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Weather has a way of wreaking havoc with even the best-laid summer plans

I don’t know about you, but it seems like my summer is passing too quickly and not gone as planned.

My wife and two sons planned on spending about a week at Cave Run Lake – our favorite place to camp, fish and do what you do on vacation. We were hoping for a peaceful time from work, email and normal daily stresses.

Our aging German shepherd was also going to get some time wading and hanging out by campfires. Our sons Sully, 3, and Harmon, almost 2, were thrilled at the aspect of fishing, searching for bugs, swimming and all of us trying to paddle our giant canoe in the lake water. My wife Kate and I knew that camping with children and an aging dog is altogether a different kind of stress, but the prospect of the lake camping lifestyle outweighed any future challenges.

But weather has a way of changing things. We knew the weather was going to be sketchy, but we planned accordingly with rain jackets and plenty of tarps for our campsite.

On arrival at our favorite campsite, the weather was calm with just a enough breaks in the rain to put up our tent and rain tarps over the picnic table and to get the necessary things settled. That night the firewood was too wet for a fire, so we retired early.

It rained and stormed heavily that night with just a few small leaks in our tent. No too bad. I thought “If we can survive through that rain last night, we’ll be fine.”

That morning and afternoon saw more rain and on again, off again downpours. I looked at Kate and said – “I think we are going to need more tarps.” She was pleased with the idea of venturing back to civilization for a while because our boys were starting to go stir crazy in the tent and needed to get some space. So we drove to the closest big box store and loaded up with rain protective gear, a.k.a. tarps.

By the time we had drove back to the campsite it was deceptively sunny and our camping friends had just arrived. We continued to rainproof our campsite with lots of rope and tarps. We marveled at our engineering feat of three large tarps covering our tent, table and fire site as we made dinner.

Then a distant “boom”! We all looked at each other – each convinced that our protective measures would sustain any amount of rain. We should have built an ark.

Just after dinner the rain started again – this time there was hurricane-force rain and lightning flashed in ways that I have never experienced before. That says a lot because I have experienced multiple tropical storms and a hurricane growing up in North Carolina.

Our tarps filled with hundreds of pounds of water and failed miserably. They failed with such a force that the plastic grommets pulled out from the corners of the tarps. Our gravel campsite began to flood.

Luckily our boys were exhausted and were sleeping in the tent. I looked at our dog, who was lying in about 2 inches of water. The rain was not stopping anytime soon. We all agreed to tuck tail and retreat. Heavy deluge of rain, copious nonstop lighting and floating water tents with metal poles is not a nice condition for toddlers. So retreat we did to a motel. That next morning we decided to pack up between rain events. And it continued to rain all the way back home.

I write this story of survival all to remind myself that nature will have its way every time. No matter how we plan, organize, build and construct, nature will do what it wants – when it wants. We have to adjust to it.

I try to remember that as I educate kids about the surprising and unpredictable world in which they live. I talked with Sully (attempted with Harmon) about how sometimes nature surprises us and plans change but added that rain, lightning, thunder are all beautiful things. All except for the wet/unused diapers, soaked aging dog, waterbed tent, floating firewood and tarps filled with enough water you could host an Olympic diving event.

Chris Muesing has been with Greensource as an environmental educator for three years.  Chris received a bachelor’s degree with a focus in environmental stewardship from Houghton College in New York. Before joining Greensource he taught environmental education to various summer camps and school groups. He has two sons that are growing up to be avid outdoors men that enjoy hiking, creeking and fishing. Chris can be reached by calling 859-266-1572 or via e-mail at chris@bggreensource.org.

This article appeared in KY Forward on August 8, 2013.

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