Friday and Saturday, 13-May-2022 and 14-May-2022
I love the sound of rain on a tent. It’s calm, quiet, and is the absolutely perfect backdrop to just letting my mind wander.
This last weekend, I had a little bit more time to let that mind wander than usual, thanks to a series of… unique… events with my trip. But lets not get ahead of ourselves – instead of starting in the deep middle, let’s start in the middle-middle.
It’s pouring rain. It’s cold, low 40s, but I’m still sweating from the exertion.
My legs are tired, they’re kinda cramping, and I have a slight headache.
I’m not particularly happy, I’m frustrated, and more than a little cranky that everything seems to be so difficult.
I stop to take a break, going to lean onto my hiking poles… and they slip off the packed snow, onto the fluffier snow to the side of the trail.
I faceplant as they collapse underneath me, down into the 5ft deep snowpack. If I may brag, I’m pretty sure the string of curses that I muttered into the snow was as unique as it was curdling.
But as I levered myself up, from under the weight of my full winter pack, I reminded myself that I’m still happy to be outside. This is still better than having a broken leg, or being at work… and regardless of how frustrating it can be, I’m still feeling, which is kind of the whole point of life in the first place.
To quote a song I’ve been listening to, “This life is a ride, not a fight”.
So I rode. One step in front of the other, forward into the rain.
The day had started frustratingly, when a doctors office cancelled my appointment when I was a few minutes late… after they’d made me wait 30min the last time I was there.
Then, the rain. The weather had predicted snow, but… well, rain is precipitation too, right? Just… worse. In pretty much every way for backpacking.
The hike, as mentioned, wasn’t particularly fun… but was still at least outside and in the woods, you know?
Then, when I finished setting up my tent (and after realizing that most of my gear was wet…) I made the really fun discovery – I’d brought the wrong campstove. See, I have a few stoves for various purposes… I’d brought the fuel for my whisperlight, which is a bottle of white gas, and had accidentally brought my canister-fuel stove to go with it.
The two do not work together.
I stood back and took stock.
I had snacks – I never eat all my snacks, so I knew that they were effectively extra calories.
I had wet gear – but I’d planned on that possibility, and had more than enough contingencies to keep myself more than warm enough.
I had a tent set up – Shelter is important, in every situation.
It was 7:30 – Sunset was in an hour.
I nestled into my sleeping bag, and started snacking.
That night, I let my mind wander. I had the whole evening ahead of me, I was snuggled up in a warm sleeping bag, and I had a good book to read. I had snacks, a wine-skin, and I had the beautiful melody of rain on a tent.
It was a bright evening, with a nearly full moon illuminating my tent through the rain, so I didn’t even bother with a headlamp… the little bit of light from my kindle was more than enough to read by.
But I mostly just thought, letting my mind wander. It was exactly what I needed.
The next morning dawned bright and… wait no, it was misty and raining still.
But you know what? That’s fine. I’d gotten the evening that I needed – no distractions, no electronics (kindle’s don’t count), and no beeping buzzing alarming desperate-for-attention cell phones or video games. Just the patter of rain, the silver moonlight, and a warm Ben.
I had my breakfast snacks, armored myself in my still-wet rain gear, and packed up my gear. Took a little walk around to warm up, and then headed back down the glacier to my car, and the promise of a hot meal…
No offence to protein bars and brownie bites, but… I was looking forward to a hot meal and a cup of coffee.
P.S. – For those adventurers, or just curious kittens, who may wonder how I manage to stay warm with wet backpacking gear, in high 30s temperatures…
– Synthetic sleeping bag. It’s a big heavier than down, and bulkier, but it stays warm when wet.
– Emergency bivy sack. It’s basically just a heat-reflective blanket, but put it around the sleeping bag and it limits any more water getting in, and adds quite a bit of warmth.
– A dry set of synthetic clothes. First thing I did when getting into the tent – change out of damp / sweaty clothes and into warm dry ones.
– Chemical warmers. I never used these in New England… but I bought a whole box of them for a trip to Scotland, and never used them… so I’ve started packing them in. And ohh man are they lovely.
And, for anyone curious what sort of graffiti we get in the woods of the Pacific Northwest… or what the general opinion of the police in Oregon is, here’s a beautifully simple opinion piece, penned by a traveler of the same area I was in.