Column, Living the Dream

Camping in the rain

The calm after the storm is a magically peaceful time to explore. The colorful foliage on the nearby mountainsides makes the experience all the more beautiful and illuminated.

To hear the pitter-patter of rain on the roof of the tent or that faint trickle of water running down the fly and outward from your head can be wonderful. The soothing sounds of raindrops carry you off to sleep, like a baby being rocked by its mother. Snuggling deeper into your sleeping bag to ward off the damp air, you make a cocoon of yourself. A rainy night can be the most indulgent of sleeps. So to celebrate the return of rain to Vermont, we headed out in our canoe for a few well deserved nights on the water.

Many years ago, we had woken up to find our tent floating in a huge puddle. This had made for a good night’s sleep, but a nightmare in the morning with everything soaked through. We are much more diligent with our setup now. We take the time to choose the best spot and latch the fly down extra tight, hoping the water will stay outside and our tent firmly on the ground. With full bellies from our camping stove dinner, we crawled into our sleeping bags and settled in to experience the storm. It was going to be glorious.

The dream is never quite reality. This was the most vigorous rain I have ever experienced from inside a tent. It was loud. And it wasn’t just the big, low-toned plops that happened when the rain hit the roof of the tent, but the eerie noise of those heavy drops sliding down the sides. It was almost like millions of mice were jumping on the tent and using it for a slip-and-slide (that’s a story for another time). And it didn’t stop for hours.

I tried to imagine how happy my plants were at home, to have an escape from my standing over them with a hose, but I could barely think. The rain was overwhelming. Each time I was finally able to doze off, a drop would hit the tent so hard that the condensation on the inside would splash back into my face and startle me awake. I found myself pulling my sleeping bag over my head and burrowing deeper and deeper in an attempt to muffle the noise and watched as my companion did the same. It was brutal.

Finally, the rain ceased its torment and the wind took over, driving every leaf in the vicinity against our tiny structure. The walls of the tent stood strong as the once beautiful foliage became a weapon against us, pushed into the tent with the force of a leaf blower. We sighed miserably, having thought that once the rain stopped we would be able to relax and sleep the morning away. Instead, the light, airy leaves were being slapped against the side of the tent, like someone vigorously apply a “kick me” sticker onto your back. Repeatedly. For hours.

At this point, we were exhausted from the lack of sleep and began to giggle hysterically in our sleeping bags. This was definitely not the night of which we had dreamt, but perhaps it was the one we needed. On our paddle to the site, we had watched the dark clouds roll across the sky and noticed how overbearing they were. But after almost an entire summer with no rain, we had not been mentally prepared for this. Sleep no longer became the goal; we covered our ears and hummed songs just to get the pounding noise out of our heads.

By the time the wind stopped, we were exhausted. I don’t remember ever falling asleep but I remember waking up. There was barely any light, as leaves were glued to the entire exterior of the tent. It made for a eerie shadow effect, but at least we were able to find a few moments of peace in the darkness. When I finally crawled out of the tent, the sun was shining and the white puffy clouds were peacefully floating in the blue sky. It was going to be a beautiful day.

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