My family and I enjoy roller blading on Grant’s Trail, a nicely paved trail in south St. Louis County (an extension from Grant’s Farm). This trail passes over several small creeks and near at least one small body of water. Large portions of the trail are also completely covered by a canopy of mature tree branches with lots of decaying, soft, wet soil underneath. This area is prime real estate for clouds of those nasty little buggers that are commonly called "no-see-ems" (so named, b/c you do not see them until it is too late). Their scientific name is Ceratopogonidea--
and the females are blood suckers (which is why you sometimes feel a little prick when they alight on your bare skin).
When my mother and I arrived at the trail late yesterday evening, we thought we would be safe from these bugs due to the cooler weather we've been enjoying lately. Boy were we sadly mistaken. When we arrived at the trail head, these pests were flying in the sky as thick as a plankton bloom in the sea. Not one single square inch of air was free of bugs in the thick of their earthly nebula. Before a couple of bikers returned to the trail, they gamely warned my mother and I to keep our mouths closed while skating, unless we wanted a voluminous, high protein snack. When we started off on the trail, we saw that the bikers were not exaggerating--things had gotten hairy (or should I say buggy) on the trail with approx. 40% of our path blocked by bugs—this was a situation that required drastic measures.
Large sunglasses were our first line of defense. These protected our eyes from the creatures as we cruised at a high velocity through the mess of tiny insects. From there, I preferred to employ, what I've termed, the "attacking bull" defense, where I lowered my head, gathered speed, and rushed through the throng of bugs as quickly as possible. Some of the clouds were so awful that I had to bend at a 90 degree angle from my waist, with my entire body warped into an L-shape. I hurriedly perfected a speed-skater stance, both to protect my face from the pests (trust me, little biting bugs up your nose ain’t pleasant!) and to move as quickly as possible through the multitude. After breaking out on the other side, I would look down in horror to see my clothes literally COATED with these pests. By the time we finished the trail, I had to actually take down my hair and flip it into the wind to try to remove the 50-some bugs that had become lodged into my hair following the attacking bull tactics. As we were passing a biker at the end of the trail, I noticed that he too was trying to remove the insects from his body except he had them stuck in his beard—the poor bastard.
After such an experience, my mother and I have decided that it would behove us to start a small business about 300 or so feet into the trail. We will set up a little stand and sell burqas and sunglasses to the hapless trail goers. When you hit a cloud-o-pests, on goes the burqa, out come the sunglasses. I bet we could get a great price for these items, too. Shoot, I would ecstatically patronize such a vendor. Relief would become a religious experience for me. I might even convert to Islam in gratitude....