Angle to Key West: Smells Like Rain (9/5)


Near Marathon, Lake Superior – September 5, 2013

The waves raged at the entrance to Marathon’s protected bay, slamming off the peninsula’s steep rocks and flying back in all directions. I glared at them as I slipped through and out of their reach. Today was supposed to be calm. Instead it was a long, growing fight right to the end and I slipped away like a rabbit into a hole.

I paddled to a small island and pulled the boat onto a long, flat rock to set up camp. The weather radio crackled reports as I cooked dinner and rolled out my sleeping bag.

“Clearing overnight,” it said.

The air felt frigid and I dragged out my extra sleeping bag, piling it under the first so I could lay out under the stars. The last thing I saw was the Milky Way stretched like a white ribbon across the sky.

Then I woke up. Everything was dark, but the temperature had shifted, warming in the night. Sweat ran across my skin under the two sleeping bags. I kicked one off and sat up. The air felt thick. I looked for stars and found none.

“Just clouds,” I thought.

I lay down and pulled my sleeping bag over my head, trying to convince myself as I breathed in the warm, heavy air. The wind shifted and began to rise. I smelled the rain in it.

My headlamp flashed against the trees. I scrambled to my feet, running to the boat and throwing open a hatch to grab my tarp. I tied lines on trunks and branches, threw driftwood pieces down to hold corners, and pulled the tarp tight. My fingers moved without thought, half- asleep, pulled through the motions by memory and the wet air.

The first taps of raindrops hit the fabric as I dove underneath with my sleeping bags piled in my arms. I spread out and listened to them fall, relishing the sound of rain on fabric as I drifted back to sleep.

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