How To Train Your Dragon (Breath)

The rain seems unending. Shoes have been soaked and muddied. Rain coats have been packed in favor of just getting wet and dealing with it. Better wet and cool in no jacket than hot and sweaty inside of one.

No vents, pure Gore-Tex – those are our jackets. Not a drop gets in but nothing really leaves either. They trap heat and moisture, swamp up like the Everglades.

The other option, aside from wearing them, is to throw the hood over your head and the rest of the open jacket over your pack. It keeps the rain off your back and out of your face, but protects little else. Personally, I’d rather be in the rain than half out of it. And if it’s windy and the rain is falling at any angle other than straight down, the cape won’t work.

Yesterday was the worst of it, though our day ended well – better than most I imagine. We met Lumber’s brother and sister-in-law at Craig Road. The hike down off the mountain was quick, ten miles by noon, another few down to a shelter for a few hours rest under a roof, than a mile to the road.

Just off the road is a gravel lot and on the fringe, by a full and swift-flowing creek, a few sloping tent sites. Between the road and lot, two large beige, clay-sodden puddles. The creek had grown high and split into two branches.

We set up our tents in the rain. The ground tarp was wet from the get-go and soon the tent netting was, too. We threw the fly over it, staked it, and waited for Lumber’s family to arrive. It didn’t take them long. They pulled in, we exchanged names, then got down to the task of unloading their truck. We set up two large tents to sit and cook under, to watch the rain fall from a comfortable distance.

Spaghetti and meat sauce, beer, salad greens, hard-boiled farm-fresh eggs. We lounged, sat in collapsible camp chairs and atop coolers, talking. The rain kept falling.

Six beers in and Lumber was shirtless, sitting in the middle of a high creek. Water rushed past him and over his shoulders. Someone had gotten him talking about Wim Hof and cold endurance, a cure-all fad he’s taken to practicing in recent years.

Someone said he shouldn’t sit in the creek, that it was a bad idea, that it was too cold and that his shoes wouldn’t dry. His brother was reluctant to get in Lumber’s way. He said, “Lumber’s gonna do what Lumber’s gonna do.” And so, there he was, seated in water two feet deep, bearing the brunt of a swollen, violent creek.

He sat, holding his knees, eyes closed. He held still there a few minutes, then stood up, appearing chilly, and made his way back to the tent. “See,” he said, as if to prove a point no one required proof of. “Dragon breaths… that’s the key.”

(As much as I can tell, dragon breaths amount to several quick, deep breaths sucked to the base of the chest, a kind of bodily preparation for intense temperature change. Or so I assume, as I lack any real knowledge of the technique.)

The next morning it rained from 6 to 7 a.m., then let up. Lumber threw his rain jacket on like a cape. Lauren packed hers. I left mine on, hoping the trapped heat might dry my shirt.

We said goodbye to Lumber’s brother and sister-in-law, and crossed the road to a swamped trail. The rain might’ve let up but standing water still promised soggy shoes. If only dragon breaths were strong enough a force to dry them.

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