Posted by: bkivey | 15 April 2011

Cascade Camping in Spring

One of my favorite activities when the weather permits is taking off for the hills and spending a few days camping. I live in a part of the country where a couple hours drive is all it takes to get to some of the most spectacular scenery the country has to offer with numerous recreational opportunities. I’m not talking about loading up the RV or staying at public campsites, but throwing some things in the vehicle, loading up the guns, and patrolling the lumber and fire roads in the mountains until a suitable spot is found. It’s entirely possible to spend a couple of days without seeing another person, which is one of the points of the exercise. One of the goals used to be to camp in a place without cell phone coverage, but that’s become difficult the last several years.

While living in Seattle there was a group of us who’d get together 5 – 6 times a year for camping trips. The usual camping season ran from about late April or early May through September. Earlier in the year there was still plenty of snow on the ground, which limited campsite choices, and we’d often have to camp on the east side of the Cascades to find sun. There was still a fair chance for precipitation in the early part of the season but one of the things I learned living in Seattle is that if you don’t do things in the rain, you don’t do anything. So we’d go out in weather that would have most folks in other parts of the country staying home. The season was short enough:  you had to go when you could.

After a couple of years I started agitating for a trip in March or early April. I knew that it would be cold and there’d likely be snow on the ground, but I’d gone winter camping many times with my father and brother when we lived in New York, and I’d enjoyed it. The key is to stay dry, and winter camping offers different pleasures than outings later in the year.

No one else in the group had been winter camping, and were skeptical about the prospect. It came to pass that one winter was a light snow year, and the others agreed to take a trip in March. On Friday afternoon of 21 March we loaded the trucks, hitched up the ATV’s and headed for the hills. We found a likely spot off of a logging road below the snow line and set up camp. It was cold, but not unbearably so, and we had plenty of antifreeze. We had checked the weather forecast and while there was a chance of rain, it looked pretty good for the time of year.

It was well dark and just after dinner while sitting around the fire when we noticed the wind picking up. Then we saw the snow, and the wind got stronger. And the snow and wind increased. The wind started to blow the fire out, and the snow got thicker. We had to move the fire against an embankment so it would have a chance of staying lit, and we were huddled pretty much on top of it with our backs to the wind, shielding the fire. This arrangement meant the fire was being blown away from us, providing little little light and less heat. It became apparent that we’d be warmer in our tents, so we retired for the night.

When I awoke in the morning, all I could see from my vantage point on the floor of the tent was snow. Quite a bit of snow. It was cozy in the sleeping bag and relatively warm in the tent, but I could hear the others outside. I had to push the snow away from the front of the tent to get out: it had snowed 7″ overnight. Outside was overcast and cold, but not unpleasant if properly dressed. On exiting the tent I saw that we had a problem. We’d camped in a depression below the road grade and even though all the trucks had 4WD, there was no way we were going to get up the ramp leading from the campsite to the road.

After rekindling the fire (we’d learned long ago that it pays to bring firewood to the woods) and scarfing down some bagels, we set to work digging out the trucks (a shovel is a must if you go off-road). Although the distance from camp to road was not long, and we wanted to do the minimum amount of work to get the trucks out, there was a lot of snow. The problem was compounded by the fact that we had to remove enough snow not only to get the trucks out, but also the trailers with the ATV’s. It took the morning and repeated runs up the hill to create a path before we gained the road. Well, the work kept us warm.

After lunch it started snowing again, though nothing like the night before. After working like Trojans all morning, we decided it was time for some fun., so we piled on the ATV’s and took off up the logging road. As we gained elevation the snow got thicker and we climbed up into the clouds. At the summit it was like standing under a waterfall, so thick was the snow. We shut the engines off and just watched and listened to the constant hiss of snow hitting ground. You could almost see the accumulation.

As we headed back to camp I became aware of a shortcoming in my winter gear. My gloves were far from adequate for the task and my fingers became more and more painful, so much so that I had real concern about frostbite. I didn’t feel like I could complain because the trip had been my idea in the first place, and to start whining about cold fingers seemed ill-advised. And everyone else was having fun. So I sucked up the pain and didn’t say anything. After a while my fingers went numb, which decreased the pain and greatly increased my concern.

Back at camp I stripped off my gloves and all but thrust my hands into the fire, and presently feeling painfully returned. I was happy to see that no permanent damage had been done, but I felt that it had been a near thing. And while it snowed intermittently the rest of the day and night, there weren’t any more blizzards.

Back home, I went and bought a very nice pair of Gore-Tex gloves, a pair I use to this day. And we never went camping in March again.

Atlas Shrugged

Today is the opening day for Atlas Shrugged: Part I. I’m not a whole-hearted Ayn Rand acolyte nor do I agree with all the tenants of Objectivism, but I do agree with much of her philosophy and I’ve written a couple of posts on Ayn Rand and the possibility of competent people choosing the refusnik route of John Galt.  Over on the IMDB page for the movie we see that the film has already grossed $15,000,000 on the day, and has been almost universally panned by critics. I’m inclined to believe that because the philosophy of the book directly repudiates the worldview held by the majority of movie critics, the critics are not exactly objective in their work.

I rarely go to the movies: I’ve seen exactly three in the last six years (Serenity, Iron Man, Star Trek). Not because I don’t like the film experience, but going to a movie is not something I normally think of doing. I’ll probably go see this movie, because I liked the book, and would like to see how faithful the adaptation is.

Fun Fact: the IMDB page for the movie notes that Ayn Rand wanted Farrah Fawcett to play Dagny Taggert in a 1970’s mini-series. Say what?!


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