weeks while it heals.

Hiking poles are like having a bannister with you, at all times, in all environments. Going up or going down, going across perfectly flat terrain, navigating your way over a tiny creek or an overflowing river, hiking poles help keep you upright. It's all the pleasure and convenience of having a bannister, without the hassle of stairs! The downside is that you can't slide down hiking poles like Mary Poppins. They just don't work that way.

If you're an able-bodied person whose had a really long, hard day, have you ever wished that it was socially acceptable to just use a walker whenever you wanted to use one? That's what hiking poles are! They're marketed in fancy outdoor outfitter language, but really, they were probably just invented by a hiker who got tired of having to be responsible for keeping himself upright all the time. Constant face planting really puts a damper on long-term outdoor excursions.

Some people (*cough* Whistle *cough*) accidentally overturn their canoe when they're aqua blazing in Virginia, and lose their hiking poles in a giant river. Whistle says that she wasn't too terribly choked up about this, because they did find their bag of sealed hot dog buns caught in some brambles half a mile down the river. Never you mind the fancy Black Diamond hiking poles that were gone forever. Those hot dog buns were delicious. Whistle decided that she wasn't going to buy new hiking poles, and subsequently got a whole lot stronger than the rest of us.

The biggest upside to walking with hiking poles is that it keeps all the blood from rushing to your hands while you're hiking all day long. On the several occasions that I slack packed without my poles, I would have to do jazz hands and wave my arms around almost constantly in order to coax the blood back out of my swollen fingers. But if you're carrying hiking poles, you are saved from these noodle-armed antics.

I met a South Bounder named "Rebar" who was named thus because instead of hiking poles he was carrying a pair of 5 foot sections of rebar. It's possible that he was a big dumdum for making this decision, but his arms were huge, so no one could argue with him.

I got bored one day while on trail and macrame-d my hiking poles. I love them, and they are still perfectly functional to this day. I also macrame-d Grim's hiking poles in the Gryffindor colors with embroidery floss. We hikers are allowed to be practical and ridiculous fashionable.






Love,
Clever Girl

Monday, May 12, 2014

111b. Things Hikers Say Part 2

I had some great contributions to the "Things Hikers Say" list from some previous thru-hikers and folks involved in the trail community. And so I present to you, Things Hiker Say, Part 2:

From Pony Bear

"Hey, can you throw this Clif bar wrapper in my brain?"

Clever Girl Translation:
The top section of a backpack that flips up is referred to by hikers as the "brain" of the pack, because if the pack were a person, that's where the brain would be. But taken out of context this sentence makes NO SENSE AT ALL.

From Still Here

"Oooh, a strange cooler in the middle of the woods! Damn, it's only full of crushed cans and empty candy bar wrappers."

Clever Girl Translation:
What makes this weird is the implied expectation that an abandoned cooler in the middle of the woods would actually contain something good. Which, as it turns out, they sometimes do.

From ThunderFoot

"That water source is 0.4 miles off the trail? The next water source isn't for 8 more miles? I can make it 8 more miles without water."

Clever Girl Translation:
This is not recommended, but is done ALL THE TIME.

From Dumptruck

In response to the cashier at Dunkin Donuts asking if he would like a bag for his baker's dozen of donuts:
"Oh, no thank you. I'm just going to sit here and eat them all at once."

Clever Girl Translation:
This was done successfully.

 From Sam

As told by the proprietor of a hiker hostel, in reference to real vs. fake maple syrup: "This one is champagne and this one is shampoo."

Clever Girl Translation:
IT'S A POO JOKE.

From Hotdog

"My [insert piece of gear here] is broken... can I borrow your duct tape?"

"Do you mind if I take a scoop out of your butter tupperware?"

"Is this a tan line or just a layer of dirt?"

Clever Girl Translation:
It's just dirt.

From Carpenter

"If all six of us pitch in, we can get one hotel room for $8 a piece!"

"It's okay, take the bed, I sleep better on the floor."

"I can't smell you."

Clever Girl Translation:
But all of these "normals" in town probably can.

"Where's the hiker box?"

"Look! A Porta John! Free toilet paper. And I can sit down! Woot!"

From EarthTone

"It's just one more mile to go..."

Clever Girl Translation:
It's at least 5 more miles.

From Candy Pants and Noodle:

"You think THAT beard is bushy..."

"It's just a flesh wound!"

Clever Girl Translation:
I should probably go to the hospital but it would be way too difficult to get off of this mountain, and try to hitch-hike to a hospital. So I'm just going to wrap this up and keep hiking.

"8 ounces? That's too heavy."

"Not White-Blazed? No thank you."

"No really, we're not homeless... See, it's all here in my pack!"

Love,
Clever Girl


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

111. Things Hikers Say

I have compiled a list of some of the completely insane things that hikers say. The thing is, we don't realize these things are insane until a year later when we're sitting in front of a computer, thinking about it. And then we feel a little weird. All of these things are said with sincerity, without the slightest trace of irony. That's what makes them insane:

"Oh, yeah, I walked here from Georgia."

"Man, I'm so hungry. All I had to eat today was two packages of pop tarts, four bags of oatmeal, a bag of fruit snacks, two granola bars, an entire package of tuna with an entire avocado on a squished bagel, a half a pound of almonds, an entire box of couscous, a bag of dehydrated pineapples a snickers bar and two milky ways. Do you have any food you're not going to eat? I feel like I'm starving."

"Ramen noodles are so much better with peanut butter."

"Ramen noodles are so much better with peanut butter and smashed cheez-its."

"Ramen noodles are so much better with peanut butter, smashed cheez-its, and half a package of dehydrated mashed potatoes."

"I just eat my Ramen dry. It's like chips."

"I only took 12 Ibuprofen today! I must be getting stronger!"

"I'm so hot. I wish it would rain."
...10 minutes later...
"I'm so wet. I HATE THE RAIN."

"You found that food on the ground? Was there more? Why won't you share?"

"What? This unrefrigerated cheese is only a week old, it's perfectly fine. Just cut off the moldy and slimy parts. The stuff in the middle is still good."

"I actively had Norovirus so I only went 16 miles today. I Hansel-And-Greteled my way all the way down the trail."
... No one uses the term "Hansel-And-Greteled" to describe hiking while stopping routinely to expel the bodily fluids associated with Noro Virus. BUT NOW THEY WILL.

"Dude, I only went 21 miles today. I'm such a slacker."

"Hey, will you pop my blisters for me?"

"I lost my hat! It's only a 6 mile round trip back down this mountain and then back up again for me to go and get it and come back. I'll meet you later."

"It's 4 PM and it's only 15 more miles until the trail brings us into town? No problem! Let's do it!"
...Once in town at a motel...
"It's two blocks to the McDonald's? But I'm already lying here in this motel bed. It's too far. I'm just going to eat all the things that are in arm's reach of me."
"Oh god, I hate this show, but there's no remote control and I can't walk the five feet to the TV to change the channel. It's too far. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo it is. For the next four hours."

"Look! The motel gave us TWO tiny bars of soap! THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE."

"Oh, this? This is a dodge ball. I found it at a shelter and I've been carrying it for 300 miles. Its name is Billy."

"Does this look infected to you?"

"The worst part about hiking naked is the chaffing."

Standing in a disgusting, rusted out bathroom in a parking garage with no door, covered in graffiti and a fine layer of ancient filth...
"Oh yeah, I'd totally sleep here."

"Look! A mysterious blue tarp in hung up in the middle of the woods! There's probably a strange man hanging out under it! We should go say hi."

"No pain, no rain, no Maine!"

"Smell this."

Love,
Clever Girl

P.S.
If you are a hiker, I'm sure you have some additions to this list. I know I didn't cover everything. Please feel free to add in the comments!

Monday, May 5, 2014

112. Watching the Idiot Mosquitos From Inside Your Tent

A young woman sits inside her tent. She is breathing heavily, having used the last of her energy to zip open the door, fling herself inside, and zip the door closed behind her in one smooth motion. In spite of her intrepid speed, a few of the most robust mosquitos make it through the brief opening. Giving those mosquitos the benefit of intelligence gives them far too much credit. No, they were simply the lucky few that got caught in the airwave as the woman hurled herself like a shot-put into her mesh bedroom.

She crosses her legs and waits quietly, cocking her head slightly to one side. Weeks of experience has given her the ability to determine the proximity of mosquitos based on the volume of their buzzing. in this way, she can determine if any of them made it inside, and if so, where they are. She focuses the beam of her headlamp on one corner of the tent, and a few rogue insects collect themselves obligingly into the pool of light. They are looking for the source of warmth and brightness. They find only a quick death.

The woman curls her lip a little, dusting the jumbled collection of wings and legs off of her thumb. Outside, tens of thousands of mosquitos swarm and hover, desperate and confused. They dance on the invisible plumes of carbon dioxide that float up and away from the tent, trying in vain to find the source of the delicious exhalations, and finding only mesh and nylon. Inside, the young woman breathes a sigh of relief.

As she breathes out, something in the beam of her headlamp catches her eye. She looks closer, and is amazed to see one of the stupidest things she has ever seen:

A mosquito is clutching the outside of the tent, squirming against the tent material, awash in her breath. It has stuck its proboscis (biting nose) through one of the minuscule holes of the mesh, as though hoping the young woman will simply lean against the wall of the tent so that it can bite her. The hole in the mesh is not big enough for the mosquito's entire body, so it is acting on faith alone.

She reaches up very slowly so as not to startle the creature. Then, when her fingers are only inches away, she strikes with lightning speed, pinching the tiny proboscis between her thumb and forefinger. Outside the tent, the mosquito struggles madly, confused and probably very unhappy. The young woman feels intoxicated with power, resists the urge to cackle, but allows herself one tiny eye twitch of insane victory.

All day long, for days and weeks on end, her skin has been the victim of an endless assault. She has been bitten more times than she can count, and everyone keeps yelling at her not to scratch the bites. She is tired and itchy and sweaty and for just this one brief moment, not only is she free from the droves, she also has one of their number, helpless and caught in her delicate but dirty fingers.

And with no ceremony at all, Whistle yanks the proboscis right off that jerk mosquito's face, and goes to sleep.

Love,
Clever Girl