I think that a place as chilly, isolated, and desolate as northern British Columbia and the Yukon Territory should at least be bug free. It doesn’t seem fair that there should be swarms of bees and hoards of gigantic mosquitos here. At the very least, people should be able to go to northern Canada to escape from insects.
But alas, the bugs in northern Canada and Alaska are like birds. The mosquitos are fierce and persistent. Small black bees hover around our tires when we park the van to fill up with gas or take a wilderness pee. Often, as John or Lydian or Camile walk back to the car, they’re swatting at something as they approach. Sometimes they’re swatting and running from something. It’s true that the landscape is beautiful, but only if you’re enclosed in a protective barrier or slathered with 100% DEET.
Our windshield is covered with the remnants of these bugs having traveled many miles along the winding roads tracing a path through a thick forest of tall skinny evergreens and a smattering deciduous trees. Every now and then, through the insect-splattered windshield, we pass a cryptic sign along the road, the only evidence that humans inhabit the area. Sometimes, we’ll pass another sign explaining what the other sign means (if you’re lucky, because the signs aren’t usually necessary and often don’t make any sense). I recall from our last trip through Canada that the signs were superfluous and mostly unnecessary. If a group of people who knew nothing about human psychology, language, or behavior got together to communicate with drivers through signage along highways, the signs would look like the ones in Canada.
We’re just sitting here right now, literally in the middle of nowhere along the highway with a woman holding a stop sign. We’re waiting for a pilot car to take us to the other side of the road construction. The lady with the stop sign is also holding a cigarette and she tells us that the wait will be 10 to 15 minutes. Some rather scrawny and unhealthy-looking motorcyclists parked ahead of us are distributing donuts and taking a siesta.
Nature calls to John and Lydian as we’re sitting here. There are miles and miles between us and the next rest area and who knows how long we’ll be forced to stay parked here, so the two of them decide to take off into the thick trees to find a suitable spot to pee. Lydian and John head down into the ditch first. I watch them through the window of the van descending into the deep, weedy ditch, stepping with high knees through the grass and wildflowers, their swatting and twitching increasing in pitch and momentum as they near the thicket.
They duck into the trees and I can see a sense of desperation cross Lydian’s face as they search for privacy amidst the multitudinous bugs. Around this time, Camile, still sitting in the van with me, says, “I think I need to go too.”
John and Lydian are now running up through the ditch, flailing their arms furiously, the motorcyclists and stop sign lady gawking at them with amusement. The stop sign lady says, “Don’t bring them back up here with you!”
I stop taking pictures and started searching for the DEET.
I went around back to the camper and got the 45% Deet, hardly strong enough in reality for a job like this, but still the green bottle inspired bravery in Camile. Lydian wasn’t able to find a place where she could relax enough to go. So the three of us, descended down into the ditch toward the trees, spraying ourselves vigorously as we went. As Lydi and Camile took their places behind some shrubbery, there were shrieks as the hoards of mosquitoes and other biting, stinging insects swarmed around them excitedly. John opted out of the whole affair claiming that he could just “pinch it off” and wait for a less painful opportunity. Moments after the ordeal, as we climbed up out of the ditch, the pilot car arrived to take us through the construction zone.
At this point in the trip along this lonely road, the other travelers have only one question for us, “Are you headin’ up or down?” It is the Alaska Highway after all. There’s only one. It has been many days since I’ve seen an intersecting highway that would take us east or west. My road atlas excludes the northern part of British Columbia probably because it’s so desolate and the travel options so few. Hopefully Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory will be as progressive and hip as some people say it is (somehow I doubt it, but we’ll see).