June 16, 2013
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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