My Arch Nemesis, the Wind

It was the middle of the night. I was covered in the dirt that had been blowing into the tent from both the top and the bottom vents. It started at around 10:00 pm and it was now one or two or three… I no longer knew. The wind blew like a madman. I was sitting on the floor using my yoga mat as a block to keep the dust from blowing in. Lame at best, but I thought it helped a little. I was tired and frustrated and felt like I was losing my mind. I told myself that I never remember having this much trouble with the wind! What the fuck was happening?? 

First, that is not entirely true. Later the next day, I recalled an eerie night on a motorcycle trip years ago. We were somewhere outside of Glacier National Park. We decided to ride the bikes in a few miles to an isolated campground. We were harassed by the ranger, who made us hang our scented items as a way to “bear proof” our camp. All this while others nearby openly cooked on their camp tables, slopping food all over the damned place. Later that night, the wind woke us both. We could hear it as it started it’s decent down the canyon. At first, it sounded like a breeze, and then it picked up speed, picked up volume, increased in force before it hurled itself against the sides of our tent like a linebacker at football practice. This routine repeated itself for most of the night. I am sure neither of us slept. I think at one point we felt the entire tent, with us and our gear inside, move just a little. Over and over this scenario carried out. Over and over we dozed and woke up and dozed again. Over and over the breeze turned into a roar that turned into a pummeling. 

In the morning we saw that nothing happened to the tent or to us. That is the only other time I can recall wind being an issue. There was another time outside of the Grand Tetons that cold was an issue. I had never been so cold during the night and, thankfully, I have not been that cold camping since. That night compelled me to get a better sleeping bag and always carry a wool hat. This time, I packed two. 

Here I am on my adventure. I am sleeping outside the majority of the time. I have a four-person tent that is 60 inches tall in the middle. I did take it to the coast and suffered a noisy and stressful night with the wind. Then, as I have written about since, there was the implosion at the Rally. I am on tent #2. I did some research and have better learned how to secure the “guide” lines. They are not called “guide” lines but I cannot figure out the correct spelling of “guy” lines. I am in the habit of securing my entire tent at all times, and using the newly learned techniques for the knots and the lines. So far so good. I even spent an evening on the Columbia River with my arms stretched over my head, holding onto the tent pole center piece, as storm fronts toyed with my little corner of the Universe. The gusts topped at 35 MPH. The tent held, but my arms were tired. 

Generally, and in the summer heat I am living, I keep the rainfly doors open. It is just too hot and stuffy to close up. The wind gave me trouble at my last camp, too. It picked up one night and blew dirt/silt into that pesky bottom vent. I cleaned for over an hour, taking everything out, wiping it down, and making it all brand new again. Now here I am, not sleeping, getting dirt blown into my sleeping bag, eyes and hair, and the wind shaking the tent mercilessly. Again with the wind. 

Finally, I shut the rainfly doors. In all honesty, I should have done that hours ago. The tent immediately became more stable and the dirt stopped. Well, mostly stopped. Now one of the stakes has failed and a flap is flailing about uncontrollably in the late night torrent. I had to get up three times to secure it back into the loose and sandy ground. Finally, I turned the stake in the opposite direction and that held. I nodded on and off the rest of the night, brushing dirt off myself every now and again. The wind continued into the morning and, only just now, almost 24 house later, has it started to subside. I do not trust this wind to say calm and I will be prepared to baton down the hatches again tonight. Current conditions are perfect, if only the wind will cooperate. 

This wind, though, let me tell you. This wind comes from miles away. I can hear it ramping up as teases, then thrashes the trees. This wind does not howl, it screams. This wind comes at you like a freight train, charging forward as it pelts the tent with debris and noise. I can see my solar light with its faint green glow dancing around in the dark as it hangs from the ceiling, holding on for dear life. I hear it start. Like the delay between lightening and thunder, I know it is coming, and I am powerless to stop it. I can smell the dirt and the dust and the pine needles that are blowing all over. 

I spent hours holding the yoga mat against the vent in a vein attempt to keep some of the dirt out. I moved myself more to the center of the tent. Memo to self – stop sleeping near the vent! My clothes are already in protective bags that will only need to be brushed off. I, on the other hand, will not see a shower again for a couple days. And, with the morning light and a good mirror, I saw how the dirt covered my face and my hair. Dirty, again. 

I went outside to pee and saw a clear and star filled sky. The wind was warm, and yet fearfully strong. Closing up the tent made it even more hot and sticky inside, further impeding my ability to rest. The cycle of this wind created a viscous pattern of torment for me. I heard it from far away and I knew it was coming. I also knew there was nothing I could do. I was powerless and helpless and tired and dirty. I could only sit by and wait for the inevitable. 

The wind continued into the next day. I was feeling a little deflated and irritable, but still went to brunch. I mean, if the tent made it through the night, it would be fine for a couple more hours. I gave it a careful scrutiny, checked all my lines and stakes, and made sure it was as secure as it could be. I ate my weight in breakfast foods, went to the store, and then came back. I just was not comfortable leaving camp for too long. The wind was blowing all over, everywhere, and even harder in some places that I saw along my drive into, and back from, town. 

It is now 22 hours after the raging winds started. There is a slight breeze as the sun begins to set. The temperatures are set to rise and reach over 100 during the next two days. I have the rainfly doors wide open. I have not cleaned up in the tent, as the wind continued long enough that I felt my efforts futile. I wanted to wait until I had a fighting chance to make an impact. I remember how I felt when the last tent imploded at the Rally. I wrote about that. This tent held. I cannot see any bends or damage or flaws as a result of the extreme wind of the night. That makes me smile just a little. 

I can hear the light wind in the tree tops. I wonder if it will flex its muscle again tonight. I hope not. I want to get some sleep, even if this place does look like a tornado hit it. If the wind starts to pick up, I will close the rainfly doors post haste. I will check the stakes and test my lines. That is all I can do. I am at the mercy of the elements. This, too, is part of the challenge of my journey. I was reading in my Pilgrimage book today and I found this: “… we can look to trying times along the road as either torment or chances to stretch ourselves.” The wind is stretching me. It is an unwelcome adversary and a constant reminder of my insignificance. The wind has power over me and I am powerless against it. The wind is forcing me to grow. The wind reminds me how small I am. What a bitter pill to swallow. 

I must raise my glass to the wind. I must give it the homage it deserves. Long after I leave the road and this earth, the wind will continue to unleash its will on everything and everyone in its path. 

Cheers, Wind. You have my utmost respect. 

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