A First Week Filled with Crazy, Stormy Nights
I was climbing out of the river valley (Hauser Creek) when darkness was closing in. I managed about 16.5 miles my first day with an inspired attitude. I knew Lake Morena was only on the other side the ridge but it was getting dark and the rain had just paused. I quickly reached a campsite (I spied on Guthook guides) and put together my tent in record speed. I zipped in, snug as a bug in my sleeping bag as the next bout of rain hit. A couple of girls I had passed earlier came up the trail to head into the darkening night.
After a long day of hiking I came across a grouping of tents next to a lovely stream. The site had three tents already pitched. I guess the night was still early and I didn’t want to crowd the site, and so I moved on up the hill. Two miles up the ridge I needed to stop; my body was still adjusting to the constant stomping up the trail.
I suppose I should have known how bloody windy the ridge would become in one short hour after my arrival. As soon as the sun went down, my tent was alive, billowing back and forth in huge, windy gusts. The noise of the canvas quaked and shivered, leaving me in fear of caving in. Shoot. Well, this one was on me. I could have been more social and done the smart thing.
I was lying in my sleeping bag, which had finally warmed up to a nice toasty pocket, thinking, “Crap, crap, crap, I gotta go pee.” It was approximately 8:30 p.m.; the sun had gone down around 6. There was no way I could make it till morning. Hmmm, the dilemma.
Also, my tent was just about being blown to bits. The wind was billowing in such a way that both sides of tent seemed to concave. Surprisingly, I felt rather calm; the rationale I held was that if my tent concaved I would still be in it and it would be fine. However, I couldn’t tell if the thwacks on the rainfly were large rain drops of bits of bush. If it was raining, too, then all bets are off and I would lie in my pool of misery and regret for camping a second time on the edge of a beautiful view. Note to self: don’t camp next to the edge, obviously the wind was flowing down and into the valleys.
OK, so still had a full bladder. Shoot. I guess if I go really fast then I could jump back in and spend some time wiggling back and forth to warm up fast. Here it went.
Dang, the air engulfed me. The wind was gusting so hard that I couldn’t even breathe. Then the sky caught me. Looking up, a vast, beautiful array of stars so clear in the sky. Wow. Dumbstruck, I was clipped in the cheek with a twig whizzing by me on its way down the mountain. OK, business first. I relieved myself, allowing the wind to clean me up. Jumping back in to bed I stared back out, examining the Big Dipper, the North Star, and Mars low on the horizon. Beautiful.
Glad I went to pee.
I wonder about the other hikers and how they are faring at this point. I had packed pretty heavy with a warmer sleeping bag and my two-person tent. But these aren’t the conditions most had thought they would experience on the PCT. I’m glad I extended help to my new friend. It would have been a terrible night, soaked and cold. I can understand now why a night like this one could cause many a person to bail or get off the trail, at least for a time.
The ever-winding trail going up and down, in and out of hillside gullies was met with a fierce headwind. At the inner, protected corners of the gullies were some wind-protected campsites. Well, for a distance I could see huge rain clouds closing in. For the last three hours I was hiking at a clipped speed, trying to get as far as I could before I thought the storm would hit.
What a stressful game of guessing when would be the last time a tent could be pitched without a downpour. Hmmm, it seems that this time I had underestimated. I pitched a little too early. However, from the looks of the storm it was quite a nasty rain and wind-filled mess. Better safe than sorry, my mother would always say.
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