Drove straight into the storm this morning. All the way in the lightning was flashing – to the north, the south, the east, and all directions in between – but the roads were dry until about five miles outside of Red Wing. Then the pickup crossed into the trailing edge; wet pavement, spitting skies, and all the while the strobe effect from the constant near-blinding flashes making stop-action sequences of the windshield wipers.
Then came the waterwalls. Great random sweeping streams of rain obscuring the lines of the road and pooling in low places that the tires hit with jaw-rattling force and hydroplaning skids; water pouring over the windshield too fast for the wipers to keep clear, even at a mere thirty mph. It was a tense drive in, and it left me hoping that the storm would have passed overhead by the time I was at the eastern overlook and needed to pull the camera out of the backpack.
Despite the new poncho and the rainjacket, I was soaked from the shoulders down and damp from shoulders to hips even before I started the walk.
The lower trail was a river, fast-flowing and ankle- to shin-deep in places; overhead lightning flashed – not constantly enough to turn night into day, but casting strange shadows with the branches and weeds to the sides and overhead, and the exposed roots underfoot. Thunder was a continuous growl, punctuated by louder snarls. Made me grateful for my boots and FroggToggs. Pity the FroggTogg jacket doesn’t have pockets; I could stay dry from stem to stern if I could wear both halves of the suit. Then I’d just have to worry about keeping the camera dry.
On the first hill the water flowed, creating new channels in the gravel; deepening others – all that work this spring of adding more rock and smoothing it out, all but gone. And the Kiwanis Stairs were a waterfall. Rain poured down each step, each landing, at the rate of gallons a minute; you can believe my hand was on or near the railing with each step I took upwards into the torrent. And there was no question in my mind; I took the turning to the left and walked the longer, safer trail to the top of the ridge – there was no way I was going to attempt the steep, muddy hill with its greasy surfaces and minimal handholds.
I was a minute or two later than sunrise by the time the camera was focused and ready; safely contained within its rainsleeve, with cable release attached. But I still caught the orange ball of the glowing sun in the gap of the clouds just above the horizon – although on the first try that horizon was terribly crooked! Couldn’t see well enough to use the bubble level on the tripod! The rain slackened, though never stopped; after the third time using it, the lens cloth was too soaked to absorb any more water from the lens.
Ah, but the lightning was calling. So very nearby, and even through the greater light of dawn, still visible – with occasional arcs through the clouds. I moved camera and tripod to the knoll above the overlook and aimed it skyward where the lightning flashes were the brightest and most regular.
At least, until the skies started to spit hail the size of blueberries at me. At that point I decided enough was enough and made my soggy way home into the storm again.