By Mark Kenyon
As I’m typing this, rain is tap-tap-tapping the windows around me. That sound is likely a familiar one for every single one of us.
You’ve probably heard it on the rooftop of your car or the window outside your office. But have you ever heard it on the hood of your jacket for six hours straight while sitting 20 feet up in a tree? Or outside your tent, on top of a mountain ridge, for three days straight? Or on top of a plastic tarp duct-taped to the back of your truck, while grilling venison hamburgers underneath?
If you haven’t, I think you’re missing out.
That last example, that was my situation this past weekend – a plastic tarp duct-taped to my truck with rain hammering us from above.
Our camping trip in Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest seemed to be hitting a roadblock as towering black rain clouds rolled our way. But while most other campers were either heading home or shuttering themselves away in their RVs, we had plans to grill out and no storm was going to change that.
An old saying that I thoroughly enjoy claims that “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just poorly prepared people,” and I’ve done my best over the years to live by that sentiment. I’m the stubborn type and when I have plans to be outside, which is often, I’m not interested in letting rain or any other kind of inclement weather get in the way.
So with ominous skies approaching, I got to work on a solution with the best tools at my disposal, a roll of painter’s plastic sheeting and duct tape.
After a few minutes of tinkering I had constructed a serviceable shelter, but with rain now falling all around, it wasn’t exactly what most would imagine as the setting for a great evening in the Wild West. My wife and I were supposed to be soaking up far-ranging mountain views and enjoying a campfire, but instead we were hunkered down under a sheet of plastic in a rain storm. We should have been miserable.
Flash back to last fall, while on a backcountry elk hunting trip in Idaho, I was relegated to my tent for most of a seemingly endless three-day onslaught of rain. We hunted when we could, but for most of that period the rain was too intense, so we sat in our tents, munched on snacks, organized gear, dried socks on paracord, read old paperbacks and then hunted again when we could. A lot of people might have packed it up headed home.
A few years further back, on a Halloween evening, I trudged out to a Michigan treestand with my hood cinched tight and rain already pelting me sideways. Four hours of treestand sitting later, I was shivering and cussing, but still holding on to hope that this rain-soaked vigil might pay off. And with pruned hands and an icy wind battering my soaked face, I probably should have called it a night and headed home to a warm fire and hot meal.
In all of these situations, a lot of people would have let crappy weather and all that rain ruin their hunt, or their weekend, or their trip. But if I did that, if I’d packed it up and gave up on any of these occasions, I would have missed out on so much.
An evening of laughter spent under a plastic tarp, goofy photos, and wine drank out of plastic cups.
Lifelong memories of midnight tent collapses, trash bag rain jackets and Idaho mountain ridge underwear-drying walks.
The sight of a legendary Michigan buck shaking his rack free from the brush and slowly making his way to me through waves of rain.
A rainy day camping trip or rain-soaked hunt, just like any other challenge or set-back in life, are rarely what we wish for. But more often than not, it’s the bumps in the road like these that make for the most memorable experiences and most poignant lessons learned. That is, if we let them.
As far as I can figure, the key to weathering those rainy days and to soaking up everything they have to offer is to embrace them. It’s about letting ourselves go out there in the wind and the water and getting wet.
It’s about smiling in the midst of the storm and being there still when the sun finally shines again.