Northern Tier 2010

July 25, 2010

The Great Grasshopper Menace of 2010

Filed under: Montana, Section 03 — Henry Scott @ 8:00 pm

Seth and I leisurely waited around our campsite this morning for the grocery store across the street to open. It was hard to be eager to get on the road because we were camped so close to the train tracks, and trains came about every thirty minutes. That we could sleep at all speaks to how tired we were.

Anyway, around 8:30 we realized the store wouldn’t open at all on a Sunday, and we went for breakfast at a nearby diner. On the way out, a headline in the local paper caught my eye: Worst Grasshopper Outbreak in Fifteen Years. I didn’t think much of it at the time because I’ve been preoccupied with mosquitos.

Although this is reportedly a mild mosquito year due to so much late, cold rain, the problem is severe enough that local communities have workers drive around in the evenings misting the air with repellent. I don’t want to think about the consequences of sleeping in such a fog, so please don’t ask.

Back to the grasshoppers (well, in a moment): today’s ride was short at 57 miles, but very hard due to another day of headwinds. Additionally, since entering the plains of eastern Montana, there’s not much to describe beyond what a few photos can show: the landscape is pretty, but fairly flat and monotonous. Not even the sky would provide something worth writing about — there literally wasn’t a cloud in the sky this morning. Before long I found myself falling into the trap of just staring at long stretches of Highway 2, noting how slowly the miles were adding up on my speedometer and frankly, for the first time on this trip, not enjoying the ride. That is, until I noticed the grasshoppers.

They’re everywhere! All along the roadside, flying through the air and, frequently, smacking into my legs and occasionally my face while riding. As I rode along the shoulder they would launch out of my way in every direction.

Their presence quickly transitioned from a nuisance to a fascination. I’ve never seen so many, and I’m eager to learn what factors cause so many to emerge, after over a decade, at the same time. Is it temperature? The late rains? A combination of factors, or simply time?

I’m sure today’s grasshoppers won’t be something I’ll remember as a highlight of this trip, but they helped me get through my toughest day, psychologically, so far. I suspect the middle of the continent is the hardest part for many, rather than the mountains. In the mountains one has rapidly changing landscapes and an easily visible challenge in front of him, whereas in the plains the road appears to stretch on forever, with little visual change, and the threat of uncooperative winds.

Tonight we’re in Nashua, MT enjoying another night of free camping (and showers!) in its city park.


1 Comment »

  1. You’re a wild man, Henry, a wild man.

    Comment by George — August 4, 2010 @ 4:29 pm

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