Bug spray and bear spray – stories of scuttling and fluttering  creatures…

Our last visit to Joshua Tree was almost my last wilderness visit ever. Actually, that’s not strictly true. My first visit to a cabin in the woodlands of West Virginia many years ago was almost my first, last and only North American outdoor adventure. A little OldPlaidCamper family history might help to explain things here. (I’ll throw in a few more Joshua Tree photos to break up the tedium…)

Hundreds of Joshua Trees!

Growing up in the United Kingdom, early camping adventures for me were limited to an overnight tent stay with the Cub Scouts (very little memory about that, maybe hypnotherapy could bring it all back, but some things are best left buried), and the occasional week in a caravan with my family. Those static caravan sites were in North Wales – pretty but rainy – or on the Norfolk coast – windy, pretty but less rainy – near my grandparents. I’ve got happy memories of those holidays, although I don’t know how my parents survived with four young boys sardined into a tin can when the weather was really wet. I seem to recall a lot of bottles in the recycling. 

One year I got sick, and because a small boy throwing up in a small caravan is unpleasant for the other occupants, my grandparents came and took me back to their house to recover. I much preferred their house to the cramped caravan, and my “recovery” was timed to when we were about to go home. A naughty and unpleasant small boy, but one who didn’t like tiny accommodations – at least, not crowded.

Anyway, these early experiences were formative, in that, watching Jeremiah Johnson aside, I didn’t really see myself as the outdoors type, at least not as far as camping or caravaning goes. Then there was the wildlife. 

 Not the outdoorsy type? He is now!

My mother, Ma PlaidCamper, successfully passed on to us her fear of spiders, at least when we were younger. There were times when we heard screams of fear, and ran indoors from the back yard, expecting scenes of carnage – had our youngest brother finally jumped down all the stairs, believing (as he did) he could fly? Was the dog savaging an intruder? No. There was a spider in the bath tub. I can’t give Ma PlaidCamper all the credit, because my father, Pa PlaidCamper, had an irrational fear of moths. Spiders? I can see that. But moths?! So, scuttling and fluttering creatures were the enemy growing up.

 Good food, good coffee, and no bugs

Just to be clear, moths and spiders don’t grow to any extreme sizes in middle England, and they aren’t dangerous. Although there was one time when Ma PlaidCamper screamed and we all came running in from the garden to confront (there is no other word) the largest house spider I’ve ever seen. Normally, one of Ma PlaidCamper’s brave little soldiers would rescue the spider by placing a jam jar over it, sliding a piece of paper under, and taking it outside to freedom (where it would plan the next arachnid assault on the PlaidCamper house). This spider, Gigantica Grossa, to give it the improper Latin name, could not be captured inside a jar. Or a soup bowl. Not even under an overturned dinner plate. It was so large that Charlie, our bold Basset hound, wasn’t prepared to do what he normally did, and snack on the spider. Pa PlaidCamper ended the face off with the heel of his shoe. My stomach still lurches to this day…

 Anything scuttling in here?

This fascinating and lengthy insight is all a prelude to saying that the very first time we got to our little cabin in West Virginia, I was not emotionally or psychologically prepared for bugs. Bugs! They were everywhere! Bugs you could see. Bugs you couldn’t see. Bugs so ugly you didn’t want to see. They were noisy, numerous, and quick. I think I might have used up several (or more) containers of bug spray the first night in the cabin. I drew a chemical line in the sand around the bed and up the wall. If you had stocks and shares in DEET producers back then and made any money, it was thanks to me. Mrs PlaidCamper saved the day – and a small fortune – by pointing out that we had two weeks in the woods, the bugs had me outnumbered, weren’t likely to move out, and what kind of role model was I being to PlaidCamper Jr? I manned up (but I wish I’d had a heads up on lightning bugs – I thought I was hallucinating. You don’t know what you don’t know…)

 Relax, unwind…

Ever since then, this city boy has slowly and steadily grown up and accepted all aspects of outdoor life. Bugs don’t  bother me now – although I always pack bug spray before bear spray. Everything has been fine. Until our arrival at Joshua Tree.

 Tree after tree…

The welcome booklet/binder at our vacation home was full of all the useful need to know items about the house and surrounding area. Wonderful! It also had a lengthy page or three about spiders, scorpions, and snakes, listing where they hid around the house, and what to do in the event of being bitten, stung, eaten or laughed at by said creatures. Not so wonderful. Maybe I was tired from the drive, or maybe it was the heat, but I regressed back to prePlaidCamper days. I know you sometimes do need to know what you don’t know, but just then I didn’t need to know there were tarantulas nesting under the deck. Or black widows lurking in corners. Trap door and wolf spiders? Spare me!

 Spare me! And bring me a beer!

I’m pleased to write that this time it was me who gave myself a stern talking to, and I climbed down from the chair, put my feet on the floor (after checking inside shoes carefully), and proceeded to have a thoroughly enjoyable time in the desert. With a container of bug spray readily available in my backpack. We didn’t see any spiders, snakes, scorpions – or moths. It was too hot for them, and they quite sensibly stayed out of the heat and out of my sight. Thank you wildlife!

 Get off the chair (and check under the deck)

Do you have an irrational (or perfectly reasonable) dislike of certain wilderness creatures? Please feel free to share – I’ll feel less foolish. Thanks for reading, and keep your guy ropes secure.

 This was the biggest bug I saw down there. Sorry.

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I am a would be outdoorsman - that is if I had more time, skills and knowledge. When I can, I love being outdoors, just camping, hiking, snowboarding, xc skiing, snowshoeing, paddling a canoe or trying something new. What I lack in ability, I make up for in enthusiasm and having a go. I'd never really survive for long out there in the wild, but I enjoy pretending I could if I had to...

16 thoughts on “Bug spray and bear spray – stories of scuttling and fluttering  creatures…”

  1. Great post! I’m glad to hear you’ve visited the Mountain State. If you ever make it back this way, we’ll have a grand wilderness adventure ( but be warned, bugs are guaranteed to join us).

    At some point in life, I developed an unnatural fear of spiders. I don’t know how it happened. As a boy, I didn’t worry about such eight–legged burdens, but sometime in early adulthood, I found myself standing on my bed as a spider at least as big as a small automobile crawled on my bedroom floor. OK. It was probably the size of a quarter, but it was still creepy.

    I realized then and there that I couldn’t live this way, especially since I enjoyed hunting, camping, and fishing so much. So I began a self–directed program to overcome this sudden and irrational fear. I would get close to the arachnids and stare them down. Eventually, I reached a point where I would let them crawl on my hands. Of course, it terrified me, but I overcame the fear.

    I still don’t like spiders, but I no longer fear them. Instead, I just accept that they are a natural part of a woodsman’s life – even if they are creepy as hell!


    1. I love West Virginia – at least, the panhandle, where my brother lives. It’s a beautiful area, especially in the fall.
      You’ve likely saved thousands of dollars in therapy by taking the DIY “get over it” approach to spiders – sensibly done!
      Have a great weekend!


  2. Your static caravan description had me imagining Rhyl.

    My great dislike is snakes. I’ve had a few unpleasant encounters, the last one involving a garter snake caught between my feet as I walked through our garden on the coast while wearing sandals. Now I wear my tall Wellies……snake protection gear.

    Loved the post. Very entertaining.


    1. Just a little further west from Rhyl, Nefyn on the Lleyn peninsula – beautiful, at least in the sunshine.
      Wellingtons for snake country – a good idea!
      Thanks for reading and enjoy your weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My Dad and stepmother lived on the Wirral for a while. They now have a little farm just outside Melin Y Wig in Denbighshire. On a clear day, you can see Snowdon – they’d like a few more clearer days than they get!


  3. This story made me smile. I would have to say my irrational fear pretty much involves anything of worm like characteristics and anything that can jump and seemingly fly at the same time (Grasshoppers. Yes, I know, but seriously.). Don’t know if any of that can be characterized as wilderness, but those things need to stay away from me. 🙂


    1. Some of those grasshoppers get pretty big, and when they hunt in packs…that’s an unpleasant thought! They’re like spiders with booster packs.
      Thanks for sharing, and have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve had camping trips during which I’ve counted my most frequently spotted wildlife as mosquitoes. I’ve encountered bears and not needed bear spray, but I wouldn’t survive my mosquito encounters without bug spray (and even then, the outcome is often questionable). I do check my shoes when I’ve left them under the outer tent tarp overnight, because I can imagine something ending up in there, and I’ve gotten used to moths, even the very strange, large ones. Mosquitoes, though, are bad news. I react really badly to them, and unfortunately they really like me.


    1. You’re so right – mosquitoes, hands down the biggest nuisance outdoors. It’s a thankfully shortish season for them up here, but I reach for the bug spray as soon as I hear one!
      Enjoy your weekend!


  5. Enjoyed reading this story about your background in UK and experiences in places like W. VA. As for mosquitoes, at least they are slow fliers and I can smack a good percentage of them. Ticks, on the other hand (or in some dark recess of the body), annoy me. They’re becoming more prevalent in the North country now because of global warming. I’m trying to get used to them here after all these years, but it’s not pretty.


    1. It’s funny, isn’t it? We go out prepared – or semi-prepared – for bears, maybe catch a fleeting glimpse of a mountain lion or moose, but the reality is it’ll be a tick or leech or mosquito causing the most discomfort. That doesn’t make for much of a campfire story…
      Hope your weekend has been a good one!


  6. I really enjoyed this story, pc, laughed a couple of times too; especially the part about Gigantica Grossa and the other funny antics of your family. It’s easier to enjoy the wilderness when we’re not afraid, but sometimes the creepy-crawlies get to even the bravest ones. Thanks for the great post. 😀


    1. I think fortitude zones vary! You had 297 mosquito bites on the Amazon trip? I would have been such a mess, and making a terrible fuss after a couple of bites. Bit of a comfort driven OldPlaidCamper really, at least as far as the bugs go…
      Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of your day!

      Liked by 1 person

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