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Common Ground

The Colorado Plateau is a vast region that covers over 150,000 square miles in portions of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.

Place me anywhere within this pinon-and-juniper-covered semidesert province and I feel at home. There are special places here that you can hike for days and never see another soul.

But one thing you ought to know about my backyard that few seem willing to only briefly mention.



When it comes to this apparent secret of the Colorado Plateau, you will rarely find so much as a peep out of any of the army of writers who love to sing praises about the scenic beauty of this area.

It is dread more than fear that causes such forgetfulness. And what blood-thirsty predator could be more dreaded than the tiny gnat.



Until last week, my memory loss of all the annoyance this pest has caused me was acute. Then in less than 5 seconds of incessant buzzing around my face and the biting of my ears, I remembered . it’s gnat season.

I’m not sure why the gnat isn’t mentioned more prominently. To those who would like to be the last person ever to move to our area and who are worried about development overtaking us, all I can say is here is your answer.

Tell more people about our pesky gnats. No one else seems to be up to the task.

Even Cactus Ed Abbey who seemed torn between praising our region and trying to scare people away disappoints me in his lack of gnat references. In all his books in my possession I found the lowly gnat mentioned only 3 times.

Look at any of the Web sites promoting the region. A site advertising one of my favorite places, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, shows what I mean.

It said to “be alert for scorpions, rattlesnakes, cactus, quicksand and poison ivy. Flash floods occur during sudden storms. .” Only one line mentions gnats.

“Gnats and deerflies can be troublesome in May and June.” That’s an understatement.

The Sierra Club “get outdoors” Web site is a bit bolder. “Desert environments can be challenging – we need to be alert and prepared for nuisances and hazards such as catclaw, poison ivy, mosquitoes, gnats, scorpions, and red ants.”

I’m afraid alert isn’t good enough. You need to arm yourself with precautions almost as bad as the pest itself. The Avon product “Skin So Soft” will work. Personally, I use cheap cigars.

Years ago I tried to warn students of a Canadian field school who were working with me about gnat dangers. Told ’em to don long-sleeved shirts with their collars buttoned up. But they wore as little clothes as possible to soak up all the sun they could stand.

Two students ended up in the hospital with acute allergic reaction to gnats. Some had over 50 bites on their bodies.

Fear not though. Monsoons are close at hand. And with the rains? Death to gnats!

Writing from 25 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories with readers every other week.


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