CALM BEFORE THE STORM
Updated: Oct 29, 2019
Mother Nature can change her mind in a hurry.
What was an idyllic evening spent on an island campground on Ima Lake, Boundary Waters, Minnesota became a morning of disaster. As the above picture attests, it couldn't have been more perfect. Our camp featured a postcard worthy sunset, loons calling in the distance, water gently lapping at the shore, and most important of all, the whisper quiet stillness of nature. What happened when we woke up was a completely different story.
“Our breakfast dishes became life threatening frisbees capable of decapitation”
The morning started like most – wake up, fashion a quick breakfast, tear down the camp and be ready to hit the water as early as possible. However, as we went about our morning routine the sky grew darker and a surreal green tinge rimmed the clouds. Still calm where we were, ensconced on our island, white caps began forming across the lake. As they neared, an enormous volume of spray was being blown off the tops of the waves, roiling the water like a scene out of a Herman Melville novel. Sipping my coffee and watching the waves, oblivious to any potential threat, I absentmindedly thought to myself, "hmmm...that must be some serious wind out on the lake, glad we're not in a canoe, but man, does this coffee taste good." Then it hit. There was water, and dust, and muck, and pine needles, and witches on bicycles, and tiny houses from Kansas, and anything else that didn't have purchase on our rock whipsawing through the air on the back of a 70mph wind. Our breakfast dishes became life threatening frisbees, white pines were being toppled like dominoes, and our lean-to tie downs, pulled from the ground with their stakes still attached, sliced the air like a deranged bull whip ready to take your eye if you got too close.
Suffering through what seemed like hours of gale force brutality, the wind switched directions and finally died down, affording us a chance to survey the damage. We were all soaked to the bone and shivering uncontrollably, but without injury. That's when it dawned on Lori that maybe we should check on our canoes. Racing to the waters edge we found the blue one gone, leaving a lone paddle in her stead, and the green one upside down in a tree at the far corner of the island. A forlorn evergreen, growing out of solid rock on the northern point of our island, had become a needle festooned catcher's mitt snaring a 17 ft. Weenonah fastball before its sailed past to open water. And without the good fortune of that that scrubby pine stopping the second canoe from following the first, our group would have become the Boundary Waters version of the castaways on Gilligan's Island. Funny thing is, we actually had a Professor (my brother-in-law is a Dr. of Economics at the University of Minnesota) and a Ginger (my red-haired nephew) along with us.
After a brief search and rescue mission, we did find our the wayward canoe, no worse for wear, capsized and snagged on the rocks of the far shore. Made whole once again, we set off to complete our route. Paddling gave way to portaging and then repeated itself to the point where the days simply blurred into each other. We finished the trip without incident but certainly for all of us, the 10 minutes of fury spent on an island in the middle of Ima Lake will not soon be forgotten.