No more philosophical musings about whether or not a tree has fallen in the woods if no one hears it.
Lots of trees fell, many with trunks more than two-feet in diameter, all about us as we found ourselves in the eye of the storm that raced through portions of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness sometime after 1 a.m. on July 22.
We never heard a single tree fall.
The roar of the 60- to 70-mile winds and the sound of our tent’s rain fly snapping like it was about to be shredded were all that we heard.
My wife Cindy, grandchildren Owen, 8, and Brynn, 13, and yours truly were enjoying our third night in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and feeling pretty darn good about things as we raced the mosquitoes into our tent as dusk arrived. We were camped on Lac La Croix, a large lake on the border between the U.S. and Canada. We had entered at the Moose River North entry point west of Ely on Saturday. We camped on Lake Agnes, made our way into Lac La Croix on Sunday, camping across from the pictographs on the lake’s eastern end. On Monday we made our way west through Fish Stake Narrows and paddled just north of Lady Boot Bay before landing on our campsite across from Pocket Creek, which we would follow the next day.
We had caught fish in our corner of the lake, made a great meal of them, and enjoyed the cool water on a hot and humid day. We could see the storm clouds building, but I was feeling good about things. At the last minute I had chosen to pack a heavier, Eureka Timberline Outfitter tent instead of a lighter and cooler tent for the trip. I was thinking I had made the right decision in terms of being prepared for rough weather.
We had rented a four-person, We-no-nah canoe all of 23-feet long. Expecting a storm, we carried it up from our campsite’s landing to place it behind our tent. I tipped it over our Duluth packs to keep them dry and lashed it to a tree.
The rumble of thunder and flash of lightning woke me up, and at fist all seemed well. The rain came hard and driven, but we remained dry.
It would not be for long. There’s no exaggerating the ferocity of the winds that raced out of Pocket Creek that was aimed at us like the barrel of a shotgun. The roar of the wind matched that of a train. What worried me more was the snapping rain fly and the fear it would be torn to shreds. I believe it would have been too, except that suddenly the back (and downwind) end of the tent went down. The ‘A’ frame poles in the front bowed as I held them from inside, hoping to keep them from snapping.
We soaked up water inside and held tight. Owen was in the middle of the tent and only the bottom of his sleeping bag got wet. He woke up long enough to ask if he was in the lake. Told that he was not, he went back to sleep.
His sister had felt a tree branch brush her as the back of the tent went down.
When the winds finally slowed, I crawled out of the tent to see if I could put it all back up again.
I could not believe what my headlamp and the flashes of lightning revealed to me outside. Large trees were fallen all around us, uprooted. It was the branches from one of the downed trees that had clipped our tent. Our canoe was lying sideways in the downed brush behind us, unharmed. I grabbed the saw and cut the limbs and righted our tent. All four tent poles were bowed, and a portion of one pole that kept the rain fly over the front had snapped. The fabric had not been ripped.
The rain continued until 7:30 a.m., after which we could emerge from the tent and start anew. We made breakfast, packed up and made our way down the creek to our next destination. We managed to repair the tent and gusty winds and sunshine allowed us to dry our sleeping bags and tent by nightfall.
The following day, we met one of the U.S. Forest Service crews that had come to clean up in the wake of the storm. We learned from them how others had been injured at campsites located a few miles east and west of our location. The damage was not as widespread as the Boundary Waters Blowdown of July 4, 1999, but there were pockets within this storm’s path where bursts of wind had flattened trees with the same effect.
“Dang,’’ the ranger said when I pointed out where we had camped. She had been there, and could only express surprise we had paddled away unharmed.
If left us much to ponder.