The original forecast wasn’t that bad – one night that would dip into the 20s and daytime highs in the 40s with clear skies and no chance of precipitation. Perfect camping and hiking weather.
But as we know, what we expect isn’t always what life delivers.
In this case, I think the computer that calculated the weather models had been hacked to try to cover up the fact that a mini polar vortex would be descending upon the North Georgia Mountains over Thanksgiving.
Possibly. Further study is needed.
Our usual pattern with camping is to wake up around sunrise, build a fire to make the all important coffee and then hit the hiking trails around 9 am. We had a feeling Thursday wasn’t going to be usual when we woke up to the sounds of blustery winds and the sharp shrapnel of sleet pelting the skin of the tent. That, plus the fact that the bottle of water inside the text was frozen, were our first signs that the forecast was not going to be our reality.
After we unzipped the tent, Tiger ran off into the frozen tundra to do his business and then returned to the shelter of the portico, where even a nest made of blankets could not keep him from shivering. Brock started the fire while I worked to prep breakfast. Our eggs and potatoes were runny that morning, as the sleet added significantly to the water content during cooking. We inhaled them before they could freeze.
Still unaware that the computer weather models were farcical, we consulted our apps and learned that the ominous clouds, gusting winds and frozen precipitation would exit stage left around 11. We decided to hole up in the tent until then before embarking on the shorter of our two planned hikes once the weather cleared. We burrowed back in our sleeping bags, tucked Tiger into his nest and turned on the electric heater while we read and played cards to pass the time.
As predicted, the skies cleared and the sleet assault abated. We donned our gear and set off on a four-mile hike through the Chattahoochee National Forest and around the base of Blood Mountain.
I felt like I was in an arena designed for The Hunger Games; as soon as we set foot on the trail, the clouds moved back in and the sleet began again in earnest. Still, it felt wonderful to be outside in the fresh air and to stretch our limbs cramped from our hideout in the tent. Even Tiger stopped shaking as he ran a few paces ahead of us, nose to the ground in search of Sasquatch.
By the time we had climbed up and around and back down, the weather had shifted again. The wind took on a nasty bite and even though it was not even 2 pm, the sky was quickly growing dim. We consulted the weather wizards again – the predicted high of 34 now looked like a Bahama summer. We would soon be looking at 20s. Low 20s.
If it was just us, we would simply add more layers to the outfits (we already looked like the kid from A Christmas Story) and more logs to the fire. But it wasn’t just us and our big-in-surface-area and sparse-in-body-hair pit bull was cold despite his jacket and his sheltered nest. Very cold. And there’s nothing more pitiful than a miserable and shaking 100 pound pit bull.
So we made the decision to make dinner early before seeking shelter yet again in the tent. I think the food in the cooler was warmer than the food outside. I’m not sure what the freeze point of an avocado is, but we found it. Once all of our bellies were full of warmish food, we retreated to the big house. Where, apart from a few frantic bladder runs, we spent the next 16 hours.
It could have been a horrible trip. We saw more of the inside of the tent than we did of the woods. We were cold and shivering much of the time, as the temperature inside the tent fell into the 30s. We were sore, our muscles cramping from holding awkward positions for hours on end. And our dog kept giving us evil looks like a sullen teenager.
But despite all of that, we had a great time. There were no grumbles. No complaints. It was an adventure to be enjoyed and time to be shared.
But most of all, it makes it wonderful to come home and makes us so grateful for the little things in life –
The coffee that stays warm for more than 60 seconds.
The toilet seats than don’t feel like they’re performing cryotherapy butt removal.
The toothpaste that isn’t frozen into an unusable brick and requires hot stone massage to even budge.
The bedroom that doesn’t make you dream of the North Pole or deep space with its frigid temperatures.
And the clothes, that once washed of their smoke and soot, can be worn again in single layers like a weight loss before and after advertisement.
Even Tiger looked as though he no longer took his favored sleeping spot for granted as he melted into the pillows with a contented grunt.
When we come home, we are always thankful for what we have.
When we drove home from the mountains yesterday, we passed miles of traffic queued the other direction for a large outlet mall. I just had to shake my head at the thousands of people lining up to buy more.
Because when it comes down to it, happiness is not about having what you want, it’s about wanting what you have.
And sometimes the best gift doesn’t come from the store. It comes in the form of a reminder to be thankful for what you already have around you.