Moments before we had been setting up our tents in the meadow, keeping a wary eye on the darkening sky. The color of a new bruise, it deepened over the peak that dominated the view. It seemed impossible that we would escape the storm, but wind and rain are tricky here, pounding one drainage while another remains serenely sunny.
As I frantically rummaged through my backpack, a thought struck terror into my heart. I recalled pulling my loose tent out of the storage container and thinking, that's strange, where's the tent bag? In a hurry, I shrugged and shoved the tent into my pack without the bag. Now I knew: the bag was somewhere else, with the rain fly.
Because this is the anonymous virtual world, I could pretend to be someone I am not, someone who always keeps going, no matter what, someone strong and tough and brave. But I think if you are going to put yourself out there you need to show your true self and the truth is, I'm not always any of those things. Longtime readers of this blog know that in other backpacking trips, I have forgotten tent poles, the stove attachment, a sleeping bag, and on one memorable occasion, my hiking boots. I like to think that because I backpack more than most people, it really isn't that I forget things that often, it's just that the law of averages catches up.
It didn't really matter at this point, though. The Freak of Nature and I started brainstorming ways to stay dry. Her tent was a one person. Maybe, I thought, I could use the floor of the tent as the top. We rigged up a dicey looking parachute cord scheme. Then I thought, I could drape my raincoat, her emergency poncho and my pack cover over my sleeping bag. Typically I can count on finding a hunter tarp in the woods but this time there was none. It was typical of us that we only considered hiking out briefly. We are no strangers to adversity. Slinking home because of an equipment malfunction was not an option.
After an hour-long pounding, the rain stopped and the sun came out. We regrouped in the meadow, a place so ridiculously beautiful that a horde of mosquitoes, close to being the worst I have encountered since digging fireline and wearing a headnet near Fairbanks, could not disturb the scene. It seemed possible it might not rain anymore, so I dragged my wet mesh tent from the trees.
That night I lay in the tent watching clouds obscure the stars. Lightning flashed in distant canyons, a light show more spectacular than any fireworks. Occasionally rain pattered down from the sky and the Freak made me get in her tent. Turns out that if you are small, two people can fit. A good adventure companion is hard to find, and one that won't call you a dumb ass for forgetting the tent fly is even harder to discover.