6.18.2007

A positively electric evening, or, my coffin-shaped tent

So on Saturday afternoon I decided to head off to the Twin Brooks tent platforms off of the Long Trail on the southern slopes of Mt. Mansfield. I was alone, and decided to hike in with a bare minimum of stuff -- no stove, minimal food, and just the necessities to get through the night in the woods. The forecast mentioned a 'chance' of thundershowers but I didn't let this dissuade me.

I haven't spent a night in the woods since some time last summer and my purpose in going out for this short little trip to was to reacclimatize myself with spending the night outdoors -- the woods are not quiet at night and to get used to hiking with a full pack again. It's something of an acquired taste. I'm thinking I may spend part of the 4th of July holiday in the Adirondacks so I wanted the practice.

It was actually very cool to hike up through Nebraska Notch in the late afternoon. It was a wet winter and spring so now things are extremely lush and verdant, parts of the notch are quite narrow and it's almost like hiking through a green tunnel. Also the birds were out in force, it wasn't a quiet walk through the woods, there was a cacophony of natural sounds.

Eventually I did get to the campsite which I had entirely to myself. I quickly set up my small tent on a platform because by now it was deep twilight. I figured that it was only going to be for one night so I did a pretty half-assed job with the tent. It's designed to be staked out on the ground, so setting up on a platform is something of a challenge.

I then spent a couple of hours in front a campfire drinking a beer, listening to the rumble of distant thunder, and generally enjoying the small circle of light in the dark woods. Twin Brooks looks out over the Champlain Valley and the western sky was frequently illuminated by lightning, though it was hard to tell which direction that the storms were moving, I thought they would pass to the north. Just as I was preparing to turn in for the night it began to rain lightly.


I've used my tent in the rain before BUT this was the first time I have been out in a thunderstorm. It was NOT a pleasant experience. The rain started lightly but soon became a heavy downpour accompanied by lots of lightning and thunder that echoed very impressively off of the surrounding mountains. The campsite is not high on a ridgeline and is surrounded by high trees, but still, it was not enjoyable to be sheltering under a thin piece of nylon held up by the only significant pieces of metal in the area, a set of two slender aluminum hoops.

Narrow at the foot end, and think barefoot Paul on the cover of Abbey Road, would someone find my lifeless remains in the morning, should lightning strike?

The storm lasted a long time. The lightning and thunder was constant -- I'm sure the exposed summit of Mt. Mansfield was getting blasted repeatedly. I kept nervously running my fingers through my hair because I have read that if your hair starts to stand on end it is a sign that lightning will soon strike nearby -- ie, you will most likely be dead.

Eventually the storm did pass and lightning did not strike though some water did get into the tent due to my laziness setting up camp. I was mentally exhausted from the experience and slept fine for the rest of the night. I have always believed that you have to accept a certain amount of risk in one's life -- when I was racing my bike, I witnessed some appalling crashes, from a quite close perspective -- but this really put this idea to the test. And I also think that it is good to experience the raw power of nature because in this day and age we are so wrapped up in technology and stuff that we forget that there are limits on what we can do.

The morning after: my damp and bedraggled campsite.

1 comment:

bmike said...

I do like the hike up Nebraska Notch. Haven't explored the Twin Brook area... but will do. Glad to see you sruvived. Sometimes mother nature has nothing better to do than remind us of how small we really are.