Into each life some rain must fall, usually when you least want it

While paddling back to my car last Sunday after joining dozens of other boats at the annual Niantic River Kayak Regatta, I silently thanked the weather gods for holding off on threatened thunderstorms.

Precisely at that moment, as if conjured by my thought processes, a dark cloud materialized.

Ahead, ripples stirred the water’s still surface — mariners call such wind puffs a “spoil” — and they indeed promised to spoil the last few miles of what had been a mostly dry voyage. I say “mostly” because an hour of so earlier, when hazy sunshine sent heat and humidity skyrocketing, a few of us cooled off by playfully steering our vessels beneath a cascading torrent pumped by the Goshen Fire Department fireboat, which led the kayak parade.

As you know, it’s one thing to deliberately get wet and quite another to have no choice in the matter.

Within seconds of the cloud’s appearance, rain crashed down with such force it made the fire hose seem like a lawn sprinkler.

Of course, I hadn’t bothered to pack a spray skirt or even a baseball cap — I never advanced far enough as a Boy Scout to learn the “be prepared” credo — but at least there were a few silver linings. There were no thunder or lightning, and only a half hour of drenching downpour before I returned to Three Belles Marina. Truth be told, after a week of miserable, tropical weather, that rain felt pretty darned good.

“This is fun!” a couple of soaked kids aboard paddleboards with their parents exclaimed as I paddled past them.

It certainly was a lot more tolerable than last August, when three friends and I were inundated by relentless squalls while kayaking some 125 miles for five days around remote Lac Manicouagan in Quebec, nearly as far north as Hudson Bay, with nary a soul nor shelter in sight.

Or getting caught with no tent north of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, curled up all night in muddy rivulets while jagged bolts of electricity exploded all around us. Or huddled for hours in similarly terrifying, wretched conditions on an island in the Hudson River one afternoon during a weeks-long paddle from the Canadian border to the Statue of Liberty. Or when three of us hunkered down for days in a two-man tent at 19,000 feet in the Andes, waiting for a blizzard to end (it never did). Or … well, you get the idea.

Like all of us who enjoy time outdoors, rain often comes with the territory, along with wind, snow, sleet and other unpleasant meteorological phenomenon. For the most part, I subscribe to the adage, “There’s no such thing as bad weather — only inappropriate clothing.”

After all, getting through rotten weather builds character — if it doesn’t first break your spirit.

I have to admit that, over decades of adventure, I’ve pretty much experienced all the character building I need, and while my spirit has yet to be broken, it’s been sorely tested a few times.

One consolation of enduring hardship is that afterward you usually have much better stories to tell.

Back to last Sunday, it was great to see about 100 people turn out to help celebrate the Niantic River, to support preservation efforts by Save the River-Save the Hills and the Friends of the Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve, and to congratulate longtime environmentalist Fred Grimsey of Waterford on having a town beach along the river named for him. He’s a terrific guy who well deserves the honor.

Next time, though, I’ll pack a poncho.

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