I’m often asked what the mosquitoes are like in Alaska. Well, if you ask someone from Alaska, they are likely to respond somewhat jokingly with “you mean the state bird?”
Honestly, I’ve never found mosquitoes a problem, but then again I’m pretty tolerant of the little vampires, even in mosquito-rich enclaves like the Wonder Lake area of Denali National Park.
My secret is that I simply tell myself that I’m going to encounter them and yes, they may be intense. In other words, I play a mind game on myself. For many reasons I rarely will use mosquito repellant. Among them — I hate the smell, I worry that grizzly bears might be curious about the smell, DEET (which is what you want in your spray) has been linked to causing serious neurological and other health problems, and the repellant melts the fabric and plastic of many forms of outdoor clothing and equipment. In the absolute worse cases I will drag out a head net For that to happen, the mosquitoes have to be to the point where I’m breathing in mosquitoes with every breath. What you pray for in mosquito-rich areas is for wind. Anything above four miles-per-hour usually grounds the suckers.
Sometimes your hands are both busy and you can’t do anything about it. An example, is the above photo of my hand after a day of hiking in Denali National Park and Preserve. An anti-itch gel or cream like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) will offer some relief.
So how bad have they been? Well, once near Wonder Lake in Denali National Park and Preserve, I slapped the top of my hand to kill the mosquitoes on it. How many did I kill, I counted close to twenty dead on the top of my hand. Yes, TWENTY!
Thank goodness for the buggers though. Wonder Lake is one of the most beautiful places on the planet when the weather is clear and you can view Mt. McKinley, aka Denali. The ravenous mosquito population there, while annoying to park visitors, pollinate the flowers and berries, and are an important link in the food chain. They also keeps the number of campers down. Only the hardy are willing to brave their meals with the buzzing and biting, so most vistors to Wonder Lake keep their visit short. I’ve never had a problem getting a spot there — a wondrous place that should easily have a waiting list of hundreds of campers.
ABOVE: Mosquito bites on the back of the hand of John L. Dengler. Photo taken on a backpacking trip near Wonder Lake in Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska.