Hooray, camping again at Lake Pueblo! I’ve been down here four times now–twice camping, twice hiking–and absolutely love the openness, the dryness, and the off-season quiet.
The first time I camped at Lake Pueblo, at a lovely site overlooking the lake, ended early because the winds came up so strong. I was afraid the tent was going to snap, so packed it in. Turns out that was a good thing, since an unexpected blizzard was roaring in.
This time? Stray shower, maybe a thunderstorm, said the forecast. Winds gusting to 20mph, said the forecast. That’s nothing, my darlings. I’ve tent-camped through Indiana thunderstorms strong enough to spawn tornadoes within a couple miles of my campsite. I’ve tent-camped in inch-an-hour rainfall. I’ve tent-camped in a desert windstorrm. So 20mph winds with maybe a little rain? I was not concerned.
So after a fantastic day that involved a lovely hike, proofreading 250 pages, and sausages roasted over an open fire for the pupper and I, I sat outside while the last of the fire burned down. The moonlight from the east was bright enough to wash most of the stars from the sky. Off to the west, I saw a couple lightening flashes in the distance. I took the moments to stash this-n-that in the tent or the Jeep (I don’t much like last-minute dashing when other options are available), stirred out the coals so they’d burn down faster, and got myself and Gambit settled in the tent.
It wasn’t fifteen minutes later that the first wind gust slammed the tent hard enough to knock a tent pole against my head. No warning, no preliminary breezes, nothing. Zero to whatever-speed in a single gust. I tried everything I knew to do, inside the tent and out, but lost the battle. For the first time in my camping experience, the wind was strong enough to yank one of the stakes out of the ground. And when one stake goes, the strain on all the others increases. In a minute, half the tent was levitating and the other half was considering the same.
Alas, this happened when Gambit and I were still inside the tent and–in the fashion of one with an overactive imagination–I envisioned my dog and I entangled in the tent, blown over the steep hillside, landing in the lake, and dragged down by the weight of the tent and everything in it. (That picture above? That’s the edge my tent was headed toward.) So I wrestled the tent flap open far enough to shove Gambit outside, thinking even if he ran off, he’d be safer anywhere but inside the smooshed tent, then got myself out too.
I remember finding the car keys and jamming them in my mouth. I remember yanking the poles out of the tent and folding them just enough to fit on the back seat. I remember dragging the tent halfway under the Jeep so I could lie on the ground (Did I mention the nigh-constant lightening, and the fact I was standing on a high point beside the lake?) and find by feel the valve that would deflate my mattress. Yeah, that might sound like a stupid thing to consider, but I couldn’t wrestle the mattress out of the tangled tent, and the tent and all its contents was going to take off if I let go. I remember stuffing the tent–along with the sleeping bag, mattress, clothes, and assorted stuff–into the back of the Jeep.
At some point, I had opened a door so Gambit could jump in the Jeep. I don’t remember doing so, but the poor pup was shaking on the front seat when I finally got in the car.
I guess I could have stuck around for awhile to see if the wind died down enough to risk setting the tent back up. I opted to head home instead. I didn’t know if a pole had snapped (It hadn’t. Near I can tell, one end of the pole yanked free of the pin.), or if the weather would get better or worse (I’d lost all connection on my phone), or what the state of everything inside the tent was, seeing as it was now all wadded up in the Jeep.
I drove home. Got there around midnight. It took over two hours this morn to sort out and untangle the mess I hauled out of the Jeep, but nothing is terrible or unfixable. It was just… messy.
I’m thinking that the next time I camp at Pueblo, I’ll choose one of the sites set back from the lake views, where junipers and gulches and some such will break the wind before it kills me. I’m thinking I can damn well drag a chair to one of those views during the day, and sleep in peace at night. I’m thinking I need to remember more about my desert camping youth than my Midwest camping middle years!