Our latest backpacking trek to Gothic Basin and Foggy Lake in the North Cascades left us soggy but pleasantly content with the world. After a late start on Friday afternoon and a near-midnight dinner of couscous and Baingan Bharta (Indian style eggplant curry) we started up the hill Saturday morning, round about 11am. Okay another late start to a 4.5 mile hike with a 2840 ft elevation gain. The hiker’s log at the trailhead tallied somewhere between 15-20 other folks on the trail with us (not including the pups tailing along). So we figured, yeah, we’ll be the last stragglers into the basin and probably won’t have the rock star camp site. But taking the entire day to puff and heave up the mountain (including a gorgeous lunch stop at a waterfall and a few photo clicks along the way) was quite an enjoyable experience.
Saturday evening was mostly spent noshing on Palak Paneer , clambering over the gorgeous rock-strewn landscape, watching the wind wisp the clouds down the valley and chatting about everything from adolescence to exciting camping tales. We knew the wind was blowing some precipitation into our cozy valley, but weren’t worried after hunkering down in our waterproof tent.
Sunday morning we leisurely rubbed sleepy eyes and yawned against the bit of rain rasping at the outside of the tent. Planned for breakfast in the tent’s tarp area then a bit of wet tromping around in the valley before heading down the hill to warmer climates. But after unzipping the front door open, we discovered two inches of rainwater pooling just outside the tent, slowing seeping beneath the tarp, and our sleeping bags…
Okay, so oatmeal breakfast on the stove was immediately tossed out the window. For a good three minutes we lay in the tent, noses peeking out the mesh door resting only six inches from the calm waters, mesmerized by the persistence of the water gently sneaking its way into our dry quarters.
Finally, we decided to stuff our packs inside, tear down our cozy tent and make our way down the valley to drier pastures. The drizzle permeated everything. Anything left outside for 30 seconds was immediately subject to saturation. Including the three layers of pants I decided to wear on the hike back down the hill. The Patagonia long underwear, thermal ski pants and khaki capris were completely drenched 15 minutes into the hike. We barely crested the hill to traverse back down the rocky trail when I noticed the water seeping down my leg and pooling inside my leather hiking boots.
About 20 minutes in, my feet were swimming in two mini kiddie pools of leather shoes as I stumbled on the boulder-strewn, not to mention slippery, trail. The squish was frustrating for a long while until I realized, hey, at least I’m warm. And there’s a warm car and a dry pair of clothes waiting for me at the end. Sopping through the lush wildflowers, watching the fog roll through the stunning emerald valley and watching the puffs of my hot breath at a steady cadence was almost delightful. I realized, being wet isn’t all that terrible. It’s part of the experience of backpacking in the PNW. The lush terrain wouldn’t be quite so lush if the rains didn’t pursue their warpath through the mountains. I realized that, for one benefit there’s a trade-off, a yang for the yin. I’d gladly trade being dry for the tremendously gorgeous views any day.
Although, I think next time we’ll take a harder look at the weather report.