Paradise Creek Day 4, 1 Jul 2020

From the tent to the tarp and back again, many times – who knows how far?

The rain returned in the night but this time it wasn’t bothering me and we enjoyed a relaxed, comfortable night. We peered out of the tent around 7 am between rain showers and could see fresh snow dusting the ridges we had climbed yesterday. That did not surprise us as it had been pretty chilly in the early hours of the morning! Our InReach weather check predicted the same as yesterday, which we found encouraging, especially as it forecast even better weather tomorrow. We figured we’d be facing a similar slow start to yesterday, and looked forward to setting out on a hike mid-morning. My ears picked up on the hermit thrushes singing again, and I decided there and then that their song was one of my favourite sounds of the backcountry. It’s a plaintive, even slightly haunting, warbling song with a descending pitch on a given segment, with each segment starting on a different pitch, sometimes higher, sometimes lower. It’s so beautiful…

We hung around in the tent waiting for a break in the rain but so far it wasn’t happening. So much for 70 %… But I couldn’t wait any longer and I crawled out into the day around 8 am, decked in full rain gear, to attend the usual call of nature and to retrieve the food bags. Alas, the tarp had come undone again, the knots in the nylon rope slipping out overnight, and like last night I spent a desperate few minutes trying to remember (again!) how to tie a trucker’s hitch in the pouring rain. Thankfully I succeeded and got the stove on to boil some water for hot drinks and breakfast. Brenda and Maria joined me soon after and we ate in the welcome yellow glow of our tarps. Just like last night, those hot drinks were a life-saver.

Sitting under the tarp while watching and listening to the rain was surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) relaxing. We hung out and chatted, and watch the rain drops pool on the tarp, building up in size until they ran down like wet shooting stars. We had the idea to put the pan under the point where the water dripped off and it wasn’t long before we had enough to make another hot drink. We were comfortable and dry, even if we weren’t quite as warm as we’d have liked. I mean, it was only just over a week since the summer solstice. Was it too much to expect some summery weather? Even at 1950 m (nearly 6400 ft)? Apparently so, yes.

And so we sat watching the rain and admiring the cloud-enshrouded peaks, looking for breaks in the expanse of grey that might herald a change. At one point Brenda said, “This is still better than being at work”, and we had to agree. (Later I rediscovered a comic from Semi-Rad that pretty much said the same thing!) The rain poured and the wind blew, and we noted that this was probably the worst weather we’d encountered on a backpacking trip and were so thankful to have our tarp. It’s now an absolute necessity on every multi-day trip.

Despite the rain, our spirits were high, and we were content to enjoy the time just Being, Outdoors.

Despite the rain, our spirits were high and we were content to enjoy the time just Being, Outdoors.

Eventually we’d cooled off enough (or had got uncomfortable enough) to wander back to the tents to warm up. Getting into the tent without soaking everything inside was a challenge, and we took turns at pulling off rain gear and diving inside. First order of business for me was to change into dry socks and then crawl into my sleeping bag where I dozed a little while Maria read her Kobo. At one point she reached the most rainy-weather appropriate page I’ve ever seen, a screen full of four-letter words: 116 ‘fucks’ and 14 ‘shits’. We both burst out laughing when we saw this, and while it was cathartic to read a few lines, it was not really how we felt. After all, we had food, we had shelter, we had no shortage of water. What I love about backpacking is how it simplifies life to the minimum requirements, and right now we had everything we needed.

Seeing as we hadn’t moved all day, I thought it would a good thing to send an InReach messages to folks on the “outside”, just to let them know we were fine. Outside of what? Surely we were the ones outside?

What I love about backpacking is how it simplifies life to the minimum requirements, and right now we had everything we needed

Hunger tempted us out of the tents again at about 2:30 pm and we pulled on our wet rain gear and walked what felt like a huge distance (it was about 70 m) to the tarps. We remarked that at least the bugs weren’t bothering us, which was a definite bonus. Rummaging around in my food bag I struck backcountry gold: an extra sachet of coffee! Let me tell you, that coffee never tasted so good. Brenda reminisced about coffee with Bailey’s on her Grand Canyon rafting trip – I’m not much of a Bailey’s fan but that did sound good right now!

The rain showed no signs of letting up and was being driven across the meadow in sheets by the wind. I recorded a short video clip to remember it by! Happy Canada Day, eh? At this point we’d pretty much given up on the idea of hiking today and contented ourselves with sheltering from the elements.

Above the sound of the rain on the tarp, we could hear plenty of birdsong from our neighbourly white-crowned sparrow and more distant varied thrushes. By 4:30 pm we’d cooled off again and returned to the tents to warm up. It was great to have the choice: view or not? Cosy or cool? Right now we needed cosy. It struck me that camping was a great reason to maintain fitness and flexibility, thanks to manoeuvring in the confines of a small tent and sitting cross-legged on a small seat pad under a tarp. That’s something I’ll keep in mind as I get (even) older.

We were a little concerned about how well our tent would stand up to such rough weather, probably the worst it’s had to deal with since we bought it in 2012, but it was holding up just fine, the only issues being a steady drip of condensation off the tent poles at the apex of the tent, and when the wind blew hard enough to push the fly against the mesh. With vigilance, neither was a serious problem and we just blotted the drips when necessary. A bigger nuisance was when getting in or out of the tent, water ran off the edge of the fly and into the open tent if we weren’t careful.

Around 6 pm, Brenda walked past saying she was “migrating again” so we followed suit and returned to the cheerful yellow tarps for hot food and drink. A couple of sachets of miso soup made for great warm-up appetizers. We cleaned up after dinner, and around 7:30 pm the rain finally began to ease up. The wind had shifted direction too, which made me hopeful that things were on the change. For the first time today the clouds lifted enough to get a misty glimpse of Castle Peak. I took advantage of the lull to get a few flower photos, the three-flowered avens, cinquefoil, and Jacob’s ladder all beautifully decorated with water droplets. Alas it was short-lived and the rain started up again as we hung up our food bags, the creek below noticeably higher and siltier than in previous days. By 8:30 pm we were back in our tents, but not yet ready to settle down to sleep, so we listened to a couple of podcasts on my phone.

The temperature dropped and mist filled the meadow, our headlamp beams shining straight back at us as we walked

As darkness fell the rain stopped altogether. At first we didn’t believe our ears so we looked outside, and while the sky was still totally grey, we could see brighter patches here and there that gave us hope tomorrow wouldn’t be as wet. It had been a challenging day but we were all in remarkably good spirits, and were never more grateful to have brought our tarp. The temperature dropped and mist filled the meadow around the tents, our headlamp beams shining straight back at us as we tried to find our way around. I attempted a few night shots but without a tripod it was impossible to keep the camera steady, plus there was no way to focus the lens in the dark given the lack of stars!

With the day over, we settled down to sleep, relaxed after our day off from hiking, and looking forward to the next morning.

My sleep didn’t last long as something brought me round about an hour after closing my eyes. My heart raced as I heard two or three sharp cracking sounds from across the other side of the creek, probably branches being stepped on or pulled. Then a closer noise, or so I thought: an indistinct sound in the meadow not far from our tents. I held my breath and tried to keep calm, convincing myself that there wasn’t anything in the meadow after all, but I was a little spooked for sure, and I tried to let myself drift off to sleep. Then – crack! – again over the creek, although at least it wasn’t any nearer than before. There was definitely something over there – could’ve been deer, moose, or bear – but to my relief that was the last I heard and sleep eventually overcame me.

It didn’t rain at all overnight. I almost missed the sound of it on the tent. Almost.

On to Day 5…

2 thoughts on “Paradise Creek Day 4, 1 Jul 2020

  1. I wouldn’t have slept well either after that mystery noise… I’m definitely a fan of sleeping near flowing water or with rain falling so I can live in ignorance of any animals moving around. Isn’t it amazing how even small animals can sound like something huge at night?

    1. Exactly! I’ve spent so many nights in the backcountry listening to every tiny sound trying to ascertain whether it’s a threat. Usually it’s just the wind, or a bird, occasionally it’s been a mouse. The rest of the time it’s probably my imagination! But that cracking sound totally had me holding my breath for some time!

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