8:30a ~ Morning Pages ~ Bastendorf Beach, Coos Bay, OR
I’ve never seen a tent fold in half on itself before, let alone from the inside.
I thought I had scored this amazing campsite right on the beach. I had planned on just sleeping in my car until I met another set of campers with a tent pitched. I checked the forecast again – 55% change of periods of showers, 53* overnight low, feels like 43*. Eh, it’s a lot of work to put the tent up just for one night. So I decided to pass.
Justice and I walked along the beach, and I saw lots of places where fire rings had been thrown together, where it was obvious people had made camp. I became enamoured by the possibility. I’ve never camped on the beach before!
It started getting dark around 6p, so I headed inside. I enjoyed a brief conversation with Edward, a dinner of cheese, jerky and crackers, and the fatigue caught up with me. I was drifting off to sleep by 9p.
I woke to the sound of rain a couple of times during the night. I smiled, as I like the sound of rain, but I also realized the tent would be wet when I packed it up in the morning. Oh well, that’s part of camping, I said to myself. I woke a third time to heavier rain and the sound of wind, and I felt more alert. I had only just learned how to attach the rain fly, and I had neglected to velcro the fly to the tent rods. I listened to the rain and the wind kicking up. I wished I had secured the velcro when I had noticed it.
I clicked on my battery-powered lantern. Then I watched the west tent wall begin to bow. Uh-oh. Maybe I should secure the velcro now… Nah, it will hold.
[2019: What followed was both frightening and exciting. I knew I wasn’t in any real danger, but I had drug all of my belongings into the tent that night in order to re-organize them. I had my books, my laptop, and important legal documents, not to mention every stitch of clothing I owned and my bedding. The possibility of having all of this saturated was akin to a waking nightmare, and I sprang into action.
I wrote a full accounting of this experience in my first book, GO: Sacred Solo Travel for Women, which became an international bestseller on Amazon. Excerpt below… 🙂
The mess in the back of my car keeps messing with my head. I have been four days on the road, and it is clear that I needed a better system for organizing my supplies. I am tired of digging around every time I need something. Life on the road is all about efficiency of time and space. I have figured out what I use most, and I want those things at my fingertips. I want the rest of it neatly out of my way.
I arrive on day five at Bastendorf Beach, where tent camping is permitted right on the shore. The day is calm and beautiful, and the overnight forecast calls for periods of light rain (a 55 percent chance). I scope out a site just beyond the dunes to avoid high tide, and I make camp. It’s still early afternoon with plenty of daylight, feeling like a perfect opportunity to re-organize. I move all my belongings into the tent, including my laptop and my books. I spend three hours unpacking and re-packing, according to my new road wisdom. Like does not always belong with like. Frequency of use is the new codex. I’m delighted by my achievement and line my bags in a neat row around the perimeter of my tent. This is going to make my life soooo much easier.
My work behind me, Justice and I enjoy a barefoot walk on the beach at sunset. The scene is serene, the sky painted in pastels and the sun dipping behind the gently lapping waves. Victorian doctors used to prescribe sea air as a cure for all sorts of ailments. In traditional Chinese medicine, the water element is crucial to balancing the body and creating physical harmony. Modern research reveals that bodies of water can produce a mildly meditative state that can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken.
Reading by lantern in my tent this evening, I notice I have neglected to Velcro the rainfly to my tent poles. Today is the first time I have installed the rainfly, and I just shrug it off, remembering the forecast and feeling proud that I had actually been able to toss the fly up and over the massive tent by myself. The rainfly is tied down to the stakes, I reason, and that will be sufficient.
I snuggle down with Justice in my bag, fill my gratitude rock with joy and fall asleep smiling. I wake once in the dark to a light pattering on the vinyl above. The light rain has arrived. The sound is so lovely, and I fall asleep smiling again, so thankful to be here.
A new sound wakes me next. I feel disoriented. What’s going on? It is still pitch black out, I can’t see a thing, and a new kind of howling fills the air. Recognition floods my mind as I come fully into consciousness. The sky has erupted into a downpour, and it is the wind that is howling at me. Oh no. I have never camped in a storm before, and I have no idea how my tent will hold up. Anxiety grips me. My battery-powered lantern is still hanging from the loop overhead, and I jump up immediately, flail my hand above my head in hopes of running into it, find it finally, and click it on.
The tent sides are shaking under the force of the wind, the west side of my tent is bowing inward, and the rainfly is flapping violently. I imagine the wind ripping it right off, leaving all my belongings exposed to the rain. Shoot! I have to Velcro that fly down!
I throw on my raincoat and zip out the door of my tent. Justice runs out with me into the dark. Shoot! There is no way to control her right now. I hope she stays close. I wipe my hair out of my face and tuck it behind my ears under the hood of my jacket.
I still can’t see a thing. I feel across my tent and run my hands along the guy-lines of my rainfly to the stakes below. The stakes are being tugged up slightly every time the wind catches the fly from below. I feel along the seams under the flapping fly and find a Velcro strip. I pull the fly down tight and wrap the Velcro strip around the tent pole. I move to the next and do the same, feeling my way to each one by one, around the tent body, until each strip of Velcro has been fastened down to its pole. Now deal with the loose stakes.
With the door zipped open, the wind is rushing into the tent and blowing out the body, lifting the roof up and sucking it back down. I feel for the guy-lines again, pull them taut, and shove the stakes back into the sand, one by one around the tent. I don’t know if they will hold in this wind. The ground must be saturated by now. What am I going to do? Think, Sonya. Think.
I have bungee cords! I fly back into the light of the tent and tear open the bag that I think holds the bungee cords. I am hoping to secure the tent to something sturdier, like, a tree? I rummage through the bag but cannot find the cords. I pull everything out of the bag, and still no cords appear. Where the hell are my bungees? What the hell am I going to do?
I look around to figure out which bag is actually holding my bungee cords. I notice the wind is now blowing the west side of the tent into itself, literally. From inside, it looks like the tent is collapsing in half. I didn’t know a tent could fold itself in half. I didn’t know they are designed to do so during a major wind event. All I know is that my stuff is under there. I dive to the rescue under the bowing tent body, and I drag everything out to the east side of the tent.
The lantern rocks and falls from its loop above. I reach for it and pull it into my lap. Light is my only ally right now. The ceiling of the tent bends low and kisses my face under the power of the wind. My eyes grow wide at the sight of it, and I lean backward in horror, turning my cheek against it. It is crazy surreal, like the tent is trying to kiss me goodbye. Justice noses herself into my lap and under my hand, and I pet her, eyes wide, heart pounding. It’s just wind and rain, Sonya. I try to calm myself so Justice will stay calm, too. I watch the heaving tent body, listen to the pouring rain, and wait for the storm to slow, praying.
The print version of my book will be available soon! To order a signed copy, simply send me an email with the subject line “GO Book, Signed” to Sequoia1011@gmail.com.