Sunday, June 26, 2011

Camp Tales V: The Perfect Storm

Camp Tales
V: Inclement Weather, or "Hey, dude, a cold beer sounds like shit."

Back when I first started camping in the Black Hills National Forest, I had no idea what mountain weather was like and didn't realize that in the Black Hills, it can vacillate between winter and summer for as long as two months.

We'd booked a camping spot at Sylvan Lake, pulled in, got out our tent when things starting going south.

First it began to rain.
No probs, we just set up a tarp. It was just a mist. Of course, we didn't have a very large tarp, so we were uncomfortably hunched in a tight area.

Then it started to rain sideways, like a storm ripped from the pages of the bible.
Our gear started being knocked over by the winds. Beer cans tipping over, potato chip bags flying like parachutes. My friend starts a fire, but the rain keeps putting it out. Tension level rises from a 3.1 to a 7.5.

Then the temperature dropped.
I don't mean a few degrees. I mean about 30 degrees in half and hour. It soon dropped to 40 degrees with about a -10 wind chill thrown in for grins. Clad in shorts and a wind breaker, I frantically dug in my bag and pulled on a sweater and sweats and coat. But I neglected to bring a winter coat. After all, this was late April. It's supposed to be spring, right?

The conversation fades to zip, each of us not wanting to say "FUCK IT. THIS SUCKS!" Tension level= 8.6. Cussing enuses. All jokes grind to a halt.

In cold, rainy weather, ever notice that cold beer tastes like shit?

So I made some Russian tea, only it was so cold, because the fire kept burning out, that it turned into lukewarm dishwater in no time. Thoughts of Jack London's "To Build a Fire" flicker in my head.

Then the tea got spilled all over the camping gear, leaving things a sticky mess. Teeth chattering, I decide that I might be better off crawling into my sleeping bag.

Sleeping on a mattress of ice--

Only I only had summer gear: a sleeping bag rated at 60 degrees, and a blow up air mattress. What that meant was the cold seeped up through the ground into my mattress and sleeping bag.

My buddy calls out, "It'll blow over soon," but there's very little conviction in his voice.

Miserable, I pull the sleeping bag over my head and feel like endulging in a moment of self-pity and crying.

After about 2 hours of this, finally it starts to sleet sideways.

My partner had, had enough. Tension level=9.9

"FUCK IT. WE ARE SO FUCKING OUT OF HERE!!!!! Fuck this SHIT!!!!," he yelled pulling up campstakes. 45 min. later we were parked outside of a small motel in Rapid, taking turns at a long, long, long, hot shower and watching the forecast call for snow, with all our summer gear spread out around the motel room, drying, sticky orange Russian tea over everything.

Years, later, when Dooder and I discovered Leadville, CO, I remembered that awful camping trip and brought polypropelenes, a winter coat, hat, mittens and a sleeping bag rated to 0, wool socks, and assorted tarps and ropes.

Oh, and one other thing, never forget to pack: brandy, a big flask of it, and cards. You never know what the weather will bring, but you might as well be buzzed and happy.

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