Back in August my girlfriend, dog, and myself were hiking in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. It is a wilderness area so it had a totally different feel to it than a National Park. We went into Titcomb Basin, which is gorgeous might I add. It was about a dozen miles from the car and there was not a single moment that wasn’t amazing.
Once we got into the basin, we were at a relatively high altitude (~10,000 ft). Trees were extremely sparse, there was a lot of exposed rock with short brush growing on it and completely surrounded by mountain lakes, rolling hills, and tall peaks. By the 5th day we had a big storm roll in that had my girlfriend and myself on edge. It was raining hard all day and we could always hear distant thunder. Eventually the lightning and thunder came within the basin and really frightened us. We decided to hunker down in the tent because we thought it would be worse to try and pack everything up and hike a few miles out of the basin in the middle of a storm. I had placed our tent in a location specifically considering lightning. There just isn’t very many good options in the basin.
We’re laying there on our pads and sleeping bags with our dog, Hubba Hubba being rattled hard by pouring rain and heavy gusts of wind, conversation deafening thunder, when all of a sudden we hear a loud SNAP and see an arc of electricity travel between the zipper of the inner tent and the tip of the cross pole of the Hubba Hubba. Within a fraction of a second it followed by an extremely loud BOOM. I nearly shit myself. My girlfriend and I were terrified in every sense of the word. And the dog, who doesn’t have an issue with fireworks, was shaking.
After getting a chance to step out of the tent, we inspected the area and found a bush within 40 yards that was recently charred black and probably from a lightning strike.
Lightning is scary and can really catch you off-guard. Even when you do you your best to check the boxes of lightning preparedness, sometimes you might not be as protected as you plan. While I have never neglected lightning when backpacking, it never really impacted me until this experience. Make sure you take the time to realize that those survival stories you hear can really happen to anyone, even yourself.