The Saga of the Big Blown Away Tent
My family and I went camping this weekend with some friends at Walker's Point on Lake Madison. After losing our tent in the morning storm, it will be one of the most memorable camping trips I'll ever experience.
Friday was hot as balls, humidity was hell, and we packed up to camp. Knowing that while Friday night would be uncomfortable, it would be decent Saturday after some likely storms. No sweat, right! Actually lots of sweat, figuratively and literally.
It cooled off enough Friday night that sleeping in a tent was more than tolerable. I even woke up around 3:00 am a little chilled. I woke up again around 7:00 am to hear the wind had arrived. Checking my phone, there was a severe thunderstorm warning issued with 70 mph winds and a tent is not where you want to be when that is going on.
We got the kids up, still in their pajamas, and raced the 30 feet to the car. In that short distance we were soaked. The kids, obviously shocked and the violence of the wind and rain, were all a little dumbstruck, a little sad, or scared. I just kept up a positive tone in my voice, told them about the time my parents hauled me and my brother out of a tent in a thunderstorm. That seemed to mellow them out.
Since we had all just woke up, we all needed to use the bathroom so we drove over to the shower building, got more wet running in there, then got back in the car and drove back to our campsite as the storm raged.
Once we returned to the loop of campsites I looked for and found our tent still standing proudly against the storm. By this point I was confident that the tent would hold. The wind was tugging mightily at the tie-downs, but the stakes were over a foot long and curved to grab at the Earth as they were pulled.
We were almost back to our site and noticed the incredible waves on Lake Madison. White caps were everywhere and the waves looked to be a couple feet high. I looked back to the tent and only saw the two blue tarps where our tent had been. (In the photo below you can see the tent crumpled up against the bush behind a picnic table.)
At that point I floored it, spotting our tent (actually my father's expensive outfitter wall tent) rolling across the grass. I pulled into the camp pad, mashed the brakes, jumped out with my flip-flops on and sprinted toward the tent which had blown about 100 feet away and was approaching other campsites. My wife was hot on my heels, clad in tennis shoes that I was jealous of.
The good news was that all of our stuff stayed in the tent and was just getting tumbled like it was in a dryer and not much water got in. The bad news was the whole thing weighed probably 100 pounds and was being pushed by high winds with nothing but Crystal and me to keep it from flying. For a moment I considered dragging it over to the nearby camper, but knowing they probably wouldn't appreciate that, I looked around for other options. A large bush was just behind us to our right so I hollered over the wind and rain to Crystal that we should try to get it against the bush and it should stay put. She had the smart idea to drab a picnic table over to it to anchor it down a little better.
Once the rain quit and only the wind remained, we drove over to our friends camper and had coffee and a hot breakfast and tried to warm up. Crystal and I looked like we had showered in our clothes. The kids were in much better shape. We laughed a lot about the adventure.
After the winds calmed the we went outside to survey the damage and put the tent back up. There was no damage to the tent at all, nor was there any damage to anything inside the tent, which included much of our clothing, a box fan that was previously plugged in, three air mattresses, and a cot. There was a little bit of water inside from the door being unzipped by the power cord, but that was easily dried up. We got everything done and then went to the lake for the afternoon and had a great time the rest of the weekend.
It turned out that the tent was tough as nails. The ground, which was soft before the deluge, gave up the upwind stakes and caused the tent to collapse as a chain reaction of stakes pulled loose or ropes came loose.
It wasn't fun running across the grass to chase our tent down on Saturday morning, but it will be a lot of fun telling the story of it happening for the rest of my life.