Originally, we had planned a snow camping trip in the Cascades. However, it “warmed up” into the mid thirties where we wanted to go which basically=hypothermic misery. A snow camping trip with highs in the 20’s is markedly more pleasant than a snow camping trip in the 30’s. Trust me, you want everything to be nice, frozen, and dry. Above 32 degrees and you have wet, cold mess to contend with. So whats the next best thing???
We decided to backpack on the coast with a big storm about to hit instead. Certainly that would be better. High winds, driving torrential rain, and temps into the high 30’s to low 40’s. Cant think of better conditions to put ourselves into.
We read that there is no overnight parking at the trailhead, so we had to alert the local police that we would be hiking in and staying overnight. This way, they wouldn’t tow our car and fuck us in the morning when we come back. We literally had to go to the police station, walk in, and tell them our plans. That’s unusual for us cause we normally AVOID police at all costs. However, nothing we have is illegal at this point in so we walk in to conquer our fears.
The week before, in a terrible tragedy, one of their own was shot and killed by a local man. They were on edge, grieving, and you could feel it. Dispatch basically asked us not to go, and stated that they really didn’t want to have to rescue us if shit went down. We just convinced them that we knew what we were doing (we did) and gave them our identifying info.
Our goal was a small log shelter. Stupidly we didn’t bring any shelter of our own, and just decided we would turn around and go back if conditions were intolerable. We needed only to make it in about 4 miles to the shelter.
Immediately, I knew that this was by far the shittiest conditions Id ever backpacked in. The trail was basically mud, running water and downed trees. We were either crawling under or over the downed trees, but some were so fucking big we had to do big detours around them. My poncho, bought 15 years earlier by my buddy in Thailand was shredded in no time.
At one point, the trail was destroyed by this giant landslide, which took some skill to get around safely:
We thought that as we hiked, we would warm up. We didn’t. We just got colder and colder. Low temps with rain are a terrible, miserable mix. Learn from us. After some time, we arrived at the shelter, fully chilled. Not chill in the good way, but like the kind of chill with slurred speech and impaired fine motor skills. Basically, the beginning symptoms of hypothermia. Here’s the inside of the shelter, pretty nice!
Nearby is an old radar station from WWII. This was to defend against the Japanese to the west. Compared to todays wars, they were defeated quite quickly and decisively with a combination of conventional and nukular weapons, and the base was no longer needed. Under this is a big bunker, literally full of bats. I managed to sneak into it years ago. There’s nothing inside of any interest.
Without our shelter, food, and hot drink in a thermos we would have been absolutely miserable and in a real bad sitch. We slowly warmed up, and I mean slowly. We burned trash left in the shelter as well as a couple of fire starters to warm up. Outside it was absolutely pissing down rain, windy as fuck, and generally kinda scary. As we achieved homeostasis once again, we tore into the 12 pack we hauled up along with some other fun goodies. Laughter ensued and it was all worth it. At one point, I was entertained for MINUTES burning hand sanitizer. Here’s what that looks like:
Lessons: Bring the right gear to keep you and your gear dry, like we did. Otherwise we could’ve been fucked. I had a bag liner in my backpack (garbage bag), pack liner on the outside, rain pants and jacket, and a poncho. Overkill? Maybe, but fuck it, we were dry. Also, wear enough to stay warm as you hike. We could’ve added another layer or two, been comfortably warm and not sweated out too awful bad. Better to be warm and a little sweaty than cold and hypothermic.