Editor’s Note: A version of this story originally appeared in The News-Review on December 20, 2015.
Through half-open and groggy eyes, I looked up to see the walls of our tent leaning dangerously overhead, the rainfly plastered to the tent’s thin mesh walls and the burnt orange tent poles straining to stay upright. Unzipping the side of my sleeping bag, I smacked the nearest wall and listened for the hissing vinyl sound of snow sliding down off the tent, followed by the soft thud of powder.
It began a few weeks back when a group of our friends, who had recently moved to the area from Colorado, decided to mark the first weekend of December in some Oregon snow near the northern base of Mt. Thielsen. The forecast was bleak for our three-season tent: 6 inches of overnight snow and wind gusts of nearly 55 mph.
“Sorry I couldn’t give you better news,” the meteorologists at the National Weather Service would say as I checked the reports. But with four different rotating work schedules aligning on rare occasions, we had to go.
Setting up in a parking lot
The four of us — Kate Wagoner, Rob Denton and Audrey Lavender — left Roseburg Friday afternoon after work and drove east along Highway 138 until the sun set and piles of snow started to line the road at around 5,000 feet. We pulled into the Diamond Lake Resort parking lot to ask where we could pitch our tent for the night before we disappeared into the wilderness Saturday morning. We were pointed in the direction of a snowed in and closed RV parking lot, where we could stash the car, a gold Toyota 4Runner named “Ralphie” after the University of Colorado’s buffalo mascot, who handled the fresh December snow with ease.
I yanked the tent out of my