I am a slow learner. As one piece of evidence to support this claim, I can share with you how long it took me to learn to carry a proper rain jacket while hiking. This probably seems obvious to most, but I spent all of my early hiking years trying desperately to carry as little as possible, cramming only what I deemed the most necessary items into my tiny trail running pack. Rain jackets take up space, and thus I never carried them…
…that is, until a series of rainy encounters that escalated in awfulness so unbearable that I determined enough was enough. What’s that expression? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me? Well, I allowed myself to become a waterlogged, freezing-cold shell of my former self THREE times before realizing that it’s just a safer bet to carry a damn jacket.
1.Floe Lake Thunderstorm: In my defense, I’d like to say that the weather was stunningly perfect when I started this hike. Also, I was too new to living in the Rockies to understand that a clear start to the day means nothing for how it will end. Never mind that the Kootenays are a homing beacon for afternoon thunderstorms…At any rate, I hiked through hours of shoulder-high weeds and scrub and hated every moment of the hike, thinking the day could get no worse, only to be struck by a torrential downpour (and thunder, and lightening) on my descent. Because of dry trail conditions, deep puddles formed quickly and my shoes became waterlogged nightmares. The rest of me didn’t fare much better. It took the entire 1.5 hour drive home with the heat on full to find any semblance of warmth.
2. Maligne Pass Downpour: I have no defense for this one. The weather was questionable at best and my father, who is far wiser than me, strongly suggested I take my jacket with me. I didn’t want to carry it and I suffered epic weather karma as a result. The rain started around 8 or 9 km into an uninspiring forest hike. We had another 2 km or so to the pass, but the clouds looked ominously dark and we feared lightening in the exposed meadow. So we opted to turn around, at which point the downpour began and never ended. I had water running down my body underneath my clothes. Again, it was a long drive home and, since my parents had dressed appropriately, they didn’t need to turn the heat to full. I was miserable. They tried to improve my warmth and mental state with hot chocolate, but let me tell you that hot chocolate from the Sunwapta Falls gift shop will not accomplish that feat.
3. Wasootch Ridge Hail Storm: Once again, my father warned me to take a rain jacket and once again skies looked decidedly unfriendly. Once again, and reinforcing my claim of being a slow learner, I forged ahead sans jacket. As it turns out, we were also walking into the eye of the storm. Wasootch Ridge is a fully exposed ridge top. Once the clouds lowered and the winds picked up, I knew we were in for it. I walked faster in hopes of outracing the storm but you cannot out run weather. Not only was there torrential rain, but freezing cold winds then turned it into hail. I was soaked, pummeled with tiny pellets and by the time we returned to the car I could no longer feel my hands.
Lesson learned the hard way (and in triplicate): pack a damn rain jacket.
when i learned–always pack a rain jacket (slow to learn–could write about maligne, wasootch ridge, floe lake?