I should dedicate this to all my backpacking buddies. I left the PNW a long time ago, and haven't done a whole lot of backpacking in the rain since--until this past July, when we got caught pretty good. It wasn't as bad as this, though...
How the Rain Gets InIt starts small. After months of drought, you are glad to see rain, and don’t give much thought to anything but ending the drought. Happy plants, lakes refilling. You sort of forget what rain can do.
That was how it is for us. We’re hiking, so we stop to dig out the rain gear, to strap on the pack covers we had nearly given up on carrying. It is still warm, though, and we are happy. Our tent is good; we’ll stay dry.
That’s the first day. We cook dinner in the shelter of one of the big trees, the sort that sheds the rain for the first few hours, and raise a mug of tea to toast the end of the drought, even while we laugh. In the backs of our minds we figure the drought will probably be right back the next day. One rain shower. A diversion along the way.
It rains all night, though and in the morning we eat granola bars so we don’t have to cook in the rain, and pack up a wet tent. That’s the first way the rain gets in: you pack up the tent wet, and you get to camp and set it up wet, and it stays wet and gets wetter.
The rain continues all day, steadily ramping up to a downpour. The trail gets puddled. Sometimes it’s a stream, and our boots get wet.
By noon, we want to go home. Rain gear can only do so much, and we can feel the dampness spreading from the shoulders down. We imagine it seeping into our packs, finding every pinhole or tear in the plastic bags that protect vital insulation. It doesn’t feel so warm anymore, either. The summer rain is fast becoming an autumn storm. Maybe the drought really has ended. If this is fall, it could rain for days. We’ll never dry out.
Huddled under a tree, we talk it over. Fifteen miles to the road. Push on, maybe get there by dark, but probably not? We’d never manage to hitch to town in the dark. Might as well put up the tent now and get warm and dry, hike out tomorrow when we stand a chance of getting home.
The trees no longer have dry spaces under them. The rain drips through the branches in a steady patter, heavy raindrops consolidated into still larger drops that land with a soaking splat on head or pack. We tell each other how happy we are that the rain has come. This should dampen the enthusiasm of all those fires, we tell each other delightedly. The mountains need rain, we remind each other with big grins.
We are very good at lying. Inside, we feel the rain creeping into our veins.
It’s tough, getting the tent up without getting it even wetter inside than it already is. We pitch a tarp, which is really just the ground cloth and barely large enough to shelter the tent, let alone us. We put up the tent underneath, deploy the rain fly, and wonder at all the tiny pinholes and little rips it’s accumulated. Why did we never notice that before?
It’s wet inside the tent, though not as wet as outside. The rain comes in with us, and our gear. Pine needles stick to everything, so it’s not just wet, but dirty. We used to be used to this. Too many seasons of drought make us cranky about the rain. Those grins are starting to slip. Inside, we want the drought back, just for another day.
We eat our cheese and crackers in the tent. If the bears want to come and get us in all this rain, let them. Food, and dry clothes, make things look better. The rain retreats to the exterior, drumming its soothing rhythms on the fly. We sleep the afternoon away.
The debates resume as dinnertime nears. Should we get out and cook? The rain hasn’t stopped. We are reminded that this is the Pacific Northwest. The rain might not stop until summer. If we hike hard tomorrow, we can be to the road by mid-afternoon. We have enough cheese and crackers. We don’t need to go outside and get wet again. We eat.
The first drip lands on a sleeping bag as we are finishing the Snickers bars. We look up, and see another drop starting to form just to the left of the center pole, and we know one of the pinholes is leaking. That’s how the rain gets in: one slow, inexorable drop at a time.
Does duct tape stick to wet tents? We find a coin, the nickel we use to open the bear can, and flip it to see who has to go outside and try to patch the fly. In the end, we both go out, because that’s where the bathroom is. Duct tape first, then step behind a tree, cursing the rain that seeks the chance to dampen our dry clothes.
When we come back, the rain follows us in again. We try our best, but everything is a little more damp, a little less warm. It’s going to be a long night. We’ve slept too much all afternoon, and it’s getting cold. We start to snap at each other.
The rain has gotten in.
©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2015
|Had to borrow a rainy-day shot from my spouse, as my own camera stopped working when the rain started, and didn't resume proper function until it dried out.|
Check out the sequel, "Weather Permitting"