Wednesday, February 22, 2012

'Twas Windy Last Night

Mrs Elliott and I heard on the news last night that it was going to be windy, so we left the sliding glass door to our bedroom open about four inches. It was not predicted to get very cold--in the 40s--and we find that we get the best sleep when the room is in the mid-to-low 50s.

The wind didn't bother either of us at all, though it was pretty impressive at times--I guess. Slept through 99.5% of it.

I find windy nights to be kind of . . . calming? reassuring? in a "I'm snug in my little bed and the wind can blow and blow and it can't hurt me" kind of way?

Even camping in Mellow Yellow, my '84 VW Westfalia pop-top camper van, even in a tiny backpacking tent, I don't find the wind scary.

But I remember a blizzard that caught me and my son out in Round Valley in the Mount San Jacinto State Park (above Palm Springs) in '04.

We rode the tram up through thickening and colder and darker weather, hiked in, and made camp before sundown in nearly whiteout condition. Though I brought a good Primus lantern and stove, two good down-filled sleeping bags, and a sturdy hexamid-type tent, we were still marginally prepared for the cold and wind.

I should have turned back: I remember looking up the mountain that morning from that motel in Palm Springs and saw the top of the mountains obscured with dark gray clouds.

And it got worse: the tram took us through rain, then sleet, then snow, and as we hiked to Round Valley (9,100 ft elevation), the blizzard got heavier and heavier, the day darkened. But there we were. We ranged around to find a sheltered spot to pitch camp, and on the east side of the valley, we found a flat spot to set up the tent on the leeward side of some boulders. Within shouting distance there was another party of backpacker, two adult men and their kids.

Burlier than me, these guys had the strength and foresight to bring sufficient hefty gear (including a propane tent heater) and foodstuffs to weather a freakin' 100-year storm. They kindly gave us a big ol' bag of M&Ms to fuel our Inner Furnaces.

Keeping one's metabolism on "pan fry" is essential in the cold.

So we settled down for a long, cold night. My son was mellower than I, in that trusting way kids have that their parents will sort things out (I think -- I should check in with him to find out what his experience was).

The wind was howling, it sounded -- and I am not exaggerating -- like 747s roaring overhead; the sound of the wind in the trees was powerful. I roused myself frequently in the night to bang the snow off the tent roof so it would not sag so much as to bury us, but many times I found myself awake because the wind was so terribly loud.

It was surely cold. Teens (Fahrenheit), I think.

We obviously lived through the night; the morning dawned clear and sunny, calm and cold; we broke camp and broke trail back down to the to tram station to catch the first tram of the day back down to the parking lot where my car was waiting.

It was swell.

Here, in Bend, we're just pleased to have gone through last night's blow without losing a tree or a damn limb in the backyard.


  1. Jim Weaver of Alta Tree Service probably could have put a couple of children through college with the money I've paid him for pruning and removing broken or downed limbs.

  2. It's a great town for surgeons, both tree and orthopedic.


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