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Column: Thunder on the horizon

The fourth day out on our trip, we tied the canoe to one of the many logs that had jammed up by the ancient dam.
The fourth day out on our trip, we tied the canoe to one of the many logs that had jammed up by the ancient dam.
The fourth day out on our trip, we tied the canoe to one of the many logs that had jammed up by the ancient dam.

We scrambled over rocks and logs to look at the remains of the sluiceway that had once guided logs through the narrow passage of the stream. A shiny black mink slipped over the logs on the other side, dipped into the shallow water in front of the structure and caught a crayfish. He paid us no attention at all as he ate.

Then he slithered along the dam and into the stream below.

We followed a narrow path on the west side of the creek. The water spread in at least two directions before it dropped into a pool, then dropped again into another. This bigger pool gathered all the waters just before a wide expanse of flat bedrock.

The water was only a few inches deep as it raced over the lip and dropped three metres to the small pool below. There were three great Jacuzzi seats right at the bottom of the falls. Ahhh, life is good.

Hot sunny day, puffy white clouds in a deep blue sky, cool clear water cascading over our heads.

I stayed to enjoy the water while Allan portaged canoe and packs around the falls. Lunch was on a small rocky island in the long narrow lake below. There were just enough blueberries to have for dessert.

A boom of thunder came from the west. Hmm, probably time to go.

We paddled the next half kilometre quickly to the shelter of the portage. The sky clouded over. A few raindrops fell heavily on the water, a more insistent rumble of thunder above.

The shelter of the forest kept us dry along the 700-metre portage. The rain stopped by the time we got to the big lake. I tried to remember: What did I read last summer about how to keep safe during a storm?

We made for the island campsite a 100 metres off shore. There was just enough time to prop the canoe into a tree. We sat on the packs while the next shower poured buckets overhead.

Our sheltered site gave us a great view over the lake to the north. We saw the lightning, counted by three second intervals to measure the distance. Watched and waited until the storm passed, all the while wishing I had reviewed the lighting safety research paper I’d read the year before.

Lightning can strike long before, and long after, the rain is overhead. That’s what I remembered. After the sky cleared and the rumbles came from far, far away, we resumed our journey.

An hour later, the sky darkened again. The thunder clouds were behind us and coming our way.

I recalled something about a zone along the shoreline, a 45-degree angle from the top of the trees to the water — was that a safety zone or a place to avoid?
Hmm, I could not remember.

Once again, we paddled quickly to the next portage.

Safely on land, we waited and watched the storm pass ... dry under the shelter of the canoe.

Viki Mather has been commenting for Northern Life on the natural world and life in Greater Sudbury since the spring of 1984.