Down Then Up Then Down Then Up Again

Rain. I have a history with rain while backpacking. I swear, every time I go on a backpacking trip it rains or precipitates in some fashion even if it has been bone dry for the two weeks preceding and proceeding the trip. First backpacking trip: rain. Grand Canyon: rain. First solo trip: complete downpour. Colorado: overnight drizzle. Maiden voyage for new tent: total rain-pocalypse. Winter trip: so much snow that I could barely drive home. 
So you get the point. Backpacking and rain go together like apple sauce and cottage cheese (if you’re into that sort of thing). So anyway we’re in the desert. I’ve been hiking for three and a half weeks now and it’s been as dry as my dad’s hands during flu season. While we were gorging ourselves with much needed nutrients from McDonald’s, we saw that rain was in the forecast for later that night and the next day, but it only said a 30% chance at sporadic times and not until 6:00 AM. We camped in a sandy patch a few miles away from the land of deep fried chicken purée (Which is great by the way. Don’t you ever knock McNuggets because they are marvelous). Due to the sand and some wind, I opted to cowboy camp due to my PTSD over my last wind and sand escapade from a couple weeks ago.
Fast forward to about 2:20 in the morning: I wake up with a full bladder mocking my fantasies about a full night’s sleep and I notice Glow Worm setting up her tent. For whatever reason I touched the outside of my sleeping bag and was not so pleasantly surprised to find extremely damp goose butt feathers. A parade of colorful curses followed (sorry grandma) and so in one last sign of defiance (or denial, depending on how you look at it) I took out my tent and draped it over my moist lump of feathers in an effort to mitigate the damage. So now I have a sleeping bag that smells like a wet dog, a pride that’s been beaten to a pulp by an army of midgets with toy hammers and a sub zero night looming. 
The next morning I strapped my sleeping bag to the outside of my pack to let it dry which made me look quite homeless and the rest of the day was quite nice really. We were able to stretch out in the sun for lunch. I really wish this was the end of the story, but unfortunately (or fortunately?) it’s only the beginning. 
Have you ever tried putting the phrase “and then the murders began” after the opening lines of famous books? For example, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times and then the murders began.” “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much and then the murders began.” “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth and then the murders began.”
So let’s apply this to the end of the first part of this story. “We were able to stretch out in the sun for lunch and then the murders began.” Really though, shit started seriously hitting the fan after lunch. As Glow Worm and I ascended higher on the ridge we started getting some rain so we put on our rain jackets and continued. At this point no big deal, really. But then a massive cold front dropped the temperature dramatically and the rain turned into pellet-sized hail spattering our faces like an angry mob of militant adolescents armed with frozen spit balls. From here on there was not much said between us. It was heads down and full steam ahead to our planned campsite still several miles ahead. A couple miles later, I had lost all dexterity in my hands and tried to pathetically put dirty socks over them which was by then futile. My hands were effectively fixed to the grip I had on my trekking poles because they were so cold. 
When we arrived at our campsite there was 40 mph winds and it was well below freezing. Hail, sleet, snow, cats, dogs, baby bottles, and Christmas ornaments were being driven into us from the dense clouds. Fortunately, (Well I think it was fortunate. If you ask someone else they might disagree.) there was a latrine just on the other side of camp so I made a bee line straight for the outhouse to seek shelter. I barely smelled the urine stinging my nostrils as I put on every piece of clothing I had to warm up and put my hands in my pants to thaw them out. I then proceeded to eat a package of Lifesaver Gummies, Chips Ahoy’s, a Snickers, and several tablespoons of peanut butter. Pretty sure it was something around 1500 calories in five minutes or less (for the record thawing my hands in my pants and then eating may have been in that exact order, but I’m going to try to overlook that detail for now). By the time I was done warming up and eating our friends Dr. McDirty and Cougar showed up at the site. Instead of trying to brave the storm in a shitter all night (some of us were not too keen on the idea) we decided to try to make it into town a day earlier than we planned and add on an additional five miles to out already 17 mile day. 
The plan was to get a bed at a church camp a couple miles past the trailhead into town. By the time we arrived, cold, wet, and miserable, there was a sign at the camp entrance reading, “Sorry, no PCT hiker today”. The wind in our sails from finally getting off that bone chilling ridge was depleted. We went ahead and walked up to the office to see what options we had. A young woman walked out and all four us, standing out in the sleet and rain, looked at her bewildered and completely pathetic. None of us were able to speak just like a 10 year old who had just one line in the school play, but completely forgot their lines in the actual performance. Before we could sputter out any words the woman said, “I guess we could put you in the lodge.” We nodded, eagerly. “We also have some food still left, although it’s a little cold”. We responded with more nods and approving grunts. We got settled in our room, dried off and then wolfed down a massive plate of the best cafeteria food I’ve ever eaten and pounded three cupcakes each. Before showering and going to sleep. 
Now if you’ve made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back and maybe grab yourself a beer if that’s you thing. You’re a real trooper if you’ve read through all this B.S., but now it’s time to get a little sappy. In all seriousness after the emotional up and down that the four of us had as well as having the longest hike of our trip so far at 22 miles we were pretty drained when we rolled into Camp Wrightwood. And to be greeted by that sign was heartbreaking, but for the camp staff to not only offer us bed that were not available, but to offer us food and hot showers was humbling and overwhelming. You don’t see kindness like this very often and especially be on the receiving end of it and I’ve been the recipient of a lot of generosity and kindness over the last four weeks. Certainly a day I will never forget.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s