Family traditions can be something you enjoy, or maybe just tolerate. One of our family traditions is eating Swedish Potato Sausage (Potatis Korv) during the Christmas holidays. I, myself, do not enjoy this culinary tradition, however my husband does. One family tradition we both enjoy is pitching our tent somewhere away from the city and watching the Perseid Meteor shower each August.
One year we packed up our tent and our other camping equipment — and our dog, Bandita — in the back of our little car and headed up into the Colorado mountains for a weekend of falling star watching. We drove from Denver to the top of Vail pass, then took the dirt road that brought us into the Shrine Pass area. We pitched our tent, set up camp, fixed dinner and settled back in our reclined lounge chairs to watch the show.
However, a summer storm moved in quickly and brought clouds and rain showers. We folded up our chairs and stashed everything under a tarp before retreating to the relative dryness of our tent. Now this was many years ago, and our nice little tent was waterproof – to an extent. If the outside of the tent was wet and you touched anywhere on the dry inside wall, it would immediately start to leak. Having learned from previous experience, we huddled in the middle of this two-person tent and avoided contact with the walls.
So, there we were – instead of relaxing in our comfy lounge chairs watching a sky filled with meteors, we were huddled in the center of a pretty small tent. We tried playing cards by the light of a propane lantern, but our hunched-over positions became uncomfortable (and my husband was winning every hand!) so we decided just to call it a night and we crawled into our sleeping bags, carefully staying away from the tent walls.
We fell asleep to the sound of raindrops pounding on our tent – and an adorable snoring noise that indicated Bandita was sound asleep in the bottom of my sleeping bag. After a couple of hours of dozing off and on, I realized the sound of rain on the tent has stopped. In anticipation that the sky had cleared, and we still might see some falling stars, I located the flashlight and wriggled my way to the door of the tent to peak out.
I was right – the rain had stopped.
Now it was snowing like crazy. Big wet snowflakes were falling thick and fast and the ground was already covered with an inch or two of the white stuff. I roused my husband from his sleep, and together we watched the snow falling for just a short time, before we decided we should probably pack things up and get out of there.
We didn’t have a four-wheel drive vehicle – just a small passenger car with good, but not great, tread on the tires and low ground clearance. With the wet snow falling as quickly as it was, we were afraid we might find ourselves stuck if we waited until morning. We put on our rain ponchos, stashed a still sleepy Bandita into the front seat of the car, and began to break down our camp. The tarp had kept a lot of things dry, but the tent was soggy, and we just folded it up and shoved in on top of our other gear in the back of the car. Everything was wet, including us. Even Bandita was wet – she had jumped out of the car to “help” us pack things up.
We slipped and slid a bit on the dirt road back up Shrine Pass, but made it safely to the highway at the top of Vail pass. There the road was fairly clear, the black surface had retained heat from the previous day, and we headed back toward Denver. Between the still-falling snow and the moisture from our damp tent and the smell of a wet dog, we didn’t drive far before we stopped at a convenience store for coffee and snacks and some fresh air and a bathroom break.
Inside the convenience store we chatted with the clerk about the snow and he told us the snow was expected to last all night and well into the next day. While we were exchanging stories of snow storms we had seen, a woman in shorts and sandals and a sleeveless top created a storm of her own when she barged into the store.
“What the hell is this!”, she demanded to know. “It’s the middle of August and it’s f***ing snowing! This can’t be happening to me. I can’t believe this!”
Turned out she had just driven from California on her way to Denver to start a new chapter in her life. And that chapter had not included a snow storm in the middle of summer. We and the store clerk tried to reassure her that, while not unheard of, it usually did not snow in August. She didn’t seem convinced, and I often wondered if she settled in Denver, or went back to sunny California.
Not long after this Perseid Meteor Shower excursion, we bought a new tent. This one was slightly larger and actually waterproof. The next August we saw an incredible display of falling stars and enjoyed the additional space in our new tent. If you are in need of a new tent, check out this website. There you will find tents in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and weather-resistance.
And, this August if you are watching the sky for falling stars, think of us and our Shrine Pass adventure.