“I think it’s a fly.”
No. No, it was not.
I’ve never been much of a hiker, but last year I decided that since I live in a gorgeous corner of the world, I should boot up and get out there. So far the hiking adventures have been… minimal. But! Good intentions! And it was with those good intentions that Audrey and I set out to the Mountain Loop Highway this past weekend.
Mountain Loop Highway is a really beautiful drive that travels along some meandering rivers and pretty epic forests. Most places in the Northwest, you throw a stick and you find a place to hike. So we figured we’d putter along the road until we saw some trailhead signs and take it from there.
It took us much longer to find a trailhead sign than we originally envisioned, but finally we spotted one. I turned the car right and headed up a gravel road that climbed…and climbed…and climbed. We joked that the landscape around us was either Middle Earth or Jurassic Park — but seriously, it was weird. Woods of reddish trees filled with shadow and light, crazy big-ass plants that seriously looked like something a dinosaur would nibble on, and bright purple foxgloves dotting the road.
Finally the gravel road ended, and we came to what looked like a trailhead (I mean, there were other cars there, it had to be something). We clambered out of the car and, after sticking water bottles and a box of crackers in Audrey’s backpack, started walking.
After about twenty yards down the trail, we heard the buzzing.
“What’s that?” asked Audrey.
“I think it’s a fly.”
It was a lone bee, circling Audrey. Now, Audrey is not a bee fan, having stepped on a hive once as a child. So, understandably, she wasn’t too keen on this bee following her. And it was following her. She jogged forward a couple paces, hoping to lose it. Nothing. She ran backwards — nope, still there. Finally, after some very determined maneuvers, she seemed to have lost the thing. We forged on.
I’m just gonna tell you guys now — this trail was a dud. After walking for less than half a mile on loose shale, we ended up in this weird semi-circle of rotting tree stumps. It looked like there’d maybe been a forest fire through there at some point, and we were looking at the aftermath. It was…interesting? I guess? But odd, I got a weird vibe from it — and there was no trail leaving the semi-circle. That was about the point that we decided no, this trail wasn’t working, time to pack it in.
Of course, the only way out was to come back the way we came — which at first was fine. And then the buzzing started.
“Is it back?” said Audrey.
Yes, it was. Just the one at first. And then as we kept going it was joined by another…and another.
I like bees. Mason bees are useful. Honey bees provide me with delicious sweets. The bumblebees that lumber around my lithadora amuse me to no end. But these bees? These bees didn’t seem too happy. And as they kept circling Audrey — and, by extension, me — they seemed to grow less and less happy.
“Why don’t we try running a little bit,” I said, “see if we can lose them.”
We ran about ten yards down the trail and stopped, listening for the tell-tale signs. Yup, still there. And what was more, the number of bees had definitely increased. In my mind, there were dozens. In reality — there were probably eight or nine. But, you know, eight or nine is plenty when they’re frickin’ following you and circling your heads.
I can’t remember if we agreed to start running again or just started. And as we ran down the trail, the bees followed us. I could hear them whipping around my head (and one of them INTO my head). I kept waiting to feel a sting.
“Ok,” I said, reaching into my pocket for the car keys. “I’m going to open the car from a little distance, then we’ll run and jump in. Just…don’t let any bees in.”
As the car came into sight, I pressed the unlock button — the headlights flashed to say hello. Audrey and I picked up the pace over the last few yards and, without pausing, yanked open the car doors, jumped in, and slammed them behind us.
We listened for a moment. No buzzing — the car was quiet. I’m still not quite sure how we managed to get in there without a single bee, but we did. As we sat there flabbergasted and laughing, I looked out the window and saw a lone bee sitting on the side-view mirror, looking in.