Monday, May 2, 2016

Northwest Reflections: Getting Outdoors in the Rain

As I write this, we're having another early mini-heat wave here in western Washington. Yet here I am celebrating a quintessential Pacific Northwest experience: being outside hiking, walking, running, kayaking, bicycling, or ______ (fill in the blank) in the rain.

I've camped many nights during torrential downpours, more than once when parts of my sleeping bag got soaked. Was I miserable? Yea, a little.  Would I do it again? Heck yes!

On a week-long backpack trip on the Pacific Crest Trail in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, we got stuck for two days at camp in a heavy rain. During a kayak camping trip off Vancouver Island last year, the proverbial tarp was strung over our tents for extra protection from the persistent rain. (Northwest campers have even been caricatured in this Blue Tarp Campers ad.)

I could go on and on about wet days and nights in the outdoors here. I've suffered many, as has pretty much everyone who gets outside on a regular basis. As we like to say when it's particularly nasty out:

"It builds character."

But here's the magic: When it's raining hard and steady, the rest of the world falls away and you feel so enveloped in the elements.  It's a very in-the-moment, Zen experience.

Although it's hard to photograph rain, I think I succeeded here.
Another not-so-secret:  With increasing traffic on our trails now that the word is out on our amazing corner of the world, hiking in the rain is the time to escape the crowds, find a greater sense of solitude.

Maybe you're one who likes having people around. One of my happiest teenage memories is squealing with laughter when several of us crowded in a little tent during a two-day downpour. 

Ever done worm rolls over other tent mates in your sleeping bags? When you're rained out for a day or two, you too will invent creative ways to pass the time.

Between the rains: an exercise in futility?

Just a couple weekends ago I hiked a beautiful trail that would have been packed on a nice day. Our group saw just a few others (and a geology field trip class) as the wind was blowing and the sky was spitting rain. It was magnificent!

There's a good reason why Gore-Tex, a major breakthrough in breathable rain gear, was developed here in the Pacific Northwest. Us Mossbacks are glad for that reason. We relish getting out on a rainy day. 

Bring it!

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.  

Have you had many wet days outside? Jump in with a comment below and tell us about your rain stories.

And the rain is predicted to return in a couple days. 


JoJo said...

PLEASE tell me you remember that Pemco commercial from a few years ago 'Blue Tarp Camper, you're one of us'. So classic. lol

Eagle Harbor Book Co. said...

I love a rainy day, and the way people (at least locals) start complaining when it gets over 80 degrees. On my honeymoon (many, many years ago), and started one morning, on the way to the Anacortes ferry, talking about how lovely the grey cloud cover was, and wondered hopefully if it would rain. Lee thought I was a little nuts.

jill said...

Hey JoJo, of course! I thought of mentioning it, but now have added a link. Yes, it was a classic. :)

Victoria, ah, spoken like a true Northwesterner. Ha, and yesterday was pushing it for heat for me. To me there's nothing more comforting and cozy than lying in bed (or a tent) and listening to the rain coming down outside.

Lainey Piland said...

Excellent points, Jill! I've hiked in drizzle, sprinkles, showers, and downpours (okay, the downpours aren't always the most fun), but there's something about hiking on a rainy day that makes for a richer and more refreshing experience than a sunny day could ever give. The sounds and smells are different, and the near-empty trails are always a plus. :)

I've just recently gotten smart enough to put a back-up jacket in my pack when I hike on a particularly rainy day. No matter how waterproof my jackets claim to be, they never stay dry for the duration of a rainy day hike here in the PNW!

jill said...

Hey Lainey, Yes, I bring an extra jacket now too! And have used umbrellas when it's not too windy. The downside, especially during the downpours, is the damp chill, it's the worst. But yes, the scents, I totally agree with you. Thanks for the comment!

matchoo said...

FUUU NEEE ..LOL.... Zip Lock Socks .. ZipSocks?

"The weather the better". nearly always the fact for our close climbing pard-ners. Lots of candy wrapper wars in tent. And three worm weavs if a threesome... bag hop to middle - roll under to the outside