Thursday, September 8, 2011

Camping. Alas.

We tend to travel on the western side of the state because we are unabashed heat wimps but it was time for our final 2011 campout and we needed to expand our destinations. We checked out the campgrounds in the Cascades and decided on Lake Wenatchee. We could raid fruit stands for some of our camp food - we love fruit stands - and Leavenworth was nearby if the campground turned out to be too mosquito-ridden.

We arrived in the early afternoon. Wow! The lake was beautiful and the temperature was just right. We liked our campsite, too. We could see the lake through the trees and it was an easy walk to the beach. The campground was quiet. We took a walking tour of the area and discovered that only eight of ninety-nine campsites were occupied, which explained the peaceful atmosphere. There were no mosquitos, only random swarms of gnats.

We set up camp and spent the rest of the day on the beach. We soaked up the just-right sun. We watched a sail-board slowly traverse the lake, zigzagging its way from shore to shore. Squirrels chittered at one another, birds called out as a hawk approached, the breeze gently rustled the trees. . . we headed back to camp after watching the sunset over the lake. The evening finished up with a clear starry sky and firelight. We remarked how odd it was to be comfortable in t-shirts. We'd be in our flannel jackets if we were back home.

We felt completely refreshed. As we settled in for the night, we noticed that the breeze was a bit louder in the treetops than before, a lovely go-to-sleep sound. We drifted off.

We awoke to wind. Really strong wind. Our tent was partially flattened with each gust. The gentle breezes of the previous evening were gone. It was clear that we'd need to put up a tarp for a windbreak or we'd be blown across the campground. Two trees near the firepit were perfect anchors.

The Windbreak Construction really deserves a post all its own. The tarp, until it was tethered, made an impressive sail for the person attempting to hold it up. Suffice to say that it was a successful Spousal Bonding Opportunity. There was no respite from the wind anywhere but directly behind the tarp. Respite, that is, until we lit the campfire.

Have you ever relived an event from earlier in life, triggered by a cataclysmic event? I was suddenly seventeen again, in my science class, and I could clearly see the chalk diagram illustrating how air moves around an object. The air (we had learned) doesn't always go around the object and continue on its way. The air goes all kinds of directions, depending on the density, size, and shape of the object. Judging by the path of the campfire's smoke, our windbreak encouraged the air to curl around and return to the alee side, bringing smoke into our little sanctuary. The campfire shouldn't have smoked - we'd brought our own firewood from the oldest, driest section of our woodpile - but enough wind reached the fire to fan it into smokiness. The airflow also picked up ash from the pit's previous fires and added it to the mix.

The wind was relentless. We scavenged rocks to anchor stuff to the picnic table. We attempted Double Solitaire but the cards wouldn't stay put. Book pages flapped as we tried to read. We walked to the lake to see if the wind was gentler there. It wasn't, alas, but we sat on a log anyway and watched the whitecaps for awhile before retreating to our windbreak. Making a sandwich was a task fraught with peril. The constant roar in the trees, coupled with the tarp's incessant flapping, was maddening. The wind. The WIND! Aaiieeee. . .

We were thoroughly wind-burned and smoke-grimed by late-afternoon. We grabbed the soap and towels and headed for the showers. Ken wrestled with the door to the men's shower because the wind blew so strongly against it. I wished him well, rounded the corner of the building, and sailed into a blizzard of gnats. What fresh hell is this?? I waved the insects away from my face and hastily retreated back into the wind.

The gnats had found their own sanctuary. Every gnat in the campground had gathered there, apparently, refugees from the wind, a massive congenial swarm that completely blocked the restroom entrance. The swarm was so thick that the door wasn't visible. Should I skip the shower? Absolutely not. I was in Battle Mode. It was a measure of my wind-induced mania that giving up the shower meant that the wind, along with its allies the gnats, had won. I took a deep breath, flung the towel over my nose and mouth, squinted my eyes, and strode through the swarm. I exited in the same manner. Gnats traveled back to the campsite with me, adhered to the wet towel and my damp hair.

The wind was so strong that we couldn't light the Coleman stove for dinner. There was no way we were lighting another fire and dealing with smoke. Dinner was a scavenge-through-the-cooler affair which took two people to accomplish, one holding up the lid and one rummaging frantically. We went to our sleeping bags much earlier than usual. We eventually fell asleep despite the architectural challenges our tent was experiencing.

The wind continued unabated the next morning. Packing the tent was entertaining, as was taking down the tarp (sail, sail away). We finally got everything into the car and headed out of Lake Wenatchee State Park.

We'd traveled for an hour or so and it was time for a snack. I unearthed string cheese and blueberries from the small cooler at my feet. Some of the berries were past their prime. Blithely unaware of vehicular aerodynamics (by now I should have known better), I tossed a wizened blueberry out the window. The wind returned it, depositing the berry down my back through the small opening between my neck and my shirt collar.

At least it's not a juicy one, I thought as I attempted Blueberry Retrieval. Ken glanced over at my contortions and decided (wisely) against inquiry. I located the blueberry and, now fully aware of airflow, sent it once again out the window. The rest of the journey home was uneventful apart from dealing with some Wenatchee gnats who had come aboard during the packing.

Yurts on the coast are looking good for next year.

Overheard on Twitter: Serious question: why would a grown man use a fake Irish accent to ask a question at the reference desk? (No Lucky Charms in sight.)

Until next time. . .


Karen in TS said...

Two words for you ... cam per. Husband and I swore we would never be one of "Those" who needed an RV to go camping. And yet, I must say that we have now happily gone over to the dark side (Arctic Fox with a slide-out). It's lovely to be warm, dry, and (mostly) gnat-free when traveling in the wilderness. Just a thought...

dulcigal said...

LOL, Karen! Yes, RV Envy entered our conversation as we sat in the car to get out of the wind (ah, blessed silence.) We have friends who travel in a van with a popup roof and they've finally convinced us that we need one too. We'll have to check out the Arctic Fox.

Doris from TS said...

First of all I have to thank Karen for forwarding this to me. It was hilarious to read and made me feel a little better knowing that there were fellow sufferers.
We just got back from a long awaited vacation at the beach in Ilwaco (yes, we too broke down some years back and ditched out tent and blue tarp). We have been to Ilwaco many many times and were familiar with the mist and cooler weather that often accompanies this beach but this time it showed us another side, wind and cold and more wind and freezing cold. My husband had to buy a coat with a liner in Long Beach where it was somewhat warmer and I indulged in purchasing 2 new warm sweatshirts. We also escaped over to Astoria for a few rays of sunshine.
It was great to be able to hide out in the trailer but what we really wanted was a relaxing time spent at the beach with our 2 dogs (of course they didn't mind).
We saw all the Yurts they've added down there, just remember not to go there when it is in the 80's inland, bad bad bad mistake.