It happened beside a pretty, conifer-fringed pond. A white boulder overlooked the pond’s rippling waters, which blurrily reflected cotton-wool clouds and blue sky. I climbed onto the boulder to take a photograph and knew as soon as I had done so that I was done with this hike, that I’d reached the point when a trek becomes sheer, joyless endurance.
There was nothing wrong with the pond. I was, for sure, tired after 11 miles of backpacking in the day’s sticky heat. But what really killed the hike for me on that rock was that I realized that, finally, the black flies and mosquitoes had won. No matter how beautiful my surroundings, the bugs’ dancing before my eyes, their whine and their touch, put everything beyond enjoyment.