We should have had a clue during the drive into Fort Peck Lake when swarms of grasshoppers and flying crickets made the highway asphalt appear to be moving sideways. Stopping to re-provision at a small grocery, HK commented on the insects fighting their way into the car.
Since the lakefront campground was void of shade trees and the temps hovered in the 90′s at 5pm, we chose the more secluded and shaded “Downstream Campground”.
Upon check-in, we were informed that this campground’s “lake” was unsuitable for humans to swim, however, it “should be just fine for dogs.” Chet, the campground host, who tooted around the property on a tiny scooter, much like the Shriners on their little tricycles, batted at bugs with an oversized flyswatter as his yellow jacket trap filled to capacity.
Arriving at our waterfront site, I inspected the headlights, which appeared to be covered in the fresh tar we drove 30 miles through crossing Montana earlier in the morning. Looking closer, I realized the “tar” was black flies feasting on a buffet of bugs that had accumulated over the past months of driving.
While HK set up “the Pup” (our pop-up), I leashed the dogs for a leg-stretch and much needed poop. (Dogs, not me.) Within 2 minutes, I was attacked by flying crickets, biting flies and those pesky gnats that insist on flying into any orifice on one’s face. Chance jerked his leash, on the chase of a 4-foot snake that crossed the path 6 inches in front of us. We rushed “home” to find HK sitting inside the Pup.
“Can’t sit outside-yellow jackets everywhere.”
And everywhere they were. Confined to our little prison, we looked out at the sun beginning to set over the Missouri river, wishing we could enjoy it from our lawn chairs that sat vacated outside. Hearing the incessant buzz of the bees, we watched the yellowjackets sneak inside through the tiny gaps in the canvas. Armed with a dishcloth, I swatted and attempted to squash the little fuckers, until one made its way between my fingers, attaching itself to my flesh, stinging me 3 times.
Meanwhile, Roxy, deathly afraid of anything that flies, from distant airplanes to the tiniest of gnats, wisely chose to retreat to the car, cowering on the floorboard.
After cooking dinner inside, a practice we denounced early-on, lest it leave residual odors, we covered ourselves in Deet and ventured outside after dark, once the bees had retired. It was quite pleasant for about 5 minutes, until the wind picked-up, bringing with it the reek of the “water treatment plant”. Overwhelmed by the aroma of ‘Eau de Sewage”,we threw in the towel and made haste for the Pup once again.
“This place should be called “Downwind, not Downstream.”
Zipping up the windows and lighting scented candles, we called it a night.
Waking at 6am, following a night of wind gusts strong enough to launch the Pup, we broke camp before the bugs awakened. Pulling out of camp while scratching the bites scarring my body like chicken pox and marking my face and neck like adolescent acne, we glanced back to see the swarms arriving in force.
Next stop-North Dakota.