Sometimes the best thing is bad weather. Why?
I’ll admit it, I love traveling because it gives me stories to tell. A story is something I can tell my friends, my family, a stranger and no matter how it goes I really enjoy telling them.
Going through a difficult or uncomfortable situation brings people closer. The weather, in particular, has the power to bond people in wonderful and unexpected ways. It is one of those things that is universal and affects all people, breaking down barriers and leaving the opportunity to make something good of it. Now, that doesn’t change the fact that if you offered me sunny and 80 degrees everyday I wouldn’t take it, BUT much good can come from bad weather.
When my two best friends and I set out on a 2 week backpacking trip across the country to Zion we had done all the planning we could. We checked what the weather usually was at this time of the year, I had checked the 10 day weather forecast everyday starting 2 monthes before, just “trying to gauge the weather patterns”, and the weather leading up to our departure was absolutely ideal. So what happened when we got out on the road? A freak cold front and snow storm of course! I had camped all my life but I had done very little cold camping before. Brrr…
Every night I put my 4 layers of shirts on, 2 pairs of wool socks, my beanie, and then curled into the fetal position inside my sleeping bag. I’d like you to guess how much that helped me stay warm? If you happened to guess “not at all” you would be so entirely right. Every night turned into a bone-chilling, teeth-chattering, adventure which consisted of one of my friend Matt and I swapping strategies that “seemed like they were helping” while our other friend slumbered at ease.
These were probably some of the most sleepless nights I’ve had in my life but every morning we laughed about our attempts the night before to stay warm, creating new techniques and ideas that we thought would keep is warm as we hiked. Besides literally bringing us closer together (how close is too close for your face to be to your sleeping friend?) we bonded over the cold and gave us some great stories to tell. It also made every day trekking in the sun all the more enjoyable and appreciated.The experience was something completely new for me and I’m glad I took up the challenge. Maybe next time I’ll just bring 6 layers of clothes though.
Tongariro Crossing – Mount Doom and the Wind Monster
Mordor. Mt. Doom. Mount Ngauruhoe. Call it what you want… I was climbing that bad boy. How could you pass up the opportunity to see where the One Ring was forged? As we arrived into Tongariro a severe wind storm was passing through. We spoke to the local Visitor Center and were strongly advised not to hike it, since there would be “no assistance if stranded” because of the severe wind warnings. We were only going to be in town for 2 days and decided that we would wait to see if conditions improved. The next morning we woke up early to find out the conditions were worse, there were 70 mph winds on the ground! We would be 7,516 ft in the sky! Thankfully, with a little help and encouragement from our insane hostel owner we set off.
As we got on the trail we saw a group of German kids camped out at the trail head in a lean-to. They weren’t going to attempt the trek because it was too dangerous. I was worried for a second that my friends would be scared off by this. Instead, we rallied and forged ahead, leaning into the wind just to make progress. The further we got and the higher we climbed the scarier it got. The wind whipped and any misplaced step was perilous. There was no going back. In the end, we reached the peak ridge which was approximately 5 feet across with steep drop offs to either side, and climbed on our hands and knees. The wind was far too strong to stand up and the loose volcanic rock made every step an unstable one.
Kaituna River White Water Rafting – Rainy Days and Flooded Ways
One disclaimer that is integral to this story: I can’t fucking swim. Yea, I know. Call me whatever brand of idiot you want, I just can’t seem to learn.
This brings me to my next subject, white water rafting. This is something I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t because of my inability to swim. I was convinced by my friends that it really wasn’t that bad and that the boats almost never tip. It was just a glorified float down the river. Yea. Right.
When we finally arrived at the Kaituna River we were worried we wouldn’t be able to go ahead and raft. It had been downpouring for the last couple of days and the rivers were raging. This did not help my anxiety.
I want to highlight a few moments that followed our arrival that almost made me shit my pants if you don’t mind:
- As we arrived, the receptionist said “We need to check if we are still doing this today. It seems that all the other rafting companies have pulled out today because of the dangerous waters” Fantastic!
- Taking the shuttle to the river, we are given a quick primer on what to do, “Everyone can swim right, so doncha worry, sweet as.” (“sweet as” or “as” is apparently used to accentuate or intensify an expression. A lesson learned after a girl walked off our shuttle and the driver yelled “sweet as”, only to be given a dirty look, followed by a helpful explanation) Back to the point…this guy just expected that we could all swim. Not so my friend. I approached the guy about this small problem of mine after our ride and was given a nervous laugh followed with a confident punch to my shoulder “you’ll be fine fella”
- Oh! Kaituna River features the highest commercially rafted waterfall (7 meters) in the world. I am ignorant and didn’t know that ahead of time.
So is testing the wrath of the cold, wind, and water always a worthy decision, I can’t say for everyone. All I know is that those times when weather seemed like they would ruin our plans and make us miserable, they have resulted in memories I look back on very fondly. I don’t regret any of these experiences and there is no doubt the inclement weather only intensified my memories of them which I will never forget.