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Campsite Photo Trip - Summer 2012

Lightning Crashes

Greg enjoys a fireworks show, then experiences a show put on by Mother Nature:

The weather remained excellent on Wednesday and Thursday with highs in the mid 70’s and lows in the 50’s. My neighbors went into town on Wednesday and let me borrow their raft to paddle around the lake.

Lake-Wenatchee-Campsite Raft

Thursday night we all played Texas Hold’em. I eventually had the big stack but one gal never seemed to run out of chips. Her husband told me the next morning that he was sneaking into their RV to grab more chips and pass them to her when I was not looking. If you can’t trust fellow campers who can you trust?

I had finally found perfect weather. So what did I do? I left and headed into the perfect storm.

I headed east for a couple of hours to a small resort area called Crescent Bar, WA. It’s located about 30 miles east of Wenatchee on the Columbia River. You can see the trees on the tiny island in the middle of the photo below.


It was warmer there by about 10 degrees but not bad. That would change.

My Brother Mike would love this place. It is very similar to the Colorado River in Southern California where he takes his boat. There was a fireworks show planned for Saturday night sponsored by the local businesses so the place was packed.


The sign pretty much says it all. Here are some pictures.

CB-Beach-1 CB-Beach-2 CB-Marina-1 CB-Marina-2

To get from the marina to the beach area you must pass under a short bridge clearly posted with signs saying no jumping allowed.

CB-Jump-1 CB-Jump-2

Apparently the signs mean nothing. Lots of small businesses were open roadside for the holiday.


When I first arrived on Friday I set up camp at another Thousand Trails Campground. Ironically, the prime bluff top sites go to the tent campers. Yep, those big RV’s and trailers have to peek over our tents to see the river.


Here is the view from my campsite.

View-from-Campsite My-View

When I turn around I see this view.


Saturday morning was sunny and warm. I could tell it was going to be hot. I bought a larger fry pan to use on my new stove and whipped myself up a bacon cheeseburger for breakfast. Hey, I have not had one in months.

Bacon-Cooking Cheeseburger

Then I walked down to the marina area and took photos. The temp peaked around 100 degrees. I sat in the shade reading a book and looked forward to the fireworks.

They started around 10 pm and they were launched from a barge in the river. All of these photos below were shot from my campsite. Some of the RV crowd snuck into the tent area to get a prime view. That amused me.


The lights on the lower right are from boats on the river.

Fireworks-11 Fireworks-4 Fireworks-3 Fireworks-2 Fireworks-1

To photograph fireworks you need a tripod and to manually set your shutter speed to 2 seconds and manually set focus to infinity. Then you just wait for them to launch and push the shutter button.

Sunday morning was even warmer and rumors rippled through the campground that there might be thunderstorms that night. Anthony and his family who were tenting next to me decided to leave a day early. They had had enough of the heat. Good decision . I thought about leaving as well but I still had nights already paid for and wanted to clean my laundry. After which I sat beneath my reading tree and looked at the boats heading back from the gorge.

Reading-Tree Tree-View-of-Gorge Boats-1

Late afternoon brought distant clouds and humidity. And more heat. The next morning while cleaning up in the aftermath another camper told me that his outdoor thermometer peaked at almost 115 degrees. The sun finally went down but it didn’t seem to cool off.

Sunset-1 Sunset-2

Mother Nature must have watched the fireworks from the night before because she brought a show of her own to show how it is done. As darkness fell, the sky lit up. It was almost like flipping a light switch. It went black, white, black, white. I grabbed my camera and tripod to get some pictures.

Lightning-7 Lightning-2

The intensity increased and it became even brighter. This is nighttime!

Lightning-4 Lightning-1

I was thoroughly enjoying the show when I was suddenly whacked on the head. I have no hair up there to protect and it hurt. I was thinking “What the…” when I was hit again. The air filled with nickel sized hailstones so I gathered my gear and bolted for my car. The hailstorm eventually slowed down and then stopped. I headed for my tent, checked that all my guy lines were tight, and went to bed. I remember thinking “That was interesting” as I lay my head on the pillow. That moment was the calm before the storm. Shortly all hell was about to break loose.

It started gently with a light pattering of raindrops on the tent fly. The wind became stronger and the rain picked up in intensity. I was comfortable and the sound was soothing more than anything else. The wind became more insistent. My tent fly sounded like the sails on a boat catching a fresh breeze. Then wham, a tremendous gust of wind blew out a seam on the tent fly. It flopped over to the side, no longer covering my tent. The skies unleashed a solid wall of water.

I ran out of my tent to try and get the fly back on but it was too damaged. The rain poured through the mesh top of my tent. Within minutes there was several inches of water on the tent floor soaking everything inside. My sleeping pad and bag and my pillows. The deluge lasted for about 30 minutes and then tapered off. I lay in soaking wet clothes on top of a soaking wet sleeping bag with my head on a soaking wet pillow. That stuff can dry out I thought. Maybe I can fix the fly somehow. It’s not so bad. The wind came back with a vengeance.

It takes certain atmospheric and geological conditions to produce a localized storm like this one. I was in a river canyon with the cool water of the Columbia flowing by me. Mix in the extreme temperature and the passing thunderstorm and the cliff wall and you end up with what happened next.

Sustained swirling winds of around 40 mph mixed with gusts over 60 mph slammed into my tent. Since it was securely staked down, something had to give. My tent poles. I spent the next few hours laying on my back with my arms and feet extended to stop the roof of my tent from hitting me in the face. The wind stopped shortly before dawn. I never slept.

If the wind had just been from one direction it might have been ok. The aluminum poles became over stressed from the whipsaw action of the wind and one of them snapped. The other looks like a curly spaghetti noodle. The mesh roof ripped at two hanging points and the door zipper doesn’t do it’s job anymore.

Snapped-Pole Torn-Mesh-2 Torn-Mesh-1

My tent was not this interesting shape before.


People emerged from their RV’s and trailers to assess the damage. They used ladders to check their roofs for hail damage. They searched for objects blown away by the wind.

I draped my saturated bedding over several picnic tables. It started getting hot again and at least the stuff was half dry.

Soaked-Bedding Soaked-Mattress

Dry enough to get me through the night. So I took off, heading south 100 miles to Yakima and then west 100 miles to Randle, WA. Back to my kind of camping.

White-Pass Mt-Rainier-1 Mt-Rainier-2

That is Mt. Rainier wearing a cloud cap.

I stayed at a Forest Service campground along the Cispus River. started a fire and made enough repairs with duct tape to set up my tent.

Cispus-Campsite Cispus-Campfire Tweaked-Tent Pole-Repair Mesh-Repair-1 Mesh-Repair-2 Broken-Zipper

I still cannot fully zip the door closed and I have no fly so I hoped that it wouldn’t rain and no critters would come calling. Neither happened. Tuesday morning I drove west another 50 miles to a Thousand Trails campground I stayed at for 2 nights after escaping the rain from Olympic National Park. It is 80 degrees and sunny as I write this and my gear is drying out. Luckily I had packed away my camp kitchen and screen house right around sundown on Sunday in anticipation of leaving a day early. It would have been much worse otherwise.

Regards, Park Ranger


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