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June 21, 2019 :Packing Trip, Day # 3 – To Light a Fire

If hardship sells, well then, I made my fortune in the past twelve hours. Last night at 8 p.m., the storm clouds that had been rolling in let loose in a sudden, and torrential downpour. We threw tarps over all our gear, including the cooking stove, and dove into the tent, thinking that this storm would be over in a few minutes.

7, 8, 9, 10 p.m. – it just kept raining. The rain/sleet hitting the tent sounded like shrapnel fire. Then at about 11 p.m. the rain momentarily stopped. Pete ventured out and put away the cooking utensils. It was so dark, I could barely make out the outlines of the horses, who highlined, were standing quietly. I went to sleep. The rain started up again, this time not as intense. Then it grew quiet.

Pete, Raudi, & Hrimmi

At about 8 a.m. I looked around. There were puddles of water in the tent and the sides of the tent were sagging inward. I unzipped the tent – my suspicions were correct – at some time during the night it had started snowing. My boots, which I’d left outside, were full of the stuff. I shook them out. It was wet snow.

I glanced at the horses. They were snow covered and sodden. Hrimmi, who was in the middle, was standing like Winnie the Pooh’s Eeyore, with her head down.

“Snow!” I said to Pete, who immediately said “NO!”

We assessed the situation. Pete’s side of the tent and the edges of his sleeping bag were wet. I had fared a bit better, although my wool socks were sodden, as was my wool hat.

“Get up!” I says to him. “No!” he said.

“You always get up first,” I said, adding, “this way I can pack up.

“Can’t pack up the bags,” he said, adding, “It’s snowing and raining.”

We compromised, simultaneously getting out of our bags and getting dressed. My leather gloves were wet, and within minutes wetter still. We walked around for a few minutes like zombies, then went over to the horses and brushed them off. Raudi and Hrimmi were shivering, so the first order of business was to walk and graze them. Pete took Raudi and I took the other two. The forage was minimal, so the now hungry horses tugged on their lead ropes, causing me to mutter “socks wet, gloves wet, extremities cold. This is no fun at all.”

I finally let Tyra run free, which then made my job easier.

I looked up. The sky was a blanket of gray and the snow/rain mix was still coming down. I observed that it was now more rain than snow. I began to shiver, remarked to Pete that I was now in the first stage of hypothermia.

“I will make some tea. As soon as we finish walking the horses,” he said.

We ate breakfast, drank tea, downed quinoa with dehydrated blueberries and powdered milk, in silence. After, we talked about the day’s plans. I was up for leaving. Pete pulled forth the map, and together we looked at route options. He said that we would be best off to stay put, otherwise we’d spend the morning packing up in the rain, and the afternoon riding in the rain.

“But we could die out here,” I said.

“Won’t happen,” Pete said.

“I don’t have any dry gear.”

Pete (a former Eagle scout) had brought along extra dry socks and a puff jacket. Me, I had thought it would warm up, so I had gone minimal.

After breakfast, we crawled back into the tent, undressed, climbed back into our sleeping bag, and dozed. I dreamt that I was attending an Icelandic Horse Clinic and writer Richard Brautigan was the clinician. He had me put our deceased mare Signy’s leg over her neck – I argued with him that this would mess up her brain map. He disagreed. I then told him that he was a great writer and a lousy clinician. I then recited one of his poems to him.

I woke up, finished reading an essay in the 1995 Best American Essays about Military Triage. Got up, and went for a brisk walk, so as to warm up. I noted that there wasn’t much forage for the horses by the road, but some springs of grass under the trees. This was going to have to do. I forced myself to bring to mind what I’d learned about hypothermia in the wilderness responder first aid course. Yes, our having walked the horses, eaten a warm breakfast, and returned to bed was a good idea. I was now cold, but not shivering. And it had been a good idea to stay where we were, for it was still raining/snowing.

Pete got up. We took the horses for another walk. Pete’s dry wool socks made for good mittens, which cheered me considerably. I was the first to see a patch of blue in the sky, then the sun’s yellow orb. I flung my arms outward, and felt the welcome heat.

We ate a second meal, lentil stew, energy bars, dehydrated fruit. We next gathered twigs, wood, and started a fire. I strung up a clothesline. It had stopped raining so I hung up wet clothes and the sleeping bags. The sky grew dark again. I threw the bags, now fairly dry, back in the tent.

The fire was now going strong. Pete was smug. We stood next to it and warmed ourselves up. I took several photos. I now knew we’d be okay. I felt bad for the horses who we had subjected to this without their consent. If only, I thought, we’d brought their rain blankets. Next trip, for sure.

Next: 171. 6/22/19: Pack Trip Day # 5 Onto the Trail

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