Canada 2008 Excerpt

We reached Boulder Campground in the worst weather Barb and I have ever hiked in. Jim, Ann and Ellie had arrived before us and were struggling to set up a fly above a table. We had 30 feet of string, extra pegs and four hiking poles to donate to the effort. In the high wind and blowing rain the five of us barely managed to stabilize the fly over the table.

In the rain Barb and I set up our tent and stashed all of our gear, wet and dry, in the small tent. It was a miserable mess. Barb went inside to arrange everything as best she could.

I walked over to the table. Jim was seated in his yellow slicker under a flapping fly that barely protected him from the gusting rain. “Fancy a cup of tea?” he asked with his Irish accent.

Later, the ladies came over to the table clutching their rain jackets tight about their throats. “This is the worst weather we’ve ever hiked in,” said Ann. Sheets of rain fell on the fly and splashed in our faces like ocean spray on a ship in a great storm. The wind whipped and snapped at the cords and lifted the fly like a sail. The temperature had dropped and we were wet and miserable.

“I say we cook an early dinner and go straight to bed,” said Ann. “What else can we do? We can’t stay out here. I’m shaking from the cold and my feet and legs are wet. This is awful.”

Barb and I broke out our bag of Skittles and shared them. There’s nothing as good as Skittles when you’re at the very lowest point of a trip. Then we cooked up a soup with pastina stars and chicken. I don’t know what our friends cooked. Barb and I were huddled around our little stove trying to form a wind break, focused completely on ourselves.

After a most welcome hot meal, we stuffed the dirty pot and spoons into a plastic baggy, added that mess to our food bag, and hoisted everything up into the bear cache. We vowed to clean it tomorrow. The thought of going to the ice-cold river and freezing while scouring a pot was too miserable to contemplate.

Barb had the idea to take one of our emergency foil blankets and insert in between the tent and the tent fly. “Maybe that will break some of this wind and keep more heat in the tent. We have another emergency foil blanket incase we need to add one on top of our sleeping bag the way we did in Alaska.”

After we finished this task in the driving rain, we crawled into our tent cold, mud-splattered and dispirited. We snuggled together under our covers like baby bunnies.

As I write these notes, the rain pelts our tent and the wind rattles the extra foil layer. I can hear the wind start high in the valley behind us, a roaring through millions of pine needles, a one note symphony that rises in volume as it approaches. Then the trees around us snap against each other, creak and moan as they bend and twist. The roaring overwhelms everything as it hits the tent which bends and sways while the nylon fly flaps against the tent and pulls against the pegs that secure it in the ground.

Along with the wind comes thunder and lightning. The deep rumbling also starts high in the mountains behind us and rolls over us like an errant steam locomotive.

What will we do tomorrow if this storm continues? How can we possibly hike in the face of such weather here in the valley and high above in Nigel Pass where it will certainly be worse? I doubt we have the clothes to stay warm and I know the footing will be purely dangerous.

We have sufficient food to stay holed up here another day if we have to.