Namekagon river, Wisconsin
What could be more glorious than a weekend on the Namakagon River in Wisconsin? A group of female nurses, myself, my 12-year-old daughter and her friend, Emily, drove under a bright sky across rich agricultural land through the St. Croix river’s national forest finally stopping at a roadside rest over the river. Our group planned a weekend canoe trip. We portaged the canoes down the banks of the river to a camping spot. The weather promised us a wonderful weekend where we could cook, play, swim, and paddle. We did not anticipate the storm that split our weekend holiday,
An idyllic spell filled our first two days with laughter, luscious recipes, and camaraderie. The canoe trips through scenic passageways and smooth rapids lived up to their amicable reputation. The small tents with their sleeping bags spread over drop cloths warmed us in the cool Wisconsin night.
We prepared for the last glorious night with an array of homemade specialties eaten at a campfire with plenty of hot chocolate. Except for me it was an all-female evening with no booze or awkward relationships. Just as we were closing, a sudden unexpected legion of dark clouds, wind and lightning threatened our evening. Before we could repack the dishes, the storm broke. The deluge of rain threatened to flood and knock over our tents. The ground cloths that were to provide a soft surface for the sleeping bags became drowned in running water, thus providing the campers with wet chambers.
I hurried the children into our tent. Then fled out to get the last cups of hot chocolate to warm them up as well as calm them down. They cried out that they were too cold to sleep.
I told them to shut their eyes while I told them a story. “Concentrate on my voice, fall into the story, fall asleep.”
I had much practice in this technique with my daughter. I often told her Morpheus inducing bedtime stories which I read, plagiarized, or came from my own inspiration.
So, I began. Once a storm struck a boat filled with children. Fortunately, it was near a small island and was able to crash on the shore. The children were wet and frightened. However, they spied a light house on the cliffs above. Struggling up to the door, they found it was open. And warm. They climbed to the top where they could observe the lightning and listen to the wind in safety. Old blankets for the lightkeeper were found in a closet. They curled up to sleep.
But, before dawn, they heard animal noises on the stairs. Rats who had also been on the boat were also seeking refuge in the lighthouse. They were scared.
By now my children had fallen asleep. In the morning, my daughter complained that she did not hear the end of the story. She asked me what happened to the children and the rats. Since I had been watching my daughter and her friend gradually fall asleep, I had not planned an ending.
I could have assuaged their fears by saying that along with rats were the cats also kept on the boat. These cats came up the stairs to eat the rats.
Or I arrived to save them.
In the morning we pulled our canoes through the muddy slope to the river to the cars above. We drove back the way we came into the sunlight, across the prairie, and to homes with warm beds. The storm, like the trip, became an adventure in itself.