Good Morning from our Mountain

In all our years of camping and backpacking (ok, so there haven't been too many years of backpacking) I've wanted to camp at the top of a mountain on one of the longest days of the year. 

Pitching a tent on the highest point isn't the smartest move in stormy conditions but I've always wanted to "sleep at the top" on a clear summer night. And take photos of the sun in the early morning. 

This is our last summer, as far as we know, living on the side of this mountain; at the base of a ski hill to be exact.

I figured now is my chance to camp out at the top. The top of the ski hill is a steady hour long hike from our house, totally doable for a quick overnighter without a lot of fuss.

No meal prep, no driving. Just packing up tents, sleeping bags, some warm layers. Then hiking to the top after supper and coming down again before breakfast. In and out. Or, up and down. 

That was the plan.

Last night, we all started out for the top but Céline had to turn around before the tough climb (ski runs are steep!) because she really wasn't feeling well. All the kids are a little sick this week with head colds. Maybe a seasonal allergy, a reaction to all the trees where we live?

In the gloaming, Damien and Brienne powered up ahead. Brienne outpacing us all as usual.

When Brienne sets her mind to something she is unstoppable. I'm so happy she's on my team. Damien set up our three person Hilleberg tent while Laurent and I scrambled our way up the broken shale and scrubby grass. Laurent, his usual empathetic self, was concerned about Céline's comfort while simultaneously encouraging me along the way. I'm so happy he's on my team. 

It was dark when we reached the top. 

I thought we might light a fire but it was already too late and all we wanted by this point was to get cozy in our bags.

Damien returned down the ski run, with a headlamp lighting the way, to spend the night with Céline at home. Laurent, Brienne and I set up our beds and hunkered down, and I read aloud from my current trail read. When I clicked off the headlamp and stopped reading that's when we really noticed the wind. And we noticed something else too, lightning in the distance. 

I got out of the tent to check the conditions and I could see the lightning was far inland. The forecast was to be clear tonight and the wind was fiercely driving away the clouds that scudded over head.

I knew the lightning wasn't going to threaten us but the wind was making us nervous.

It was dark. Damien was at home, probably watching a movie with Céline, and I was the parent-in-charge. I've never been the parent-in-change when camping out before.  

I had forgotten how windy the top of the mountain is. All winter that wind whips us cold as we get off the chair lift. And I could see now that all summer the wind must also blow. No wonder there were no bugs.  

The wind was not a soft rustle through the trees; a sound that usually comforts me in a tent, but a disconcerting moan. And the tent, sturdy as it was (Damien assures me our tent is made for these conditions) was vibrating a good deal. 

We chickened out. At the top of the ski hill there is a shelter. It remains unlocked all year. In the winter a wood stove keeps it warm and and provides heat to thaw skiers' frozen fingers and toes. The shelter even has electricity, lights and a baseboard heater for emergencies I guess. 

When I first suggested we camp out at the top Damien thought we could just sleep in this shelter. But no, I wanted the tent. I love sleeping in a tent. Usually. 

Not last night. 

Dressed in our long undies we ran from the tent to the safety of the shelter, being careful not to drag our pads and sleeping bags on the rocks. 

With everything moved, we settled in, for the second time, to go to sleep. 

It was a fitful sleep to say the least. Brienne wasn't feeling well (but she was determined to get to the top) and she, like me, was a little freaked out by the wind.

I wanted to watch the sunrise. So I slept lightly, nestled between a restless Brienne and sound-asleep Laurent, for a few hours until my body woke with the first light at 3 am. I tiptoed out of the shelter to check the light. Too dark to take any photos without a tripod. And still oh so windy. Chilled, I climbed back into bed.

I got up forty-five minutes later to greet the day from the top of the observation tower, wishing I brought another layer for my legs. My wool long underwear and shorts didn't cut it in the wind. On the way back into the shelter I photographed the still sleeping towns along the bay.

Back to bed for some more fretful sleep (was this when I dreamed about the bear at the door?) waking up this time at 4:30 am to see the sun's ray hitting the tops of the mountains. Shivering in my pouffie, I watched the sun creep across the bay. After 10 minutes of this it was back to my bag. 

I thought I might get up one more time to capture the sun when it crested the horizon. But no, I slept. Soundly this time. And finally so did Brienne. 

At 8 am I got up, ate some chocolate/nut bars (homemade Eatmores) I had prepared yesterday for this very purpose, and packed up the tent. My first time ever taking down the tent by myself, piece of cake. Even with the wind. I'm guessing the wind always blows up at the top. 

We stuffed our sleeping bags in our packs, rolled up our mats, used the outhouse (how handy), put on our wind breakers (have I mentioned the wind yet?) and walked back home. 

Pancakes for everyone. Orange juice and oregano oil for the kids (they hate that stuff). Coffee for me.

Good morning from our mountain. 

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  • Sarah M

    Sarah M on June 16, 2013, 8:43 p.m.

    I think it feels wonderful to cross off a 'bucket list' item, as this seemed to be one of yours. I try to write a list of things I'd like to intentionally do, no matter how small, silly, hard or easy they might be (they mostly border on fun because who wants 'hard' as a motivator, right?) each year. I can't even remember the last time I was bored. Restless? Yes. Bored, no. This helps me learn new skills or say "I've done that!" with things I've always wanted to do. 

     Even though the night was a bit rough, I think you'll remember that trip to the top fondly, especially with a morning mountain sunrise, and the challenge of being the camper parent-in-charge. Did your kids get up and join you for the sunrise and go back to bed, too?

    Sarah M


    • renee

      renee on June 17, 2013, 12:07 p.m.

      Laurent was a sound sleeper but Brienne got up with me once and another time she awoke to aske me if I should be out of bed taking pictures(smile).

      I don't keep a bucket list but this was something that would have been on it if I did.


  • kyndale

    kyndale on June 17, 2013, 12:16 a.m.

    It sounds like you gained some knowledge and confindence.  It's all becoming more do-able.  I am impressed with your fortitude!  What lovely pictures too!  xoxo Kyndale


  • Mindy

    Mindy on June 17, 2013, 2:23 p.m.

    Oregano oil! A fellow user...I've not attempted it with my daughter yet. How to you administer it to your kids? I had a recent bout with allergy-induced sinus mess (which is rare for me - heavy pollen here in VA). Amazing the difference it makes...


    • renee

      renee on June 17, 2013, 2:41 p.m.

      I don't administer it so much to the kids as say "if you want to feel better take some of this". They are old enough now that I let just them decide if they want to take it or not. We've only used oregano oil, sparingly, over the past year. My mom introduced it to me. But's it's horrible tasting stuff!

      I'm not sure how I would administer this to the kids if they were little. Lots of honey??


      • Kyndale

        Kyndale on June 17, 2013, 2:49 p.m.

        You can also use a therapeutic grade oregano oil and massage into the bottom of your kids feet. Beware though. You may crave pizza afterwards. 


  • Misti

    Misti on June 19, 2013, 1:27 p.m.

    That's an awesome little adventure! I'm a bit jealous...I probably would have wimped out too.

    when y'all get to Max Patch Bald on the AT, if it isn't terribly or there isn't a storm---you must camp up top! Sunset  and sunrise is amazing!!! A few of our fellow hikers ended up cowboying it as it got a bit windy in the night, but we kept our tent up, listening to it flap the entire time. 



    • renee

      renee on June 19, 2013, 1:39 p.m.

      Max Patch Bald - what state? I don't have an easy search function in my Thru-Hiker's Companion.

      Thanks for the tip and keep them coming Misti!


      • Misti

        Misti on June 19, 2013, 2:49 p.m.

        North Carolina, a day's hike outside of the Smokies. There are other bald's in the south you could camp on too, but none so glorious as that one! 


  • jean

    jean on June 22, 2013, 11:11 a.m.

    Oregano! the most wonderful remedy for cold, sinus, infection of any kind, I take it daily in a mouth full of water, it stops "whatever" in its tracks. Like that cold remedy advertisement.."it tastes horrible but it works"

    Thanks Renee, for taking us on your trip with you, I enjoyed it.



  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on June 25, 2013, 12:49 a.m.

    You're awesome! I am not such a great camper alone with the kids (I have nightmares of bears too!). I can imagine how you felt up there! You must have felt pretty proud and great when you came down! By the way, I still can't pick a RSS feed for your blog on my blog roll (Blogger), so I only see your weekly posts on your Saturday e-mail... and read them all at once!


    • renee

      renee on June 25, 2013, 2:46 a.m.

      Damien said he fixed that so I'm not sure why it's not working. Maybe your browser isn't updated?? I read blogs in chunks these days also. two weeks worth at a time, which means I do a lot of skimming!


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