Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Remembering rough weather camping.

Over at Random Acts Of Patriotism, ASM826 recalls snow camping back in 1969.

I recall winter camping in the 1980s with my troop.

We had Kelty sleeping bags, and Eureka 2-man backpacker dome tents. Being mostly in North Texas, it was hard to achieve an honest-to-Gawd two-day freeze-out in the winter. Sure, cold snaps happen in Texas-- as I write this, it's 14 degrees outside-- but planning to have the whole troop camp out during one is difficult. Some Scouts never got a full weekend freeze-out. I honestly don't remember if I ever got my Winter Camping badge, which means that I probably didn't.

What I did get a lot of was rain camping. Texas in the spring and autumn can be mighty pleasant, which means that's when we did a lot of camping. But that's also when some impressive amounts of rain comes in.

I recall one campout where we arrived at our site two hours after dark. I was 13, I think, and was new to the troop. I had an 11 year old tent mate, who had used the dome tents before, and began to set our tent up in the very spot where he had come to a stop when we fanned out from the central part of the camp area (The chuck box and the van that had brought us that Friday night.). I looked at the ground, and saw that, while his spot was flat, it was also at the confluence of two mild depressions that came down a gentle hill above us. I vetoed the spot, and moved us to a low ridge a few feet above it, and we set up there. I further irritated my tentmate by stopping to take time to carefully pull and re-pull the ground cloth so that it perfectly fit the underside of the tent, and folded the excess under the ground cloth, pulling it back out and redoing it when I found that he han folded it OVER, unwittingly making a basin. I dug a shallow trench on the uphill side only, and left the dirt on the downhill side of the trench, to be refilled when we struck camp.

There were no clouds, and the moon was full, with a halo around it.

About 3:00 AM, all hell broke loose as a thunderstorm ripped above us. The lightning in the clouds above us seemed just a hundred yards away, and was clearly visible through the fabric roof of the tent and the fabric rain fly above it. The noise was deafening. The rain pounded our tent like golf balls poured from a great height, and before long, some small hail joined it. The wind vexed our little dome tent fore and aft. My tentmate was at first scared. I told him to be quiet, and watch, and listen! It was thrilling. Before long, he and I sounded like people watching a particularly good fireworks show, muttering "Ooh! That was a good one!"

Over the wind and the pounding rain and the thunder, we began to hear other sounds. Yelps of other unhappy Scouts, as the rain began to enter their tents. One pair of boys had picked our abandoned low flat spot, and they were experiencing a very, very swampy time. Others had seeping occurring at the edges, where their groundcloths hadn't been properly put down, or the land just pushed water into their tent walls. Howls of frustration filled the camp.

But in our tent, my bunkmate and I laughed from within our dry sleeping bags, and enjoyed the storm.

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At Friday, January 08, 2010 12:09:00 PM, Blogger Turk Turon said...

I had a similar experience in 1967 or so. On a 50-mile hike with some Explorers, we set up camp in a wooden lean-to shelter. That night there was a very quiet 6" snowfall, and when I woke the next morning, my sleeping bag was half-covered with snow. I hadn't felt the slightest discomfort - mummy sleeping bags are great! Last September I was rained out of a tented campground by an absolute deluge. Windblown rain blew under everything. I was thoroughly soaked and miserable. It was supposed to be warm! But what I remember most was the sound of the rain pounding down on the rain fly above my head. It sounded like firecrackers on Chinese New Year.

At Friday, January 08, 2010 4:28:00 PM, Blogger Old NFO said...

My memory goes in the opposite direction- HEAT... At Philmont in the middle of the summer, we couldn't get enough water, and nobody wanted to sleep in their tents, as it was well over 100deg. And that was the first day of FIVE... sigh...

At Friday, January 08, 2010 9:48:00 PM, Blogger BCFD36 said...

In about 1967 or 1968, at Camp El Rancho Cima, somewhere near Austin, we were out getting our backpacking certification, or whatever, and whilst we were out, there came a gully washer. A real Texas frog strangler. We sat it out under some plastic sheets I had in my backpack. Lightning was banging down all around. Good times.

D. Scruggs

At Saturday, January 09, 2010 1:25:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Oh, we had many heat stories. Times when we would be bitten by the horseflies that would live on the underside of the dining fly, which was the only place one could stay in the heat.

When I was at Philmont, I was constantly running out of water, but I got pretty bad elevation sickness. One of the symptoms is constant thirst. We had one day, in Bear Canyon, where we hiked 5 miles at 8% grade up in 96 degree temps, only to have it hail 6 inches of pea-sized hail on us and plunge the temperature to 40 degrees, on July 3rd. I laugh at people who talk about our local weather being crazy. It doesn't change like mountain weather does. ;)

At Monday, January 11, 2010 12:05:00 PM, Anonymous Blackwing1 said...

Try winter camping in the MN/Canada Boundary Waters. We froze the mercury in the thermometer the first night, then it got C*O*L*D.

We later heard that it was in the -60's that week. Funny how you kind of (sort of) get used to it, but it's not something I'd ever do voluntarily again.

At Monday, January 11, 2010 4:08:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, you guys never had to fill your tents with straw during winter camping?

They never made you start a fire with wet wood in the snow for Firecrafter or Order of the Arrow?

Shootin' Buddy

At Monday, January 11, 2010 10:55:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Yeah, I had to light and build up a single-match fire with damp wood for O.A. I'll be damned if I can remember the admonition, though.

At Wednesday, January 13, 2010 8:29:00 AM, Blogger ASM826 said...

Great memories, aren't they?

At Wednesday, January 20, 2010 5:34:00 AM, Blogger KD5NRH said...

I believe there was a special, somewhat longer admonition for that case: "Dummy, if you pay attention to the Scout Motto you won't have to light wet wood with one damn match."


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