Lisa Brainard: It’s raining; it’s pouring… Be aware and not snoring!

While there are two low-water creek crossings on this road in the Little Paint Creek campground, this is not one of them. It’s the dry run – normally dry – near my scheduled Fourth of July campsite at Yellow River State Forest in northeast Iowa. Campgrounds were closed for some time following heavy, flooding rains around Aug. 24, 2016.
By : 
Lisa Brainard
Journey vs Destination

The longest day of the year has come and gone, so summer is officially here in all its glory – “glory” seeming to mean rain and often nasty storms pretty much three out of every four days. Ugh! Just stop raining and storming already!

In more depressing news (aren’t you glad to chose to read this column today?! haha), with the Fourth of July having come and gone, it would seem summer’s half over. Oh my! Before we know it, white stuff will be blinding us . . . and the sun will be coming up at 10 a.m. and setting at 2 p.m. (Yes, this is how I view the season of the dreaded “W” word.)

You might say I have a somewhat glass-half-empty view of seasons and the weather, at least at times. For example, I’m writing this before the Fourth of July. I was scheduled to have worked that afternoon and then to have headed to Yellow River State Forest (YRSF) in Allamakee County, Iowa, to camp out three nights in a primitive campground. That means vault toilets and using a centrally located, outdoor faucet to get drinking water.

I love YRSF and know it well. It’s close to the Mississippi and very hilly and scenic. I used to hike and backpack there a lot. I really need to try some easy trails again. Luckily, I know which ones to pick. The tri-towns of McGregor and Marquette, Iowa, and Prairie du Chien, Wis., are close by, along with Effigy Mounds National Monument and Iowa’s Pikes Peak State Park – my usual haunts.

You’ll definitely be interested to see my report after the adventure. Rain and storms just happen to be in the forecast (who would have guessed? . . . imagine an ironic smile). I hope they don’t pan out, or serve to keep me home. And there’s yet another concern, since I know my camping spot well – and that is flash flooding. Persons camping near any creeks or rivers certainly need to be very aware this summer. I’m not super far away from Little Paint Creek, a lovely trout stream in the forest. I also realize there’s a dry run that’s not far. In the past I’ve seen debris left behind on the campground entrance road after there’s been a ton of rain and a flash flood in that dry run. My campsite is the first on a spur road off it.

I recall first hearing of flash floods in the narrow slot canyons of Utah. You did not want to be anywhere near said canyons if there was rain in the area, even if it might be far upstream and not at your immediate location. The rain could send a destructive, deadly, raging wall of water and debris including, say, trees and machinery.

But these days we know all too well the effects of raging water here, especially as small streams on hillsides become swollen with rain. I sure wish it wouldn’t happen as much as it does. It’s crazy and odd to think our formerly pleasant, calm and pretty darn safe Midwest now seems to stand with wild Utah for flash flood danger – and the awareness and precaution needed. How the heck did that happen?

Anyway, be aware as you’re outdoors working, or better yet – hiking and camping. Have weather apps and alerts on your smartphone. A battery-powered weather radio is good, too. But most importantly, be aware of your physical surroundings, stream drainages and the steepness of any hills, and anticipate the weather. If it looks like YRSF might get deluged with rain, I’m out of the campground valley and on to higher ground. Stay aware and have a plan to get out before things get bad.

This is all an important part of being out in nature. Plan well, and certainly get out and enjoy it. After all, (cue ominous music) summer’s half over . . . and the days are getting shorter . . .

Lisa Brainard still enjoys lifelong pursuits of the outdoors, history and travel as able following a serious accident and stroke in September 2012. She’s written this Journey vs. Destination column weekly for over 15 years.