October 19th, 2011

hiking - topo map

Thou shalt not TWIBU in vain

Some of you might have seen the "Don't ask about the orange paint" tag on my IM status earlier this week. Some of you might have even asked me about it ...

So did I mention I went hiking last weekend? I was trying to do a last-gasp mountain ascent in defiance of upcoming autumn. The weather had turned beautiful again after a spate of early rain, and I was getting antsy about the turn of the seasons.

I drove out to the Sierra crest, parked at sundown in a completely empty campground (this would be a major theme for the trip), and night-hiked up English Mountain -- from bottom to top, a 4-hour, 2000' ascent. The hike was lovely: I saw some shooting stars along the way; I got less lost than expected considering I was routefinding by flashlight and memory; and even the moonlight rock climbing at the peak was pretty mild.

Once at the top and settled in to my mountaintop campsite, I texted roaminrob: "The worst is behind me!" That's our English Mountain in-joke, dating back to our first trip, when I tried to cheer him up by uttering "The Worst Is Behind Us!" ... right before we rounded the corner to Dead Man's Hill.

Invoking TWIBU is a sure-fire way to guarantee impending unpleasantness. But oh! Folly! Vanity! I figure: I'm safe from the curse! I'm already DONE climbing!

So, naturally ... Collapse )

As if that somehow isn't enough: storm clouds blow up an hour or two later, and I have to scramble for shelter in the middle of the night.

I'm sleeping on top of the peak, ducked behind some low rocks for wind shelter. I try to assemble my tent where my sleeping bag is. However, the spot is broadside to the wind -- the top of the tent catches the full force of it and tries to fly us away. I can't rotate the tent, or put it anywhere else, because the ground is way too jagged -- and I can't safely set it up in my chosen sleep spot.

But there's no way I'm ignoring the clouds. I've got enough clothing for comfort, but not to outlast an unexpected October rainstorm, and if my down bag gets soaked I'm in genuine trouble.

So I jury-rig the tent. Instead of setting it up full height, I thread the arch pole through but don't set it on either end. Then I prop it up on my backpack frame. Now I have a two-foot-tall covered crawlspace -- just enough to snug into, and not tall enough to catch the wind.

What I didn't count on was that this kept the tent fabric from being pulled taut.

So, all night, the little wind I'm getting is catching the fabric and

FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP

... as I'm huddled around my backpack in a little circle, on painfully rocky ground, and under questionably adequate shelter.
I pin down the edges of the fabric with rocks as best I can, but there's no stopping the noise. Already weakened and spacy from gut shock, I end up getting approximately an hour's sleep.

It never rains.

The best part? I get up in the morning. Not a single cloud in the sky. There is a big ol' troll sun sitting in the middle of a sea of blue:



U MAD, BRO?


The wind has died down (as has my gut). It's as if the nightmare of the past eight hours simply had never happened.

Basically, this was the universe deciding to slap me upside the head for taking the Holy Invocation of TWIBU in vain.

For my own safety, I really need to learn to stop defying fate like that.
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