Early this hiking season, my hubby Jason and I were on a hike with our small group and it began to rain.

And it kept raining.

Oh and did I mention it rained some more?

We shivered uncontrollably while we set up our tent and cooked dinner as realization set in that a combination of improper hydration and persistent bad weather had set the stage for early onset of hypothermia. We talked with our group leader and he told us the precautionary steps to help us warm up and avoid further risk.

It rained the rest of the night, temps dropped into the 30s, and when we woke in the early morning hours, we were drenched. Our sleeping bags were soaked and our gear at the foot of our tent (boots, socks, etc.) were floating in nearly 2 inches of water.

When we set up our tent earlier that day, what we failed to do was properly employ the rain fly – and it was touching the sides of our tent the entire night. Translation: we got rain INSIDE our tent…all night!

Over the course of the evening, we had had several conversations about whether or not we could make it work the next day. Up until the early morning hours when we felt that our sleeping bags were soaked…we thought we would be fine. Until we weren’t.

Around 4 am, we decided that we were going to turn back.

We packed up our wet gear and hiked 14 miles back to the trailhead where we started this journey.

While we were incredibly disappointed to turn back, we felt we were erring on the side of caution and were worried that if the chilly weather persisted, our gear wouldn’t dry out and we could be at even higher risk for exposure, etc.

So what did all of this teach us? For starters, we now set up our tent and make sure that if we need to use the rain fly, we put it on the tent and get it properly staked.

At a 30,000 foot overview of the situation, we are more careful in our assessments of what we might encounter on the trail. While we always look at weather, we more carefully assess and determine what our needs might be for that journey.

We’ve taken these experiences in our hiking adventures to be better prepared for future trips, to have open dialogues about real trial issues, and ultimately we have learned to be more understanding and compassionate with ourselves while we’re in the back country. And you know what? Mother Nature handed us our asses on this trip but we rallied back the following weekend by going on a 15-mile hike from Fallen Leaf Lake to Echo Lake.

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