The hundred year wind storm
September 7th, 2020
Just North of Trout Lake, WA - Pacific Crest Trail
Written by: Flip-Flop
We spent three zero days in Trout Lake, while Caveman recovered from giardia (a nasty parasite caused by contaminated food or water). Finally the time came for us to pack up and hit the trail. On our ride back, we were informed by a local that a wind storm was coming and to watch for blown down trees.
So we got out of the truck and started walking in hopes of finding a good campsite before the storm. The first section of trail was a previous forest fire area, and we knew with the winds coming it wasn’t the best place to stop and set up camp. So we hiked 19 miles and made camp in a large open valley next to water, and away from trees just as the wind started to pick up.
This was partially a mistake.
We set up our tents in a valley that protected us from the wind, but what we didn’t think about was the type of ground we were on. It was all sand. At first we were thrilled to camp on sand because it’s far more comfortable than roots and rocks, but we would soon be reminded that wind and sand are not a good mix.
The sun went down and the wind picked up. A large gust of wind pulled out one of our tent stakes, another reason why sand wasn’t the best choice. Thankfully we were around some rocks so we ran out, braved the wind, and used the rocks to hold down our tent. This worked, so we said goodnight and fell asleep.
When we woke up to the sound of a fallen tree nearby we noticed we were covered in dust; INSIDE OUR TENT! The sand was so fine that it went through the screen of our tent and had covered everything inside. The next few hours were awful. I remember listening to the wind roll through the trees, followed by waves of sand that would lift up and pound the walls of our tent. The sound was so scary, and kept us wide awake. I think I only slept maybe two hours that night, and it took everything I had to stay calm and wait out the storm.
We considered relocating in the middle of the night, but had no guarantee that we would find a better camp spot without potentially hiking miles. It was completely dark out, and walking through the wind with falling trees around us wasn’t the best idea, so we stayed put.
Finally morning came and we packed up, sand was EVERYWHERE, and our moods were on the brink! I can’t tell you how bad we all wanted a shower. The sand was in our hair, in our ears, and our clothes, but there was no escaping it until we got to the next town. We had to press on.
So with hardly any sleep, and sand everywhere, we started walking again with only one goal; find another camp spot. So that’s what we did. We walked 5ish miles to the next best camp spot, set up on grass away from trees, next to water and fell asleep for 6 hours in the sunshine. It was perfect.
It wasn’t until we got cell service that we found out the winds were over 75mph and the last time a storm came through that strong was over one hundred years ago. It’s funny though, because it’s experiences like these that “make” a thru-hike, and I wouldn’t change anything if we were put in the situation again… well other than camping ON SAND.
Want to hear more??
Check out our Trail Tales where we share stories from our thru-hikes; like why we decided to hike during the pandemic, or how we handled our first rattlesnake encounter!