Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Storm That Chased Us From Wyoming to South Dakota

Eastbound from the Wind River Range and Lander!

We stopped at Devil's Tower in eastern Wyoming.  Totally climbable!  And also 95 degrees with a high forecast for thunderstorms.  We looked but didn't touch.

nothing else around besides this huge tower
We also didn't touch the ground hogs, even though I wanted to squeeeeeeeze them because they are so CUTE!  (I'd feel differently if they were in my garden...)
A storm formed above Devil's Tower and chased us east for 200 miles.
really glad i'm not one of the climbers we saw on top of the tower
We drove past Mt. Rushmore, but it's really a huge tourist trap so this was as close as we got.
kind of lame
As we neared the Badlands, we could see the storm in our rear-view mirror.
ruh roh
We ate dinner in the car and set up our tent during a break in the rain.  Otherwise, we chilled out in the car, chatting at watching the lightening, before retiring to the tent.
it looks so pretty
like a painting

surely this storm will blow through quickly...  right?
At 2:00 a.m, all hell broke loose.

The sky lit up with a stream of paparazzi flashbulbs, bright enough to see the tents across the field.  I awoke to a constant screaming wind, interrupted with the drumroll of angry thunder.  The wind had changed direction - actually, it was coming from all directions - and it blew the side of the tent onto us, again and again.  The stakes holding the vestibule ripped out, and once those blew, the corners started going.  We tried to restake from inside the tent, because the only thing holding that tent to the earth was our body weight.

There was a violent, prolonged, intense wind to my side of the tent... and then silence, stillness, and near total darkness.  For 4 or 5 long seconds, we could hear the wind shrieking across the hills around us.  In our field, though, we could hear the crickets chirping.  Yes...  creepy.

And then, without warning or warm-up, a giant's hand squashed our tent like a mosquito.  The most violent and aggressive of sustained gusts hit the tent squarely on Dave's side.  He threw himself to the corner to hold it down, and I grabbed his back.  "This is getting scary."

No more screwing around: we needed to reinforce this tent, or we needed to get the hell out of South Dakota.  I made a mad dash to the car for extra stakes, rope, and a hammer.  I drove in stakes like my life depended on it (my sleeping bag sure did) while Dave sprawled like a starfish in the tent to keep it in place.  Bowlines slipped from my fingers onto the guylines like a pianist performing a sonata - thank goodness for practice.  Once the tent seemed like it wouldn't blow all the way to Minnesota, Dave joined me in his boxers.  We doubled the number of stakes and guylines holding the tent to the clay earth and hopped back inside, hoping for the best.

It was 3:30 a.m.

The worst was over.  It did continue to storm throughout the early morning hours, but without the violence of that storm cell.  We woke in the morning to distant thunder - still! - and a field largely vacated of tents.  Seems like the Double Rainbow was one of the proud few to survive the night.

tarptent double rainbow FOR THE WIN!
western south dakota: buffalo and thunderstorms
After the excitement of the night, the Badlands weren't terribly interesting.  The landscape reminded me a lot of the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon in Utah, just less impressive.
meh. insane electrical storms are way more exciting.
From South Dakota...  homeward bound!

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