Staying Covered

It started as a calm four-day camping trip. Our campsite sat on a cliff overlooking the river and the town below. The day slid into a beautiful sunset that gave way to dancing clouds which slowly rolled in from the north. As the night strolled in, an occasional bolt of lightning caressed the skyline in the distance. After snapping a few shots of the storm brewing in the distance, we climbed in to what looked like a calm night of sleep.

Mother nature’s six a.m. alarm went off as the rain fly on our tent was being ravaged by the impending storm. I awoke to her top bouncing wildly in the steady wind, as one strap broke free the rain slipped in under the edge of the window. While I sat half awake in my warm sleeping bag I could hear the impending wind as it ramped up on its way to our tent. As I peered cautiously through the center door, I could see the deep gray had encompassed our tent. I woke up my wife, and we bolted away from our friend.

Storm at Wyalusing State Park

We watched from our van as the beginning of the end had come for our friend of over twenty years. We saw one side of her top flap wildly as we watched the rain overtake her. My wife and I made a hasty retreat as we drove away to the nearest bathroom amidst the impending storm. We barely beat the storm as we bolted from the car to the bathroom on the back side of the hill.

Over the years I have had a number of tents in all shapes and sizes. I have had the unenviable task of sleeping in two man shelters, Uncle Sam specials with no bottom, just you and your chosen buddy trying to stay dry in a storm, and three room monsters that came complete with a screen tent on the front. While each has their advantages and disadvantages, I have learned a few things that I have come to appreciate in tents.

One is headroom. I have come to enjoy the ability to stand up when putting my pants on. There is just something about being able to stretch inside the tent without needing to crouch or slide my way out of it that I have come to love in the wee hours of the night. A second lesson that I have learned is that the shape of the tent matters both for stability and for ease of set up. I prefer square and rectangular tents to other shapes. Square and rectangular tents seem to take the weather better and have less issues with water finding its way in. I also find that they are much easier to set up and not feel like you are getting shoveled into a corner to make room for other family members. The hexagon and octagon tents that I have owned both grow smaller as you get closer to the center and can be challenging with more people or small children and the plethora of stuff they can require. The third thing that we look for is a full length rain fly. We have learned that if mother nature has something to grab a hold of, then she will try to pop the top off the tent and cause severe discomfort for all those inside. Exposed windows also have a way finding leaks.

Our upgrade from our old friend is a six man Kelty dome tent with a full rain fly. So far, we love this tent and it came with some unexpected features. We can comfortably fit three people in this tent and more if needed. For us that is two full-size cots and a full-size air mattress. After losing the battle with air mattresses on past camping trips, we upgraded to comfy cots for the wife and myself. With a center height of 6 feet and 5 inches we can also rig up a fan from the ceiling and keep the air flow moving. The rain fly also has a built in vestibule that is very nice for keeping shoes dry outside of the tent. After our first thunder storm on Madeline Island on Lake Superior, we stayed completely dry and watched the winds blow over us as a huge lightning shower raged through the campground. After the 45 minutes of heavy wind and rain we were dry and comfy in our new Kelty tent.

I invite you to share your best insights and stories with me. Be sure to stay dry and enjoy the journey. And as always, “shoot the world with light.” See pictures from some of our other adventures at Paulpaschkephotography.com.

Our 6 man Kelty tent

Camping Under the Stars

The distant space glowed above us as the fire crackeled in front of our small group. We sat almost motionless as we gathered under the the glistening lights above us. The moon still lay hidden behind the horizon and one could get lost in the depth of the darkness that appeared from behind the tree tops. But one of us was captured by an unsatiable itch to explore the night in a greater depth. As I gazed up almost straining my neck to palyfully capture as much of the sky as possible in one spot. It happened in an almost unappologetic manner.

They began to call out to me in the depth of the calmness. As I grabbed my gear and headed to a path that led to the lake. The anticipation was released as she appeared before me. The Milky Way layed herself open in the southwest sky. I hurried to capture her beauty as it layed over the glassy water of the lake. Little did I know that she would be just the first of the treasures that would share themsslves with me on this night. I was easily captivated by the breathless beauty that surrounded me. I worked eagerly to capture all that I could; knowing that it was impossible to capture her full depth. The twinkling lights glimmered upon the glassy lake as I stood in awe of her.

But, another itch carressed my soul and I sped down the path to the northeast bay that was but a short jaunt from the spot that I stood upon. It was here that my second treasure of the night was opened before me. They glowed in their brilliance above the bay. I stood stary eyed in a beggar’s paradise while the horizon filled the skyline before me. The Milky Way’s nothern cousins had come to play. The brillinat hues of the Northern Lights were in full display as they danced their way across the horizon.

The Northern Lights

I looked into the treasure chest one last time as the distant reflective orb subdued the darkness. It effortlessly rose into the night’s beauty and slid higher into the horizon, the yellow embers flared out across the calm lake. And she slowly encompassed the glory of the distant stars as she reflected the glow of another’s radiance. It was over the tree line on the opposite shore that she rose into the night’s sky and the colors of the day began to reflect on the calm water. So I slid around the small point and a new beauty arose.

The dock pointed out like a finger in the night. It pointed northeast into the bay as it gave way to the distant shoreline that flickered with campfires that seemed to disappear into the hillside. The lake reflected her beauty in ways one would normaly see only in the day.

I stood as one of nature’s beggars in a quiet awe of the gifts that the King had opened on a mid August night. The abundance of opportunity swept through me like a gentle tonic infusing me with an undescribable energy. One that ran through me and yet calmed my soul in the tranquil surroundings. I could only drink in so much of the glory as I stood silent with a grateful heart after I witnessed such splendor.

As I made my way back to the campsite I took in some of the local scavenging committees. Three raccoons stood peering at me from the wood line. As I flashed their eyes with my headlamp, they slowly stood up and then scampered to the next spot to see if the light could find them. The game of hide and seek ended after the marauders slid into the forest for the night.

Afterward I strolled back into camp still energized by my evening activities. My companions sat engaged around a campfire. They were slowly drifting off in the early hours of the morning. They sat quietly as I recounted all that I had been gifted that night in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. With its many pristine lakes this country sits among a campers dreamland amidst the Wisconsin State Parks that reach back into the miles of roads that seem to loose themselves in the wildlife that awaits travelers and campers in northern Wisconsin. So grab your gear and a camera for a trip into the wildlife. And remember to always “shoot the world with light.” Come see other treasures that I have found at http://www.paulpaschkephotography.com.   

About Me

Hi, I am Paul Paschke and I am a freelance writer and photographer from west central Wisconsin. I enjoy exploring God’s creation and sharing the journey with my family and friends. I look forward to sharing the large and small with those around me. The one of a kind moments and those things in life that are often overlooked by the masses. I will share stories of he places that I have been and the things that I found on the journey. I invite you to come along and enjoy the fullness of God’s glory that surrounds us. And the people that make the places unique. Come and see some of the places that I have been. http://www.paulpaschkephotography.com