Returning to Our Temperate Rain Forest
How quickly we replaced the warm humid climate of Costa Rica’s tropical rain forest with the cold humid climate of the Olympic Peninsula’s temperate rain forest. Same green colors and lush foliage but about 40 degrees difference in temperatures.
Each has a uniqueness and special charm to it but to be honest, as we were slogging through the mud and up the next hill, I was missing Costa Rica. Not that I begrudge the Pacific Northwest, it’s just that this January has been cold, wet, and windy. When I say wet, I mean consecutive days in a roll record-breaking wet. Not to mention snow in all the wrong places.
Surveys Conducted in Winter
That said, once we make it our survey beach, it felt like coming home to an old friend. Temperates were chilly and the wind made it seem more so, but we both enjoyed discovering the changes that the current season had imposed on our beach.
Our particular beach, Toleak Beach, is one of the more remote and difficult beaches to get to. It’s quite a hike just to get to the starting point of our survey section. A couple of miles through rough terrain, having to cross multiple drainages and then navigate Scott’s Bluff. This isn’t the norm for COASST beach surveys so don’t let that put you off if you’re thinking of volunteering, but it’s the very remoteness and physical challenge of this particular beach that drew us to it.
Winter makes it all the more challenging. We have a small window of low tide which will give us access to the entire length of the survey. Combine that with the short winter days and it can be difficult to find that window during daylight hours. Then add in our winter storms and it really becomes a crapshoot.
More than once we’ve made the grueling hike down to the beach expecting to have a survey in the bag only to find the storm surge and extra high low tide closing off the beach entirely. Nothing left to do but have a snack and turn around to tackle the hike out.
To add insult to injury is often it’s too cold, wet and windy to have a comfortable break to fuel up on lunch and hot coffee. Stop moving during winter storms and hyperthermia can become a real issue. But doing the hike in, survey, and hike out can be both physically demanding and a spirit crusher.
Bothy Bag to the Rescue
I dug out some kit from my kayak gear that seems to have solved that last issue; the bothy bag. I use to carry it when I was kayaking guiding. I was introduced to it during one of my BCU training weekends. Apparently, it’s a bit of kit that is used by the mountaineering group as an emergency shelter but adopted by the kayak group as well.
Basically it’s a nylon igloo that you can drape over your party (they come in different sizes, mine is a 4 man bag). A couple of hiking poles keeps it off your head, but it provides instance shelter from the wind and rain. Your body heat will quickly make the interior pleasantly toasty. Add a blow-up cushion to sit on and you’re all set.
To be honest, I’m embarrassed that it took me this long to remember this be of ingenious kit, but all is forgiven with Theresa since she now can look forward to warm, comfortable breaks.