I walked up the trail a short distance and saw some rock cairns. I looked around and saw sticks laid out in arrows and spelling H2O. I hadn't missed the hidden lakelet after all! I went over to the pond and filled up all my water bottles. On the way back I found a tennis shoe, picked it up and left it near the rock cairns pointing toward the lakelet. As I went up the trail there were a few more rock cairns and arrows. I got the feeling that many others had been as desperate for water here as I had been and wanted to spare others the pain of missing this water.
I hiked on and was pretty certain I had found my way into the central depths of Hell. Never in my life had I experienced mosquitoes as awful as they suddenly became. They swarmed me as I walked full speed. They swarmed me as I ran. They stung me through my shirt, through my shoes. I felt defenseless. I stepped into some kind of beehive or something and screamed and ran away as fast as I could so I wouldn't be stung by bees as well.
I smeared DEET everywhere I could. I wished I had a T-shirt to wear under my desert shirt or the kind of repellent that fogs all around you to cover my clothing. At least I had my shirt to protect my legs and my bandana to cover the tiny little triangle at my neck where my bugnet and my collar didn't quite meet. I was grateful for my deluxe headnet. I would be dead without it, I was certain, if not from bugs then from suicide or insanity. I wondered if you stripped naked, could you die from mosquito bites?
For 6 hours I endured a constant storm of bugs. I met a couple of section hikers. The wife wanted to chat. The husband just wanted to get the hell out of there. I did, too.
At noon I found myself below dramatic Diamond Peak right were the lava ended and the trees began. There was snow. There was a breeze. I found a flat rock to sit on and eat my lunch. I would not have to set up my tent to have lunch as I had been promising myself to keep myself going down the trail. With the wind there was only one mosquito bothering me by my left ear on the lee-side. I felt relief at last.
After lunch I ran into a day hiker I had seen two days ago. He seemed cheerful and said the bugs weren't too bad ahead. They were indeed more tolerable, but I was shell-shocked so I never took off my skirt or headnet. I could see nice views every now and then. There were some nice lakes. Summit Lake earlier in the morning was so inviting, but it killed me to walk by it without taking a swim. I stopped briefly to wash off with my bandana, but I dared not swim. A pretty turquoise lake later in the day beckoned me, but again I just pressed on.
By the time I reached Shelter Cove I was absolutely exhausted. I got my resupply package, took a shower, drank a beer and ate an ice cream. Then I was off to find a stealth camp in the woods. The swarms were starting up again as I searched for a site. I put up my tent as fast as possible and cooked right outside the door just sticking my hand out to light the stove, add the pasta, put out the fire that started in the duff. I had no emotions anymore. Even starting a forest fire was no big deal.
As I rested in my tent I felt a certain terror. The trail was not fun anymore. It was Hell on Earth, the worst experience I'd ever had. The next section of trail coming up was said to tie with the Sky Lakes alternate route for worst mosquitoes. How could they be worse?
I was still near Shelter Cove and could return in the morning and buy either a shirt or bug spray. I wasn't sure which would be better. I felt like crying as I fell asleep.