Happy Monday, maniacs! I hope everybody’s week is shaping up to be super! I tried to start the week strong with my typical swim this morning.
Tragically, when I entered the University of Washington gym I was informed that my membership has expired because SOMEBODY forgot to register himself as a PhD student for summer quarter.
Luckily I was able to purchase a temporary access pass to get my mer-man on. You can imagine how THRILLED I was to shell out five bucks for pool privileges that I am accustomed to being granted gratis.
In a way, my morning misadventures, and beauraucratic bumblings are consistent with my entire weekend. On Saturday, Alli, Other-Sam, Katie, Catherine, and I tried REALLY hard to go camping.
Have you ever had the perfect vacation? Have you experienced one of those elusive excursions where absolutely everything proceeds without a hitch, every aspect of your agenda falling perfectly into place, as though St. Christopher himself has been moonlighting as your personal travel agent?
This weekend’s camping trip was the exact opposite of that. I’m not sure what we did to piss off the Patron Saint of Travelers, but Christopher did NOT have our back on this weekends’ expedition. We must have accidentally directed our devotions to St. Genevieve, because our jolly journey devolved into a disaster.
Even though our camping trip was a disaster, we managed to have a great time! We went on a fun hike, we saw some beautiful scenery, Porter got to roll around in the snow. I will never complain about an afternoon spent in the woods with my closest friends! However, the amount of actual camping that we completed this weekend, if you strictly define camping as “sleeping in a tent and cooking food outdoors” amounted to approximately zero minutes.
We tried REALLY hard to go camping. We packed our car full of camping gear, and left Seattle Saturday morning, bright eyed and bushy-tailed.
We applied accelerator to asphalt and made our way to Mineral Lake, two hours south of Seattle, in the shadow of Mt. Rainier.
Mineral Lake’s hilariously out of date official tourism website declares this happy hamlet to be “The Hidden Gem of the Northwest.” The jury’s still out on whether or not “gem” is an accurate adjective for this quiet community, but we truly appreciated its “hidden” qualities. We missed the turn-off leading to the town. When we found the town, we overlooked the off-ramp that lead to our campground. Twice. Five over-educated adults with functional iPhones managed to get lost on paved roads with clearly delineated signage, which precisely predicted how we would spend the majority of our afternoon. Eventually we bumbled our way into base camp, set up our shelters, and attenuated our appetites with some good old american PB&Js. We were ready for action!
After satiating our starving stomachs, we piled back into our internal-combustion covered-wagon and traipsed off to the trailhead. We hoped to hike High Rock, which promises some of Washington’s most spectacular panoramas. Our morning meanderings faithfully foretold our (mis)fortunes in finding our intended trailhead. We took a delightful and extended back and forth driving tour of some of Washington’s most scenic forest service roads, before deciding to abandon our attempts at finding High Rock. We were still determined to have an outdoor excursion: any hike is better than no hike at all! We pulled over at the nearest labeled trail, looked it up in our guidebook, and made a split second decision to attempt to access Cora Lake instead.
The hike was beautiful. June is rainy in Washington (we call it June-uary), all of the foliage was lush, and verdant.
The moisture meant that the fungus was out in full force.
The mists and the mosses lent a magical aura to the forest.
We even encountered snow-fields, in the middle of June! Porter was thrilled!
Unfortunately, the same whimsical weather that confers lends the pacific northwest its supernatural splendor managed to soak each and every member of our merry expedition right through to the bone. After several hours of exploring we were unable to locate the lake. Our clothes told a different story: we could not have been more drenched if we had found the lake, dove in, and performed a synchronized swimming routine.
As the day progressed and the mercury fell, our moist and merry band of misfits decided it would be disadvantageous to our career goals to pursue cases of hypothermia. We returned to our chariot, bedraggled, yet buoyant from our wanderings in the woods.
Scientists love it when a result repeats. We got lost four times on our way back to the campsite. We may be incompetent, but we are SHOCKINGLY consistent. When we finally made it back to our tents, we discovered that the rain’s ravages had not spared our cheery chalet. We changed out of our wet clothes into….damp clothes and huddled down to watch water slowly seep into our sleeping bags.
Every grand epic has a momentous moment when the hero is faced with a difficult decision. Should Frodo and Samwise press on to the gates of Mordor? Should our heros stick it out, eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner in our tent, and try to keep warm by snuggling with Porter? Could we look ourselves in the mirror the next morning if we packed it all in at 8pm and drove ourselves back to our nice warm beds in Seattle? What would people THINK of us? How late is the Thai food place open? We had a spirited and deep debate lasting all of five minutes before deciding to decamp. We sped north on interstate five with our tails planted firmly between our legs.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that a little bit of rain turned this plucky PhD candidate into a pathetic poseur of a weekend warrior, who didn’t even last an entire weekend. I’ve been on a week-long river trip where HAIL the first night didn’t dampen my spirits
I’ve slept through thunderstorms while backpacking. I’ve wiped my ass with a leaf.
I think it comes down to a question of mindset: if you are in the middle of nowhere and you have nowhere to be, a little extreme weather adds an aspect of excitement to the whole trip! However, if you are soggy and damp in a cut-rate campground two hours away from your own shower and bed, when you have a full docket of figures make and Immunoprecipitations to attend to the next day, the decision to cut and run doesn’t cut very deeply at all.
I decided to mentally reframe our “camping trip” as a “day hiking trip…featuring tents,” which means that returning to Seattle the very same day could have been part of the plan all-along. I’m not proud that we cut-and-ran, but I had a GREAT time, regardless. Any time spent outdoors is worthwhile time. I love hanging out with my friends, even when we are all damp and cranky. Finally, I AM proud of the heroic amount of yardwork I accomplished on Sunday afternoon. I might not have proved my perseverance, but I pruned the HELL out of my grape vines.
My motto is: if at first you don’t succeed, keep on suckin’ till you do succeed. Our day-hike-with-tents was merely a preview of future forest frolics! I’m GLAD everything that could go wrong did: it gives us opportunities to improve. The summer is just beginning, I cant wait to go camping with these kids (and that dog) again!
Have you ever had a totally disastrous vacation?
Have you ever just totally abandoned your intended plans?