Driving to the small town of Steuben, Wisconsin with Wisconsin River Outings, I was excited for my two day solo adventure down the Lower Kickapoo River to Wauzeka, Wisconsin. Steuben to Wauzeka is a 19 mile stretch. The plan was to travel by canoe 12 miles one day and then camp along the river at Plum Creek and then finish the last 9 miles the next day.
Wisconsin River Outings dropped my car off at Wauzeka and then drove me up with the canoe I would be paddling, my cooler, and my other possessions to Steuben. This meant my car would be waiting for me at the end of the trip. All I had to do was call the outfitter and they would pick up the canoe at Wauzeka.
The Kickapoo River is a small meandering stream that empties into my favorite river: the Wisconsin River. I had just paddled the Wisconsin River for three days prior. The Wisconsin is a wide river quite like the Mississippi, so I enjoyed the contrast being on the smaller Kickapoo.
It was liberating and peaceful to have everything I needed in my canoe for the next day and a half. I cracked a beer in celebration and drifted downstream enjoying the scenery and the solitude. It was a beautiful day, and I was excited to be outdoors.
The paddle went smoothly. Canoeing during the middle of the week is the way to go. I saw two people all day and they were in a golf cart on the side of the river. I did not see one other paddler the whole two days. I spent the day sharing the river with the cackle of kingfishers, the squawks of great blue herons, and several swimming muskrats.
I was told the campground was at a flattened stretch of grass with a pool. Plum Creek Park was a turnabout on a country road with a stretch of grass, a few trees, and two fire pits. There was no picnic table or latrines: only a handful of cars passed by all night.
I was psyched to get off the river, grab a chair, and have a beer. Although the camp was nothing special, it was home for the night. I found a huge log and quickly sawed it up for more than enough wood for tonight. I was looking forward to roasting hot dogs over the fire and enjoying a few beers under the stars all by my lonesome.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans. I noticed a line of clouds to the north and a slight murmuring coming from that direction. As it moved closer it became clear that a thunderstorm was heading in my direction.
It is not uncommon for an afternoon thunderstorm to roll through and in an hour or two be done. I put a tarp over the logs and put all food, cameras, and phone in the dry bag. I hunkered down for the coming storm.
It started out innocently enough with a benign quaking thunder with no wind and a pitter patter of rain. After a half hour I thought to myself it was almost a cute storm as no wind or hard rain had developed.
I was tucked away in a valley, so it was difficult to see what weather was coming my way. Suddenly, a dark cloud came in from the north. It started to rain harder and a gust of wind came up that almost blew my tent and canoe into the water. I grabbed my tent and held on to it as several tent stakes had come undone.
What followed was hours of thunder and lightning from two different directions. I found out from Wisconsin River Outings later that there were two storm cells in the area. I was tucked in between them and it rained all night ending my hot dog dinner and campfire.
Fortunately, my twenty-three year old tent stayed dry, and I was able to get some sleep in between the thunder.
Here are some tips for waiting out a thunderstorm while camping:
Have a beer or two (maybe even three)
Just like a little alcohol helps relieve the pre-flight jitters for those who fear flying, a couple of drinks will help with the fear of the coming storm. Don’t drink too much as you will need your wits about you.
Have a camera
Taking photos and video helped relieve stress and took my mind off of the fact that a lightning strike could make life tenuous at any moment.
Bring a dry tent
Getting in a wet tent is miserable, so always make sure you have a quality tent when camping
Put up your tent in a safe place
Make sure your tent is out of a flood plain if camping near a river and do not put under trees with loose limbs.
Check the weather forecast
If a severe storm is forecasted, do not go out on the river or the woods. It is best to forgo the trip and hike and canoe another day.
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