PAT NEAL: Blue-tarp camping misery

THERE’S NOTHING QUITE like the sound of rain on the roof, unless you have a leaky roof.

And the roof is a chunk of leaky blue plastic.

After years of making fun of rainy day blue-tarp campers it was bound to happen: a miserable camping karma hit too awful for words.

I blame myself.

It’s all just a reflection of one’s perception of enjoyment of the wilderness.

Some people enjoy bird watching.

Observing our feathered friends in their pristine natural habitat is a rewarding pastime for those who appreciate the wonders of nature.

Others enjoy looking at trees.

The Olympic Peninsula offers the opportunity to observe the largest specimens of cedar, fir, spruce and hemlock until they burn up or blow down.

Personally, I previously enjoyed driving through a flooded campground after a couple inches of rain has fallen to observe man’s efforts to survive the rigors of the rain forest — little knowing the sadistic pleasure of observing a soggy mass of human misery would come back to haunt me in a veiled invitation to go on a last backpacking trip of summer.

Who knew summer would be over and autumn would arrive early like a bucket of water dumped on your head?

Backpacking itself is a crude form of strangulation that would be considered torture by the Hague if it was not for the fact that it is self-inflicted.

Of course, the No. 1 rule of backpacking is to check the weather report before embarking on your journey.

Unless you forget.

Or figure it’s still summer so how bad can it get?

This is my story.

A real woodsman doesn’t need a weather man.

Often by observing the formation of clouds and direction of the wind it’s entirely possible to come up with a weather forecast that is as erroneous as the weather man’s with their satellite imagery and Doppler radar.

Still, even if the weather looks fair in the evening it’s a good idea to set up a tent to prepare for whatever weather might happen in the night.

That was no problem.

My partner and I each had a section of blue plastic tarp, one for the roof and one for the floor of a spacious lean-to that opened to the blaze of a cheery campfire whose heat and light would reflect to the rear of the shelter, in theory.

Constructing this elegant wilderness structure was simply a matter of tying the blue plastic tarp to some handy trees.

I had just finished the task when I noticed something disturbing.

Looking up through the blue plastic tarp I saw a thousand points of light coming through the plastic like an entire galaxy of leaky little holes.

That tarp had more holes in it than one of my fish stories.

What was my buddy thinking?

Bringing a piece of junk like that on a camping trip where it’s liable to rain?

Just lucky I had brought another tarp for the floor.

I stretched it out with a couple of bungee cords and sat back to view the masterpiece.

It was even worse than the first tarp I tried.

So I took it down and put the first one back up.

By then it had started drizzling a penetrating mist.

I found some duct tape which, along with the bungee cord, is one of the most important items you’ll need on any camping trip.

The duct tape wouldn’t stick to the wet blue plastic.

The wind hit.

The rain came down in sheets that threatened to put the fire out.

It was blue-tarp camping misery at its finest.

_________

Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal wildlife@gmail.com.

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