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|Trip Reports The Trip Reports forum is for backpackers to share their actual (not links to) trip reports and/or journal entries for their wilderness backpacking and day-hiking trips. Please include photos and information regarding what worked (e.g. gear) and what didn't.|
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Oregon Coast Range Overnight (12/1-2/07) - Storm Rolling In
Like many of you, I must take any opportunity that arises to get in some backpacking time...
Yesterday afternoon a chance for an overnight came at the last minute. I stuffed some gear and consumables into my pack and took off. It was late in the afternoon, but I only had about 30 minutes of driving time to get me in between my home and the Pacific.
I set out close to dusk on the eve of a fierce windstorm (or hurricane as they're called in the East) that was expected to pound the coast and interior with 75-100 MPH winds.
Besides the need to get out when the opportunity knocks, the Coastal Range was also expecting some pre-storm snow in the higher elevations. And I thought it would be good to give the Hilleberg Soulo a taste of what's to come on future trips.
I knew that whatever snow would fall, it would be relatively short lived due to the warm rain and hurricane force winds that were due in the morning (...).
My goal was to get up on top of a bald to make camp near the edge of a clearing - away from falling limps and trees. I wanted a little bit of a windbreak, but didn't want anything else broke. I also felt it was best to be no more than a few miles out, so that I could get back quickly if I had to.
I stopped at a "last chance" market to grab a protein bar (to be consumed later as a midnight snack). The place was full of travelers chattering about the problems that await anyone heading west/north. One guy warned, "they just reopened the road and they'll probably be closing it again real soon." With that tidbit of info, I figured I had better head that way while I could.
On the way to what would become my overnight with Mother Nature, the ominous, grey sky was lit up with the overhead lights from police and emergency vehicles. The more I drove, the "worse" it seemed to get. Tree boughs were all over the road. I was looking forward to being off the highway and into the wild. A thankful thought of the sand bags that I had loaded into the bed of my truck (just days before) passed through my mind.
It was a relief to be off the road and on the snow-dusted forest floor. I wasted no time getting to a spot to setup camp. The wind was driving a wall of huge snowflakes into my face...making it difficult to see at times.
I made camp in a clearing close to a stand of new-growth Douglas Firs. Some of the large trees that I passed gave me butterflies when I thought of the wind that would soon meet them.
Hilleberg Soulo - Moments After Setup
I'm glad that I had setup the Hilleberg Soulo a few times prior to this trip. It helped a lot to be familiar with the setup as darkness approached.
If it weren't for the expected warm winds due to arrive in a matter of hours, I'd certainly have to dig myself out in the morning. [Which would not be the case - perhaps a canoe would have been in order.]
Hilleberg Soulo Before Bedtime
By the time I finished cooking dinner, my shelter was no longer red.
I crawled into my nylon igloo while snow continued to accumulate for another 6 hours. I had peeked out a couple of times, but I soon lost interest and started listening to my 3 ounce weather radio that I brought along -- while taking an occasional glance at my temperature panel (that reported 29 degrees F outside and up to 10 degrees warmer inside until about midnight - it then rose slightly above freezing for the rest of the night).
Not long after midnight, the snow turned into sleet then into a torrential downpour of rain.
There were impressive gusts of winds (perhaps 45-60 MPH) that were slamming the rain into my home away from home - all night long. It did not stop. It kept pounding and pounding all night long! The winds were getting stronger and stronger. I wondered if I would hydroplane to a new location - perhaps up against the nearby trees (which I learned wasn't too much of a stretch when I took a look around in the morning).
I must admit, I had thoughts of leaving... But it seemed like I would be stepping out under a waterfall, so I felt it was best to stay warm and dry -- and deal with it near daybreak.
I didn't sleep very well. The earplugs that I brought along were nearly worthless, and the sounds of the occasional forest debris crashing down would abruptly awaken me. The wind sounded like a freight train at times.
My sleep-deprived mind would imagine that I was camped at the mouth of a tunnel that served as a structure for a waterfall and as a passageway for fast moving trains.
When I opened my eyes from what would be the last of a chain of interrupted naps, it was about 6:00AM. It was time to make my break -- it would be daylight in about an hour.
I started to pack everything up all the while thinking about just waiting for the tidal wave of rain that was hitting the outside to cease. But I knew that this was just the beginning - merely the front of a larger storm that was swiftly approaching. So I jump out - as if I were about to make an icy river crossing.
I was immediately drenched. I swiftly pulled up all but 2 stakes - counting as I yanked them to be sure that none were left behind. [I used all the stakes and I'm glad that I did.]
I had on thin liner gloves, so that I could more readily remove clips from the tent poles. Once I stowed the poles. I removed the remaining stakes and picked up the tent body and dumped off the heavy pond of icy cold water that had accumulated in just over a minute.
My hands felt as if there were absolutely freezing. So I quickly came out of the cold, wet liners once the tent was stowed.
I wish that I had more photos to share - especially from the morning. But all that was on my mind was getting out of there.
There was an icy, fast-moving stream that developed about 3 feet behind my tent. There were ponds of water on top of the snow all around -- it looked like a polar bear playground.
The Hilleberg Soulo proved itself worthy. It held up to a fairly decent beating. A couple of stakes were half-way out of the ground, but the shelter was standing just as proud as it was when I pitched it. Though it was several pounds heavier!
All I had on my mind was my dry/warm truck -- oh and not getting knocked out by a falling tree on the way back to it.
I was able to put some gear (and perhaps myself) to the test and had an interesting time. It was actually exciting for the most part, but I must admit that I was fairly bored - since I was kept awake much of the night.
I'm home and dry now. My gear is home, but it's not dry. My camp is now setup in the garage. So this trip is not over until I put all that stuff away tomorrow.