Wednesday, March 23, 2011

camping in the rain

This backpacking season is off to a slow start. There is only a small window between snow and ice in the canyon and virulent poison ivy, a multitude of ticks and oppressive heat. That window is March and April, two months of sun-drenched, rolling green hills and sandy river beaches. Soon that window will slam shut. So why am I not packing my backpack?

The word that dares not speak its name. But starts with an R.

I've spent many nights shivering under a tarp, many days plodding through sodden territory, days when water pockmarked the ocean as we kayaked, so much fog and rain that it felt like we were in a bowl of water. Rain is part of the experience, and as we used to say in Southeast Alaska, there is no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate gear. There, we did everything in the rain, because it basically hardly ever stopped.

Here's Annie in a survival suit and hard hat to ward off the rain, near Dry Pass.

A little bit of rain in the forecast doesn't deter me. I'm not that much of a wimp. It's the "rain, heavy at times" that I am no longer in love with. As a kayak ranger I camped grimly through gales, torrential rains and fog. I don't need to prove my toughness anymore.

Our rain-soaked camp on one of the Myriad Islands. Feet wet the first day=feet wet the whole time. We had  a tarp just for our gear and tarps over our tents.
At the same time, I don't want to become so soft that any inclement weather makes me stay home. It's a fine line between misery and acceptance of the fact that it is NOT always sunny in Philadelphia. Or the mountains. Or the ocean.

Even an overcast day can be hauntingly beautiful.
It's about developing a level of tolerance, a line in the sand. Last year during the Amazing Snow Dump of August, we bailed early from the mountains. Other times I've stuck it out, enjoying the moody interchange of clouds and sun. It's about my new philosophy: do what I want, not what I think I should do. There are no wrong answers in the outdoors. The only wrong thing is not to get out there. 


  1. Thanks for commenting on my blog! I'm going to follow yours, too!

    I totally agree about having a tolerance for whatever the weather dishes out. My first backpacking trip was Kesugi Ridge in the Alaska Range and it rained the ENTIRE THREE DAYS. When the rain let up just a little bit, the mosquitoes would swarm. We also slogged through miles of mud, so it set my bar pretty high to start out with. Thank god for that!! :)

    I'm kind of afraid to backpack in really hot weather. So everybody has something they wouldn't do.

  2. PS- I just moved away from Fairbanks (so I have a pretty badass cold tolerance, probably helped on the backpack trip last weekend) a few months ago. What town were you in?

  3. All that matters if whether you're having fun. Seems that can depend on so many things, including weather. Sometimes incliment weather is fun, or not fun-killing, or is downright misery inducing.

  4. It's absolutely about getting out there...and doing what you want, what's fun and what you feel like tolerating right here, right now. "There are no 'shoulds'" (Except maybe not testing out the icy rocks crossing by the waterfall). Sometimes we are the only ones keeping score on ourselves! You live in beautiful country...enjoy when you feel like it!


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