The black clouds had been swirling above me for at least an hour before the thunder started. The forecast called for rainy weather all weekend but I had already foregone common sense and was three portages deep into my trip. The thunder drew closer and intensified, the sky blackened like night, when suddenly a loud crack of lighting struck down not far from me. To say that I was panicked at this point was an understatement. I knew I had more of a chance to be struck by lightning than being attacked by a bear, but I didn’t think I’d actually be struck by lightning.
My brain went into fight or flight mode and I frantically searched for the portage I had been looking for. I wasn’t having much luck and the lightning kept coming. I knew I had to get off this lake and find a safe spot. I approached the closest decent looking spot of shoreline to pull my canoe out. I hit the rocky bank under tall pines just as the rain began to pour. I scrambled through my daypack looking for my rain jacket and fought to get it on while standing on slippery deadfall.
I was still in panic mode since I could not find my portage and the storm was not letting up. I began to zig-zag my way through the woods, looking for any sign of a portage trail. I was starting to think I was lost when I finally stopped myself and sat down. After calming down I headed back to my canoe to reset my bearings. I took a quick look at my map and checked my compass in the poring rain. According to the map, the portage should be just north of me. Low and behold it was less than 100 meters from where I had taken out.
With my position now figured out I was able to calm down and wait out the storm. I took shelter under my canoe for protection from any falling branches or debris. I waited for what felt like hours as the thunder and lightning rolled through. I finally peeked my head out to see the storm rolling away in the distance. I timed the flashes of the lightning against the audible crack of the thunder and determined that the storm was now over 3 miles away, safe enough distance to carry on. I carried my canoe and gear down the portage to the next lake. The sun broke through the clouds and the storm ended just as quick as it started. I paddled across the lake in the unique quiet of the post-storm wilderness, eventually reaching my campsite for the night.
After a fire and meal to warm me up and dry me out I reflected on my day and how I should have taken a few deep breaths and kept myself from panicking. I could have gotten myself lost and separated from my gear. How stupid. I enjoyed the last of my firewood burning and thought to myself “its getting dark fast”. I looked over across the lake to see more clouds rolling in with some strong winds. The familiar flash and crack of lightning filled the sky to greet me once again. I lived through the first storm and I was determined to get through this one in one piece. I took a few deep breaths and walked to my tent, zipping myself into my sleeping bag for the night. I thought to myself “take that mother nature” as I was weathering the storm warm and dry in my tent. Just as I was drifting off to sleep with the beating sound of rain on my tent, I felt an all too familiar wet drip at my feet. My tent was leaking. You win mother nature. You win…