My dad and I have a tradition of going to Algonquin Park for the better part of a week to camp, canoe, sit on rocks and joy sunsets, eat burgers and dehydrated meals, and invariably, get rained on. Every. Single. Year.
At this point, we are rain camping veterans. We’ve got a whole system, tested through trial and error.
Three years ago, we replaced our beaten-up, duct-taped tent with a very waterproof one. That old tent lived out its last days in turbulence. We were on a little peninsula in Algonquin that year, so got hit by the storm from every direction. Our poor old tent was at a 45-degree angle and it was so cold that we brought our propane cooking stove into the tent with us to keep warm. I know, I know, Darwin was sitting there, fingers tapping together calling us to him.
Before our first trip with the new tent, we tested to make sure it was waterproof. Thank god.
Our first night out two years ago was one of the craziest storms I’ve witnessed, maybe because we were right underneath it covered with nothing but a couple of layers of really waterproof fabric. It was a deluge with thunder and lightening. The lightening must have struck the lake right beside us. The lightening and thunder were simultaneous, and the ground underneath us shook with the sound of it. My dad and I exchanged nervous laughter and wide eyes.
But we were dry, somehow.
This year, our paddle into Algonquin was beautiful and sunny. We thought maybe we would get lucky since our trip was a month earlier than normal. It rained that night, but was clear by morning.
The next day, we managed to snag a solid half-day of sunshine. We paddled and portaged to our new campsite and paddled right up to a mama moose and her baby. Yes, Canadians get as excited about moose as everyone else. Mama moose couldn’t have cared less about us, and we were quite close. Closer than this. We wanted to have hands free to paddle away just in case she became territorial.
We spent the rest of the day reading and mulling about the little area of our campsite. My book took a decidedly unfortunate tumble into the lake. Perhaps the book would have been fine, had the clouds, and rain, not rolled in that evening.
We thought we had chosen a nice flat spot, but apparently not. Once the rain really set it, a puddle of water started creeping up towards that dreaded 6-inch line where the tent is no longer so waterproof. Like true Waldorf fashion (the hippie elementary school I went to), we had built a wall of pine needles around the tent to block the water, but it was rising too high. So I went out to fix it. In retrospect, I should have put on my bathing suit and taken off my shoes at my dad’s suggestion, but it was just so darn cold.
With a peg from the tent, I dug a trench in the dirt to the cliff just beside us. I washed the mud off my hands in the rain, because it was raining that hard. Of course, my pants and shoes were soaked.
We spent that day reading and writing in the tent. The covers slid off the spine of my soggy book and I had to turn the pages with both hands.
The next day, we managed to score a few hours’ respite from the rain. It was even sunny for an hour or so. We tore apart our campsite to let our possessions dry and headed out for a paddle down the lake.
Heading back to our campsite, we were racing two storms. Right in front of us were dark, ominous clouds heading our way, rumbling distant thunder. The wind was at our back, pushing lower, equally ominous clouds towards our campsite.
The storm clouds overlapped right on top of us as we made our dehydrated dinner, but the rain hadn’t come yet. The thunder had. We sat underneath the rumbling sky for our dinner and dessert and tea afterwards.
And then it rained. A lot. We went out to dig trenches to the cliff again and fix the fly of our tent. It kept raining.
By the time we woke up the next morning, it was still raining. By then our fly had resisted as much water as it possibly could and our belongings underneath were damp or fully wet.
My dad and I looked at each other with a face that I think we both knew. How long do we stick this out? We had never been rained out of a camping trip before, but we had also never gotten this much rain before. We pride ourselves in our ability to tough out rough weather while camping, but this was a whole new level of wet.
We got halfway through breakfast and realized that everything we had was wet. So we threw in our soggy towels and packed up shop.
Our three-hour paddle back to the car, including a portage on very wet wooden planks, was a deluge. We put our tarp over our belongings between us in the canoe to keep them as dry as possible and just paddled. I sang songs from The Hobbit in the mist and we passed an unlucky couple that was heading out into the park in this cold rain.
It was the first time the woman had ever gone camping.
“I don’t see what all the fuss is about,” she said as she pulled on her rain jacket and zipped it up as tight as it could go. “I don’t see why people do this every year.”
We did our best to assure her that it’s worth it. We tried to tell her that once you get beautiful weather, it makes the whole thing worth it. But honestly, it must be worth it anyway, because my dad and I haven’t gotten good weather for a long time, and we still go. Every single year.