You’ll find three signs within 100 feet of the entrance to just about any park in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. A notice about Spotted Lantern Flies, a warning about Lyme disease-carrying deer ticks, and a warning about rattlesnakes. Sometimes a warning about black bears as well. Spotted Lantern Flies are a threat to plants, but not people. Lyme disease, not treated early, can make your life miserable. A rattlesnake bite can kill you. A bear can eat you.
You know the risks, and how to mitigate them.
Apply tick repellant, and check for ticks after your hike. Don’t step on or near a snake. Make noise so the bears know you’re coming and avoid you. Don’t pet bear cubs or snakes.
Or, simply stay out of the Pine Barrens.
What the signs won’t warn you about is Deer flies. I can’t think of a more annoying pest. More annoying than mosquitos. Imagine being surrounded by a cloud of tiny needles that fly down and poke your face, neck, hands, arms, and legs, over and over again. The summer of 2022 was bad. Late spring & early summer was hot, and the flies were grotesquely plentiful. I had to hold my hands up by my face, like a boxer, and continuously swat them away. As my arms swung in front of me, dozens of flies bounced off my hands and arms. It was like fighting a ghost made of hundreds of thumbtacks. My face is tingling just thinking about them.
So I learned about Deer flies and bought a hat with mosquito netting and a long-sleeve shirt treated with pyrethrum.
Potential life-altering, and insanity-inducing threats aside, the Pines are a beautiful and mysterious place worth taking risks and fighting the occasional amorphous cloud of flies.
Cranberry bogs — especially those reclaimed by nature — are a beautiful sight to see, especially near sunset on a day when the air is still, and the water mirrors the sun, sky, and trees. Yes, plenty of flies too.
Take a quiet winding trail or dirt road around bogs, slow streams, and through groves of pines and oaks. Where will it take you?
Maybe the trail takes you to an abandoned grove of enormous blueberry bushes, where you can feast like a king until your lips & tongue are indigo, and your eyes and mouth widen with ecstasy, allowing the sun, and visions, and flavors of the blueberry bushes flow into your mind as a glorious memory you can always go back to, to lighten up a dark day.
Or maybe the trail takes you to a serial killer riding a bear using a rattlesnake for a whip, coming straight for you. Because they’re running from a massive cloud of Deer flies.
Yum or None & Done. Make the choice. Bear the flies to get the berries.