My friend McLean used to have this tent that we called the "Gigatent" because that was the brand name. It was not a great tent. Perhaps the first time we used it we didn't notice that it was not a great tent because it did not rain.
Later, its true colors came out. On the penultimate trip we took with the Gigatent, McLean and I went with our friend Michael to Lost Maples state park. It was beautiful, and as as you might expect, full of maples. I would love to show you a photograph, but at the moment those photos are locked on a version of iPhoto that doesn't work.
The three of us went for a nice hike in the afternoon. It was cloudy and a little dark, which made it feel later than it was. Near the end of our hike, a fog had settled. I remember us walking through a fog filled canyon and thinking how it was the perfect place for the headless horseman to ride out of the fog.
Anyway, not long after we got back to camp, it started raining, so we went to bed early, and then it rained even harder. McLean and I remember that night because we woke often and water was pooling along all edges of the tent. Michael slept soundly in the middle.
From that day on, we knew the Gigatent's true nature. It was corrupt. It wouldn't hesitate to betray us. It was not a great tent. Yet the Gigatent survived, and we continued to take it camping. The only possible reason we did that is frugality. We used the Gigatent, but we didn't like it.
I have this vivid memory of how the final trip we took with the Gigatent began. We were driving to Garner state park and on these Texas highways there were thousands of yellow butterflies flying across the highway for miles. It was strangely happy and sad. Butterflies in general have a sense of joy about them, but many of them were being obliterated by the cars on the highway, including ours. But what are you supposed to do, pull over?
I think we were planning to camp for two nights. We had had a great day, and I don't remember it seeming stormy. It had been cloudy most of the day, but seemingly harmless clouds. Inside the tent, our conversation gave way to sleeping.
I don't remember the exact time, but I got up around midnight or 1am to go get some field recordings of insects and a nearby stream. Everything still seemed calm, but an uneasy sort of calm, a tense calm. Probably because the wind was ruining the recordings I was trying to make, I went back to the tent.
Now the wind was picking up. There would still be calm, and then gust would blow through. Wind through the trees is an excellent sound, and one that is difficult to record because usually the same wind that is making the great sound is ruining the recording by blowing across the microphone.
I got back into the tent to take "shelter" from the wind, which was only growing in its intensity. I heard and tried to un-hear a few raindrops. I was still awake from walking around, but McLean was unaware of the escalating situation.
Soon the gusts of wind were becoming so violent that McLean awoke. Then we both knew that we were about to face a violent storm, and we could not have been more ill equipped to handle it.
Did the Gigatent trap us? Did it lure us into a place of danger only to betray us? Or was it just as helpless as we were? Did the Gigatent want to be a better tent? Was there malice in its heart, or merely incompetency? These are the questions that haunt us.
From the flapping outside we knew our rainfly had broken free from some of its stakes. I went outside to check on it, and tried to attach it again to the stakes. I don't remember what happened. It might have completely blown away. The stakes for the tent were coming undone as well. Like Sisyphus I put them back in.
It wasn't pouring, just sprinkling, but the wind was merciless. I went back into the tent, and we tried to go back to sleep, but that was impossible. The stakes came out again. The wind, which is seemed like had been blowing as hard as it could, was howling.
Outside the tent, fumbling with the stakes, I looked at what our lives had become. The tent was being crushed by the wind in all directions, at least one corner in the air. I was safer outside the tent than inside it! I still remember looking at the imploding tent and it was basically just the shape of McLean, as if it was just a blanket. He was groaning, mumbling, cursing.
It was clear we could not stay, so in the wind and the rain we packed up all our stuff (dumped it in the car). This was probably around 3am. After everything of value was in the car, we went back for the tent. I remember McLean holding the wreckage of the tent in his arms before he cast it into the dumpster.
For some reason, I was feeling light hearted in the midst of this trial, and I felt the desire to document, so I took a photograph of us right before he threw the tent into the dumpster. Seeing that photograph made me want to document this story.
Free of the Gigatent, we set off for Austin. I remember we drove straight into the sunrise, and we were listening to Taylor Swift's RED album, and I felt a lightness of heart.