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Steve Birdsall

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Lees Ferry Campground, Arizona

Part One... I Hate The Wind!

After leaving the Grand Canyon, my next stop was Lees Ferry Campground, still in Arizona. When I got there, I was a little underwhelmed. It was pretty much all gravel, although it did have picnic tables with wind screens at the tables, which I figured were really for shade. Most sites had a fire pit, and some had a metal “fence” that was to block wind where your tent was, which really depended on the wind direction. Almost all of them were falling apart and missing half their metal fence boards. I picked my campsite mostly because it had a nice supply of firewood left there by previous campers. Score one for Steve.

I got my tent up ok in the breeze, but it seems wind is my nemesis. Janie and I went off to bed even though the wind was steadily picking up. Presumably safe within the tent, I made some videos for Facebook as the tent shook and the wind howled. At that point it just seemed funny. Well, that changed as the wind got worse and I had to stand up inside my tent and hold it up on windward side. Eventually it began pushing me backwards so hard that I made the decision to try to open the door on the leeward side so that any air pushing in could get out. Hopefully that would make it easier to hold up. Still not good enough, though, I was really being pushed backwards hard and the wind was getting even stronger. I needed to get outside so I would stop sliding backwards on tent floor. Seriously, I was sliding backwards on the tent floor! The only way to get outside was to open the door on the windward side of the tent, but I didn’t know for sure if I would just be making a box kite to fly away! What I did know was that I was losing the fight from the inside. I had to get out. During a brief lull in the wind, I got it open and scrambled outside where I wound up hanging on for dear life for an hour and a half. My hands were sore from trying to grip the small poles for the doorway vestibules.

All the while, Janie was hiding under a chair and wool blanket. She would stick her head out and I would tell her to go back in her spot and lay down and luckily, she would. I knew she was scared to death, but there was no way to help her at that point other than to keep her covered so she wouldn’t be blown away. So, having both doors open was helping, but I still couldn’t let go of the tent. Occasionally there would be brief wind breaks, so I made the decision to try to move the truck between the wind and the tent. Easier said than done, as the breaks were unpredictable and sometimes very short and I could imagine getting in the truck just in time to see the tent – Janie and all – take flight.

Luckily, I got the truck started on the first try, then ran back to hold the tent up when I heard the wind rushing down the mountainside, giving me about a 5-second warning. The next problem was that there was barely room for the truck between my tent and a ravine, so I had to be really careful. I did NOT want to roll my truck into the ravine! My first approach was off and the second and third attempts failed because the wind breaks were too short. I finally said screw it, I’m going to run the risk as soon as the wind lets up. I finally got my shot, jumped in the truck, flipped on all my roof lights and bumper lights, making it brighter than daylight, four-wheeled over a few curbs and moved up between the ravine and tent, as close to the tent as I possibly could. I jockeyed the truck around a few times and was satisfied that the tent was safe. The guys next door were making progress on anchoring down their tent, so I crawled into bed with my terrified dog and a pretty nervous me!

After a few hours of lying awake, afraid to sleep, I heard a thundering roar coming down the mountain.  It sounded like a freight train heading straight for us or a fighter jet taking off, it was so loud. It slammed into my truck, wrapped around, under and over it and almost knocked the tent right off the face of this planet. It was short, but so violent I had no idea what to do. I sat bolt upright, got out of my sleeping bag and waited for more. A few minutes later I heard another one coming, just as loud. Horrified, all I could do was wait…… Boom! Same result. Unbelievable wind! Had I not moved the truck, my tent would have been thrown who knows where.

That last one was all, as if it’s violence signaled, “it’s over, no more wind.” Calm. Quiet. Outside, anyway. My nerves were so jangled that it took me a long time to settle. The next time Janie and I encounter wind, we’re BOTH hiding under the blankets!



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