Sisterhood and Sopping Sleeping Bags
So there I was, in the middle of a crazy, freak rain storm that came up out of nowhere, standing braless and bedraggled in front of the park ranger.
You may be wondering how I let myself get in this predicament in the first place, but in my defense there were no threatening clouds on the horizon and no telling change in temperature. It was just a sudden downpour; which caught me off guard and wet in a thin, gray tank top…
We were a handful girlfriends with various levels of camping experience who had trekked to the prairies of South Dakota to see the infamous Mount Rushmore and search for herds of buffalo. We drove from Colorado, enjoying the road trip, open windows, and blaring 90’s chick music. We were pumped about the time to spend away from our children, husbands and jobs. All of the essentials for car camping were crammed into a borrowed SUV and we were ready for our adventure. Our big cabin-style tent took up most of the trunk. It was huge and boxy, but suitable for housing both our sleeping area, a card table, and possibly a small army. We had just purchased it for the purpose of this girls-weekend. Our battery operated lanterns, air mattresses, and boxes of wine were neatly tucked into all the empty space and the weekend spread promisingly in front of us. All the things you can’t take with you when you’re backpacking we added to our collection of stuff: board games, cozy pajamas, and fluffy pillows topped the packing list.
We were definitely taking advantage of the space and convenience of driving to our campsite in Custer National Park. On the day of the storm we had planned to spend the morning hiking, but when one of my comrades turned her ankle we decided to spend the late morning having a long lunch in town instead, in a rustic saloon. It had a dirt floor, swinging saloon doors, and a barkeep named Mac. (Everything you look for in a Wild West dive bar.) As we trekked back to our campsite along winding dirt roads we admired the big blue, never-ending skies.
Life was good. Spending time with women I admired and loved was a beautiful way to unwind. There’s something about girl talk and doing things on my own that fuels my soul.
I built up a campfire upon our return and fished some pre-made foil packets of food out of the cooler. Making foil packets is my pre-camping specialty. We had par-boiled potatoes before our travel and cut them into pieces along with cooked sausage for that evening’s meal. It’s so simple to just toss them into the hot coals and allow them to warm up, with very little effort involved. (FYI, add spices prior to travel too, that way you don’t have to pack them!)
As the food cooked, it slowly started to sprinkle. Tiny, silver rain drops sizzled on the coals. We ignored them. That was our first mistake because then it came: monsoon style rain and wind. So much wind. We sat huddled in the car watching the lightning streak across the sky and counting the seconds until the rumbles of thunder. It was hard to believe that only a few hours ago the brilliance of the blue sky was almost blinding, and now that same sky was swirling with the most intense storm I’d ever seen. We watched in awe as the wind lifted our giant, impractical, tent into the air, snapping tent poles and ropes as it went.
I didn’t even think about it as I sprang from the car into the rain. I grabbed the corner of the flapping tent and clung for dear life as it thrashed about in the sky like a giant box kite in a tornado. Images of Ben Franklin’s key flashed through my mind as I struggled to contain the tent and willed my friends to join me in the rain. They didn’t!
As the storm finally blew over and the gals piled out of the car to assess the damage, I found myself standing there, holding up one corner of our tent: a human tent pole in a wet t-shirt contest.
I was dripping, my shirt was translucent, and our tent was a crumpled mess. We pulled out our soggy sleeping bags and wrung them out to dry. Our car, packed to the brim with camping gear, did not have a single thing in it to repair the damages. We had no tarp or extra rope. We had eliminated those items to make room for our giant, brand new tent. That’s when the ranger pulled up.
He was a kind-faced, older gentleman, coming to check on the women he knew were camping alone. He had the best of intentions, of course, and wanted to see if we were alright and inspect the grounds. He stood awkwardly as we assured him he was unneeded despite our appearance. He tossed us a roll of duct tape making a distinct effort to keep his eyes at eye level, and went on his way.
We made a makeshift rope out of the duct tape. (You can do this by just folding it in half lengthwise for the length you need, or twisting it into a cord. It can be made stronger by braiding these together.) Then, used said rope to tie our mangled tent back up into something resembling a childhood blanket fort.
It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t dry. It wasn’t what we had in mind. But, we had wine and each other and really that’s all that mattered...