This morning (Wednesday, May 24) I am the first person out of his tent in our Lake of the Woods backcountry campsite. The wind is blowing hard. I expect the other six men in our group are awake, but see no reason to crawl out of their warm sleeping bags. If there are large whitecaps on the lake, we won’t be venturing out for early morning fishing. 

I am sitting in a collapsible chair, my back to the wind. For the first time ever, I am writing a blog entry with heavy gloves on. It isn’t as difficult as I expected, although the lettering looks like it has been done by a third grader just learning to do cursive. 

The wind is out of the east, yet the clouds, if moving at all, are coming from the west. What makes the wind on the ground go in one direction and the wind a few thousand feet up go another? The skyline on the western horizon is a bit lighter than the clouds directly overhead, so I am hoping that better and calmer weather is working its way toward us. 

All week the sky has been hazy. Even on cloudless days, the sky is gray rather than blue. At night, the sky reveals almost no stars. There is Venus, Mars, the moon, and little else. I’d have seen more stars had I stayed home and looked skyward through the light pollution of the city. The reason for the haze is the forest fires in Alberta and Saskatchewan. I sometimes get a whiff of smoke when I am out on the lake, but the smell is just as likely from my campfire-infused clothes as from the fires in Alberta.

I have been watching one particular cloud for much of the morning. I thought I could use its location in reference to the treetops on an adjacent island to confirm that the clouds were really moving west to east. If that single cloud is indicative of the sky in general, then the airstream at cloud level is not moving at all. Still, here on the ground, I am being buffeted by steady twenty mile an hour winds. 

It is a good thing that today is Wednesday and not Thursday. Thursday is the day we are supposed to break camp and boat back to civilization. Our vehicles and boat trailers are parked forty miles away, and twenty of those miles are across some very big water. If the winds don’t lessen, we won’t be able to travel with gear-laden boats. I’d be happy if we were land-bound for an extra day or two, but three of my companions need to get back. Two have planes to catch, as they flew into International Falls for this trip. The other has a speech to give at a meeting of healthcare professionals. I have nothing for at least a week, unless I count the high school graduation party of the daughter of a friend. No one would notice if I missed it. Every year I assume I am too old to have good friends with kids still in high school, and every year I am proven wrong.  

Steven Simpson