I love spending time outdoors during the summer months, but I do not love all of the multi-legged creatures that make their home in the forest — especially the ones that bite.

A few days ago, I set out on a nice, long run from the main trailhead in the Rattlesnake Wilderness Area. The temperature was perfect, the trail wasn’t too busy and I felt great for the first few miles.

The farther I got, however, the more I noticed the massive number, and variety, of winged insects buzzing around my head. There were two huge horseflies that were particularly bothersome. No amount of swatting and shooing could deter them. In fact, I’m pretty sure they followed me all the way to my turnaround point.

I have had an irrational fear of stinging and biting bugs for as long as I can remember. My phobia was especially embarrassing in group situations, such as school field trips, summer camps and outdoor birthday parties. Even as a child, I could spot a wasp or hornet from a mile away, and as soon as I did, I would immediately jump up and sprint away, flinging my arms as my peers pointed and laughed.

Not even the sprint strategy could get me away from those horseflies, though. I started to think they were plotting against me, just circling my head and waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

After several miles, I finally hit my breaking point. I stopped in the middle of the trail and started cussing out that stupid pair of insects and waving my arms around like a crazy person. When I finally settled down, I resumed my run and prayed that nobody had witnessed my moment of temporary insanity.

Just then, a family with two young children walked cautiously around the bend, staring at me with a look of bewilderment in their eyes. I could not get out of there fast enough.

So, to the people who were subjected to my forest tantrum, I offer my deepest apologies. To the rest of you, I offer the following advice: if you’re going into the woods, be sure to wear bug spray.

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.

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