Rain. Our personal kryptonite of joy. Our personal Achilles Heel of happiness. Our personal frailty of hiking prowess. Rain. It is essential to the growth of the ecosystems with which we travel through, yet detrimental to our inner peace. We become akin to a wet cat, constantly shaking our fur, squinting our eyes in frustration, and whining and meowing aggressively to the skies thinking maybe if we meow loud enough the weather will change from hearing our ferocious roars! Yet, we have not yet been able to harness the right key to sing to the clouds the tune of an anti-rain dance, so instead we persist ahead a grumpy wet cat drenched in moisture. As we walk, hike, and mutter our way down trail, we lick our proverbial wounds and hold hope. Hope that soon the sun will arrive, and soon we can begin the party that trumps all parties, the Drying Out Party!
Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
There is a special type of joy for hikers when we are graced with the opportunity to dry out our gear as well as our souls. After a day of rain, two days, and in nightmarish scenarios a full week of rain. Every step you are reminded of the dampness that surrounds your body. Every time you stop to eat, you begin shivering as the water saps away any heat reserves formed through forward momentum. Every time you make camp, you are excited for the rest, but quickly the excitement turns to disappointment as you crawl into the moist prison of your own making. Comfortable becomes a figment of your imagination, a word that no longer holds any meaning.
Yes, being uncomfortable is part of a thru-hike, and we have accepted that. Yet, if you even strip away the comfort aspect of drenched gear, depending on terrain and weather patterns you can even begin to experience danger due to rain. Back in 2020, when we embarked on our Great Divide Trail thru-hike, we had believed we had experienced the dark depths of rain. We were but infants ignorant in the world of weather. We were incredibly unlucky as we experienced multiple week long stints of rain. Which in itself is uncomfortable, but then couple that with complete cloud cover and overcast skies, we never had the opportunity to dry out any of our gear. The discomfort of putting on soaking wet gear day in and day out in frigid temperatures was less than favorable. We were never warm. We were never dry. This quickly sucked away any reserves of warmth that we could store for the upcoming day. This lead to discomfort in most steps and in extreme circumstances quicker descents into hypothermic conditions. It cannot be overstated how much it played a role into every step, every thought, every decision. A seemingly common occurrence such as rain, had drastically changed our hike.
Yet, when that sun does finally arrive, the joy that overwhelms the entirety of our bodies is a feeling that never can be replicated. The sun promises comfort while still being physically exhausted, the sun promises a mental relief as our mind once again opens its petals like a flower, the sun promises a reprieve of suffering if but for a moment, a hour, a day. When you find a sun patch after hours, days, or even weeks of rain, do not let it pass you by! We have made this mistake before, to consumed by miles to time ratios, and confident it would last until we were ready to take a break. Seize the opportunity, because it may not last. Take the time to have a Drying Out Party!
Can't say it enough, this is our happy place!
What is a Drying Out Party? Well first let us tackle the easier aspect of it, the physical aspect. When you find a patch of sun strong enough and consistent enough it is time to drop your burden as the sopping wet pack squelches upon the ground. Time is of the essence, so quickly you explode all of your inner contents of your pack outward, and dry literally everything. The tent finds a sun patch, the tent fly, the sleeping bag, the food bag, the electronics bag, the no longer insulated puffy jacket, the ironically never dry rain jacket, the socks, the shoes, anything that can be put in the sun is placed with an almost holy like reverence as you hope with all your hope soon things will be dry. As you take stock of every item you own being bathed in the glorious sunshine, now is the time you can rest, and weep. Weep unabashed and freely those tears of happiness that have been building for longer than you can remember. Weep for the moments behind you, and weep for the moments ahead. Weep for now you can once again truly feel.
Now let us try and tackle the intangible part of a Drying Out Party. The feelings, the emotions, the moments that lead up to it and then revel inside of it. As we stated early, when you are wet for hours, days, and sometimes weeks, it is an all consuming feeling. You wake, you walk, you sleep, never knowing the sweet embrace of warmth against your skin. So, when there becomes an opportunity to escape the suffering your mind begins to thaw. The clenched resolve that you needed to continue forward through the wet begins to loosen, the fist of your mind begins to slowly allow thoughts and feelings once again inside, you once again begin to feel human. As the sun bathes your face, exposed skin, and gear, the metaphor remains, you being to weep. Perhaps the weeping is just moisture evaporating out of your body... at least that is what we like to tell ourselves. Yet, physically or mentally weeping is the only metaphor we know with which to describe these feelings. It literally feels like you are emerging once again from your internal shell that was necessary to build to fight the onslaught of suck that was thrown your way. For us, there is no deeper and purer emotion of joy and happiness that can be experienced. The burden you have carried internally is laid down alongside your physical gear, and it too begins to evaporate. You are fully within the Drying Out Party!
Let us release you from the metaphoric jargon we have been preaching and simply tell you, we do not like rain. We do not like rain. We do not like rain. If we say it one more time, will you understand? We do not like rain. We said it once more, so in case the message wasn't clear it would now become indisputable. Call us a fair weather hiker, call us a grumpy wet feline, call us what you will, moisture that falls from the sky is indeed our kryptonite.
After our 2020 GDT hike, we even became symptomatic when experiencing rain. No matter if it was summer, if it was warm, if it was but the beginning of a quick afternoon shower, we began to experience deep unshakable emotions to rain. We began to experience primal fear, unease, and we actually would begin to panic. We would seek escape as our body and mind began to become crippled once again with worry. For the longest time if we even saw an hour or two of rain on the forecast we would automatically begin trying to plan a way to avoid it. Yes, many people would chose not to hike in the rain, yet this was an unhealthy response from events that may or may not have traumatized us slightly. It may sound like an exaggeration, it may sound like a complaint, yet it was very real as our body and mind would respond to the perceived threat of rain. It literally would paralyze and immobilize our mind inside of fear. We do not like rain.
We do not like rain.
It took a full year to break outside of these harsher responses to rain, yet we still have distrust and wariness when it comes to precipitation. We still respectfully fear it, but no longer become incapacitated within its grasp. Our hiking year of 2022 is filled with many dry deserts. Is this coincidence or is our mind still programmed to seek avoidance in every choice? We love the desert truly, but are we now seeking the desert for the passion or the promise of peace? We began trying to describe a Drying Out Party, and instead were once again drawn back into the clutches of our fears. Even this post has become a metaphor for our mind as it shows how it is still consumed by the prospect of rain. We do not like rain.
To Many Blue Skies Ahead,