Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Weather Can Turn on a Dime in the Mountains

I've advised that sentiment many times to those who head up into the mountains to do any kind of outdoor activity . . . let alone nude hiking.  Weather can change drastically within minutes in mountainous terrain such as the Cascades.

Such was the case this last Saturday (June 23rd).  Though there had been plenty of warning about a storm front coming in, the early afternoon was actually very pleasant and sunny . . . perfect weather to shuck the clothes and enjoy the sunshine.  I was on a tight weekly schedule leaving Saturday as the only day I could get some necessary repairs done at Scenic Hot Springs.  The sun was out shining bright and warm . . . the building of dark nimbus clouds far off over the Everett area in our so-called, famous Convection Zone.  Yeah, there were nasty looking clouds out there to the west but above us . . . calm clear sky and lots of sunshine.  What would you do if you were starving for some nude time?  Yeah . . . shuck the clothes.  But would you be prepared if the weather did suddenly change for the worse . . . capturing you in its' grip far from safety?

It's a 45 minute hike up to the springs from where I normally park.  By the time I got onto the powerline road the winds had picked up real nasty (I estimate 50-60 mph sustained gusts coming from the west in the funnel of the clearcut).  No big deal.  The wind is to my back and I have my backpack on.  The wind is actually helping me get up the slope!

Halfway up the rain starts . . . sideways.  The sun disappears and all of a sudden dark clouds have capped the entire Skykomish River Valley . . . streaming like a banshee through the saddle of Stevens Pass.  Enough.  The temperature is dropping fast and that is a serious warning sign of severe weather coming at me soon.

Okay, it's not avant garde high fashion but it keeps the winds and rain off of me.
Into the backpack where I carry an emergency rain suit.  It's cheap, light weight, occupies little space in my pack . . . and does the job of keeping the rain off my nude body as well as diminishing the cooling effects of the gusting winds.  It even protects me from the pelting of hail that peppered the area a few minutes later . . . just before I made it to the treeline beyond the trailhead and some shelter under the evergreen canopy.  There I waited out the worst of the sudden storm. 

Thunder and lightning were soon livening up the festivities and I considered options for protecting myself should lightning strike nearby . . . hopefully not directly (the BPA Towers made better targets and should shunt ground currents away from where I was.).  Standing out here I'm reminded of a line from one of the Star Trek NG episodes where microscopic hive-collective, sulfur-based aliens refer to human beings as nothing more than an "ugly bags of mostly water" (and make that 'salty' water).  Our bodies make excellent conductors . . . far better than the air around us or the ground beneath our feet.  And with that sobering thought, I move my feet together just so as not to provide an opportune path for an errant surge of ground current up one leg and down the other from the next bolt of lightning to hit nearby.

The last thing I expected to see were people even stupider than me for hiking into this kind of weather.  At the height of the unzippering of those clouds above, here come six teenagers (four boys and two girls) turning onto the hot springs trail.  Not a one of them wore any rain gear, let alone jackets.  They were dressed in cotton teeshirts and shorts . . . some in spandex . . . all of them with wet, dripping towels draped ineffectively over their heads.  They were soaked to the bone and it was actually a pitiful sight to see.  And they were trespassing.

So I stepped out from my relatively dry position and stopped them.  Yeah, the rain suit looks ridiculous . . . especially a translucent, see-thru rain suit on a nude person.  But I was relatively warm and dry, and they . . . clothed in branded teeshirts and such, were soaking wet and miserable.  I'm sure they planned to warm up in the hot spring except they didn't know where the hot springs were and were guessing from directions someone gave them.  Unfortunately, when I challenged them and informed them they were on private property, they got mouthy and I simply turned them around to hike all the way back down the mountainside in the continuing rain.

Personally, I would have felt warmer being out completely nude in that weather rather than enduring sopping wet cotton sapping all the heat from my body.

They were clothed and miserable . . . I was, well, essentially nude and warm and dry.  Is there a moral to this recounting?  Sure is.  Don't assume.  Even a large trash bag carried in your pack would make a very effective emergency poncho if needed. Weather does turn on a dime in the mountains.  Go prepared.

P.S., I did follow them back down at a distance to make sure none of them fell into cold distress.  They were an unhappy bunch driving off . . . but at least now they were under some shelter.  And maybe a little bit wiser.

Related Posts with Thumbnails