Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Night at the Windmills

I was standing at the trailhead, with about thirty minutes of light remaining.

          You know there's no way we'll reach that campsite before nightfall, right?
          Yea, yea, let's just start hiking and see what happens.
         So... we're going to hike in that direction... then it'll get dark... and cold... and then... "we'll see what happens"?
          Yea, something like that.

And thus it began.  
*   *   *

The mountain was quiet... the kind of quiet that's only possible when it's completely covered in snow.  But as I neared the ridge I could already hear the night winds stirring, its icy whispers filtering through the forest.  These words of warning fell on deaf ears, however, and I continued hiking with a half full moon illuminating the way.

It was dark, it was windy, and it was cold.  And I no longer wanted be outside in such elements, so I resolved to set up camp on the first even surface to present itself to me, and when such surface finally did present itself, I dedicated no iota of time to the consideration of its adequacy as a location at which to spend the night.  The backpack came off, the tent went up, and into the sleeping bag I went.

*   *   *

          Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.

It was around midnight and I was holed up inside my sleeping bag with the hood cinched up real tight to leave only the smallest opening so that I could breathe.

          Hey, you realize this is a three-season tent, right?  As in, not made for winter.
          Yea, but I figured with the minus-ten degree sleeping bag we'd be alright...
          Well does this seem 'alright' to you?

Not exactly.  This was colder than I was prepared for.  Going outside to take a piss was out of the question, so I had decided not to drink anything 'til morning.  I was dehydrated and thirsty, and since I knew that eating would only make me thirstier, I barely had dinner and was thus hungry as well.  My stomach growled and squirmed, but eventually it twisted itself into a tight, dry knot, and cooperated in this way for the rest of the night.

The winds howled, its chilly fists incessantly beating at my tent.   And the tent's fly, caught in this violence, flapped and rippled with a deafening intensity that made sleep all but impossible. Stronger gusts of wind rushed in under the fly, and the mesh construction of the tent's body offered no barrier to their uninvited entry.  Yes, this was indeed not a tent made for winter. 

Eventually the interspersed bouts of shivering must have drained me of all energy, and I was finally able to drift to sleep.

*   *   *

          That must be Zac.  Thank god.

It was already light out and I had been waiting to hear that voice since waking up an hour or two earlier.  Zac, who had dropped me off at the trailhead the previous evening, returned that morning to meet me for a run.  

          "Just give me a minute and I'll be right out!"

Emerging from the tent, I was finally able to appreciate the root of my nocturnal misery. I was camped on a bare piece of high ground, completely exposed to the frontal onslaught of the winds. It was painfully clear that this was the worst place to set up a tent on the entire ridge.

          Good job, Javier.
          Don't mention it.

But the winds had yet to abate, and the cold had yet to loosen its icy grip on the morning, so we wasted no time and started running to warm up.  Onwards and upwards, further along the ridge. 

*   *   *
Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, 
"Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless."
"What giants?" asked Sancho Panza. 
"Those you see over there," replied his master, "with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length. 
"Take care, sir," cried Sancho. "Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone." 
"Obviously," replied Don Quijote, "you don't know much about adventures.”

1 comment:

  1. Que frio! Que hambre! Menos mal Don Quijote sobrevivio esa noche de vientos helados….