Wild Week Four: Teen Canoe, or…

…perhaps more fittingly described as the week of the bugs. “I survived the Alaskan Plague of 2013.” I would like to get a shirt with those words and pictures of mosquitoes printed all over it.

bad bugs
bad bugs

This past week was our first full week of canoeing with campers. We left base camp Monday and hit the Swan Lake System by 2:30 or so in the afternoon. Other than the bugs, it was a blast. Great weather, great people, good times of enjoying creation and talking about the God who made it all…overall a fun week. And it got much funner (and yes, funner should be a word) after Tuesday afternoon; but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Monday evening, we arrived at Gavia Lake, where we camped for the next three nights. That first night was a bit miserable mosquito-wise, though. We estimated that there were easily at least a million mosquitoes on our island, without exaggeration. That made things like setting up our tents and using the woodsy facilities painful in such a bug-infested environment. The staff’s full upper-body mosquito nets helped a bit, but they were still awful. To top it all off, the girls’ tent zipper was busted. I officially hate Coleman products: every time we tried to get in or out of the tent, we succeeded in letting in even more mosquitoes to be trapped inside the tent with us. (One lesson I learned this week: there are some things you can (and probably should) go cheap on…camping gear is NOT one of them.) The bugs were so noisy that first night, it made it hard to fall asleep for all their buzzing. One of my campers asked if it was possible to go home; and there was a moment or two where I thought to myself–as I was lying in my sleeping bag, extremely hot and getting sweatier by the minute but not wanting to expose more of my body than was absolutely necessary for respiration so that the mosquitoes remaining in our tent wouldn’t eat me, with the bugs buzzing all around the sides of our tent–that this may just have been some of the most miserable circumstances of my life so far. So the circumstances were miserable…but remarkably, I wasn’t unhappy. I reminded myself that I had no 10 page paper due the next morning, and that morning would inevitably come whether I was able to fall asleep or not, so all I had to do was lie there and endure the discomfort. And (of course) I soon fell asleep and was suddenly surprised by morning.

Tuesday was fun. The bugs were still painfully impressive, but it was a perfect day for swimming weather-wise, and once we got far enough out on the lake, our swimming time was relatively bug-free. We did have to swamp the canoes to rid them of the hundreds of mosquitoes that clung to their sides as we paddled from the shore to where we wanted to swim; but then afterwards, we had fun playing underneath them and practicing our T-rescue technique. We also had a mesh gazebo so that we could have an area that was pretty bug free if we were quick getting in and out and vigilant with the killing. And Tuesday night, we had a great surprise. A friend with a pilot’s license flew over our island and delivered three packages: pizza, ice cream, and a box full of tennis racquet looking bug zappers with batteries…enough for each of us. They were fittingly labeled The Executioner. After that, clearing the gazebo and our tent of mosquitoes became a lot more doable. (Our friends back at camp had looked for full mosquito nets for all of us, like the staff had, but the stores all over town were sold out; apparently, the bugs are so extreme this year that stores around here have been calling stores in the Lower 48 to see if they can supply them with more nets to sell.)

salvation from on high
salvation from on high

Wednesday we enjoyed another chill day of just relaxing on our island. Thursday we canoed and portaged farther and camped on the Moose River at a site I really liked. And Friday we woke up, canoed out, made it to the take-out, were picked up, and rode back to camp, where we promptly enjoyed hot showers, a delicious dinner cooked over the fire, the cedar wood hot tub heated by a wood stove, and root beer floats. It was a full, fun week.

Next up, Jr. High Canoe.

Swan River Canoe Trails



  1. Oh man, the mosquitoes sound horrible! Do they have to worry about West Nile in Alaska, if so with so many bites ones risk must go up quite a bit. (Not to make you worried.) I love the present you all received from the others back at camp- pizza while out camping in the wilderness, YUMMY! Ice cream, I love it and those rackets; I can imagine what fun they were for everyone! It sounds like you are truly enjoying yourself and I am glad to read about it.


    1. As far as I know, West Nile only made it up to AK just one year..so not too many worries on that score 🙂 The biggest worry is simply being (quite literally) eaten alive! And thanks for reading about my adventures, Ester! I’m glad I can share them with you.


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