Lost in the Eye of a Storm Last Night

I like running in the rain. Not at first, but after I get going and warm up, it’s exhilarating. Plus the smell of the air and the negative ions.

   So I set out last night around 6PM, heading south along the coastal cliffs from Muir Beach. I had on my one layer of Maxit tights and a rain parka tied around my waist. The storm was just starting.

    By the time I got up to my lookout spot (a point of land projecting out into the ocean that feels very much like the bow of a ship), the wind in front of the storm was blowing at maybe 30-40 mph, and I put on the parka and faced into it, taking in the wind energy and the sweet smell of fresh storm air, leaning into the storm and it holding me up. The lights of San Francisco across the water.

   As I headed up on a fire road inland, the rain started. It got foggy and pretty soon it was like being in a tunnel, darkness all around and a six-foot circle of misty light in front of me. These small owls (actually, I’ve been told they’re not owls, but related to whippoorwills) fluttered up from the sides of the road as I ascended; I think they wait for mice to cross the road.

   It was getting darker and rainier. I got to the top and started back down. I could hardly see. I was sending good thoughts to my Black Diamond headlamp, because I hadn’t brought any backup light, and if I lost my light in this gloom, I’d be out there all night.

   The road looked a little strange, but I kept going. After about a half hour I came to a paved road. Shit!

I’d taken a completely wrong turn and ended up in Tennessee Valley, miles away from where I should have been. Dumb fuck! I didn’t know any of the trails out there, so took the one most familiar to me, Miwolk Trail (thank you, Park Service, for marking this trail!), and started climbing back up into the hills. I was getting cold, I was lost, and trying not to panic. I was on Miwolk Trail, but not sure I was going in the right direction. No one knew where I was, and if I lost my light, or got too far from my starting point, I’d have to figure out how to survive (and deal with hyperthermia), not to speak of boredom, for 10 hours on a cold, rainy, windy night—until dawn. Oh yes.

   It was so dark and foggy that I had no sense of direction. Keep positive, don’t panic. I slowed down from slow running to walking, getting ready for the long haul. At one point, going through eucalyptus trees with the wind howling, I was saying please branches, don’t fall (as they are wont to do).

   After maybe another hour, I came across a trail sign that said Middle Path Green Gulch, and rejoiced; I knew where I was. Although I’d been on this trail dozens of times, it seemed interminable as I descended. It wasn’t over until it was over, I still needed light to get anywhere, and I used my hands and hood to shelter the headlamp from raindrops.

   Now that the scare was over, I noticed that the rain drops falling in front of the headlamp looked like  tendrils of sparkling diamonds.

   When I got my bedraggled, muddy self back to the pub, two of my friends were just setting out in rain gear to try to find me, and were also about to call the search and rescue guys. I’d been out there three hours. Pretty soon one of them handed me a beer as I was struggling out of wet clothes in the now down pouring rain. Boy, was I happy!

   Sometimes I feel like there’s someone or some entity looking over my shoulder, and rescuing me from my own foolishness. Like some benevolent uncles. Maybe the Lords of Karma. And yes, yes, I’ll be more careful in the future.

   The aftermath: the beer, the camaraderie in the pub, Shirley and Lee singing “Let The Good Times Roll” on the way home in my truck, rain pelting down (and me out of it!),  a hot bath, and blue skies this morning. Cmon baby let the good times roll.


About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

12 Responses to Lost in the Eye of a Storm Last Night

  1. Lloyd…
    we'd sure hate to mislay our blogger of note, maybe you might consider putting something like this on your Christmas list…

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  2. Nice to know you got out of that one intact. I move slower on my wanders but the chill of a rough night can bite deeply too so I have an understanding of your emotions. Hope you don't mind me sharing this tale on twitter.

  3. Funny I just read this, I just rode home from (about 3km from town) on my back country road in the pitch black, thundering rain storm at 2 degC….I was cold, couldn't see worth a damn, going as fast as I dared trying to stay warm but not too fast that I can't see far enough ahead. Got home with a big smile on my face, my wife said what's up? I said, it doesn't take much for a normal bike ride to get really fun around these parts, one part pitch black, the other part torrential freezing rain – thats some good miniepic adventure close to home!

    I had two headlamps on still hard to see and a third pointed backwards. Those BD spots are very easy to break, so far I've broken 2 (one battery cover closure, the other just happened the tilt mechanism snapped, so it's all drooopy). They will replace them, yes, but in the meantime I'm stuck on a dark windy wet road…yeah thanks guys!

    Craig in rainy bc.

  4. Ah…. I can see from the posts after the first one…that I made a HUGE mistake in that suggestion…GRIN.

    I understand, now, after reading successive posts, much of the exhuberance and thrill of these outings may result from the getting lost and ensuing efforts of finding one's OWN way. (GPS finder NOT needed..grin)

  5. You left a perfectly good pub after dark to go running in the cold rain? Usually when you read a scenario like this it's resulting from some old guy with Alzheimer's or maybe just had a few too many:)

    I can't remember the last time I had a misadventure like that, sure hope I have a few more that turn out as well as yours.

  6. Anonymous,
    If I were getting really out there, like in the Sierras, I'd get a Garmin, but you're right in yr. 2nd comment, I'd rather wing it. Just be more careful. My life is overfull of technology as it is. Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

  7. Jeezus, I love you, Lloyd! You are ALIVE! You are setting the damn bar so damn high for us "youngsters" (I'm 47 ..) to live up to! And then I read about THIS 100-year-old woman artist .. all I can say is .. I can't WAIT to grow up and be old and be HER .. and be YOU! By the way, what kind of beer DID you drink when you got back? God, I love beer!

    100 years young ..


  8. As an avid hiker myself, I've been in the same spot, so I get where you are coming from. The times in the pub and on the way home sound warm, cozy and full of friendship and love…and that's what it's all about.

    Glad you are okay. Stay warm.

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