Monday, June 1, 2009

Family Fun: Episode IV, Zaleski Strikes Back

I almost titled this post "It wasn't supposed to rain."

I've been backpacking for a few years, and even in the bad weekends I felt like I was always prepared for bad weather, but this weekend was one of those where God says, "Yeah, you think you're all that, huh? Well..."

Kate and I went to Zaleski a few weeks ago, so it was Shortie's turn to go. I had checked the weather and there was like 20% chance of rain -- and even that 20% was waning throughout the week. So, I expected another great weekend hiker at Zaleski State Forest.

We got started early on Saturday and it was GORGEOUS. About 70 degrees, we took the South loop. I had a hot tip on a secluded, clandestine camping spot just perfect for Father/Daughter bonding. We actually found the campsite without much effort right where it was supposed to be, and given the number of Boy Scouts carrying coolers and folding chairs we past on the trail, I thought it would be a perfect spot for just us two.

As I surveyed the campsite, I remember thinking "This is great! Private and tucked away, it's absolutely perfect, except for it's on a high ridge and might be exposed to lightning." But, given the blue sky and the 3-day blue sky forecast. This was it! We set up camp.

  • At 9:30 pm, I was looking at a clear, evening sky with a bright half-moon shining brightly.
  • At 9:45 pm, It was dark, cloudy, and the sound of thunder was rolling in.
  • At 10:00pm, It was pitch black, and I spotted at least 4 cloud to ground lightning strikes in the distance.
  • At 10:05pm, Shortie and I left our campsite for lower ground in a hurry.
  • At 10:20pm, After 15 minutes of being drenched in the absolute darkness and weighing the odds of a lightning strike vs. a flashlight failure, we made our way back to the tent.
  • At 10:30pm, We buried ourselves in the tent and wished we were somewhere else. I found religion (again).
  • At 11:00pm, The storm started to wane. (And by wane I mean that the lightning flashed every 7 seconds, instead of every 3.)
This was a lesson learner. Lessons learned:
  1. Weather predictions are just that.
  2. If there's a "except for..." that follows your campsite assessment, heed it.
  3. Never leave your tent (if you've followed #2 -- you shouldn't want to leave it).
  4. "Water Resistant" means you can sweat on it -- and that's about it.
  5. Even if it means hiking half as far, take the gear that you need, and the gear that you may need.
  6. Raisins are more fun to throw than they are to eat. Maybe Sara will expand on this in her blog entry.
For the record, my young hiking buddy was very brave in the face of such scary circumstances. In the morning, I asked whether she had fun and she responded with a big "Yes! I love hiking. The storm wasn't very fun, though." That would be one of the first TV-Free Family Fun understatements of the summer. I wonder whether she'll ever want to go hiking with me again.

That storm sucked out loud! but, dang it! ... It wasn't supposed to rain.

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