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Living with the elements and their challenges

Going camping for a week or two remains an exciting experience, at least for those who enjoy the activity. We cook outside, and even better over a wood fire, we don't skimp on campfires (when possible), we pray that the weather will be fine, and when it isn't, we simply pack up and cut our stay short. How many times have I said to myself, there's no way we're going to be miserable, so let's cancel the weekend camping trip. One of the worst experiences was last year's May weekend camping when torrential rain and strong winds wrecked our site in the Papineau-Labelle Park. We had to leave in a hurry, and there was even talk of a tornado developing as SEPAQ officials visited the sites to warn campers. Fortunately, there was no tornado but Francis’ birthday party fell in the water, our shelter got flattened and, above all, we all got a good scare.

The situation is different now that we live full-time in our sardine can and we deploy essential gear at every location that we visit; be it Star Link, kitchen shelter, bikes and all the accoutrements.

Nature served us a reminder a few days ago while camping on Schodack Island in New York State. Flash Flood warnings were about to hit the area. These are the kind of alerts that can be worrisome, especially when you're surrounded by water. Once again, we dodged a bullet, but the "extreme rain corridor" came very close. In fact, we saw the extent of the damage when we left on July 10 to head for the Catskills along Route 9J, which runs alongside the Hudson River. Broken trees and debris of all kinds littered the road, which was occupied by clean-up crews.

The photo below shows the state of Route 9J during the storm, but the water had receded by the time we passed.

We were ready to get the hell out of Schodack Island as we'd made sure to pack up as much gear as possible "just in case" to turn on the ignition and save ourselves. But as the news reported, the "Flash Flood" hit fast so I am not sure we'd have avoided the worst if we'd been in its path.

I don’t claim to be an expert on climate change, but the fact remains that extreme phenomena such as hurricanes, floods, forest fires and droughts are increasing in intensity and frequency. Yellowstone National Park was closed for part of the summer in 2022 because of forest fires, and there's no need to go that far since Quebec will have one of the worst forest fire season in its history.

What’s more, I read a few days ago that the southern United States (from Texas to Florida) was expecting a "heat dome" with temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius. These are the places we'll be heading to over the next few weeks and months.

So what do we do? The important thing is to stay informed, to be ready to leave camp quickly if necessary, to adapt our itinerary to weather conditions and, above all, not to be stubborn with the elements, i.e. to stay in one place no matter what, or to put "tourist" interests ahead of our own safety.

Adapting is all well and good, as we hear about "adaptation measures" in relation to climate change. But for us, in our day-to-day lives, adapting when we're living in something smaller than an Apollo 11 capsule is ultimately a matter of choosing sides!

I am writing these lines while we're in the Catskill Mountains, having just returned from a visit of the national historic site of Thomas Cole (1801-1848), a painter and environmentalist who decried the destructive effects of the industrial revolution. Indeed, perched on the balcony of his home this morning, we gazed at the impressive Catskill Mountains in the distance and realized the extent of the nature that has disappeared since they originally inspired Cole in the 1830s. Two hundred years have passed and we felt the spirit of this ghostly nature that no longer exists. I imagine that the Mohican people, Indigenous populations who were driven out of the region by Dutch settlers when New York was still a British colony, had understood the destructive effects of the Industrial Revolution long before Cole was outraged by it. I can't imagine what they would think of the Catskills today.

Historians consider these two Cole paintings to be a before-and-after record of the Catskills. Painted 7 yrs apart, the second painting shows a steam engine with billowing smoke barrels and trees have been cut down.

Now that we're nomads roaming around in our little house on wheels, we have a new respect for the beauty and power of nature. As much as nature can humble us with its veracity and beauty, it can also overpower us with its might and strength. As I finish this blog, the sky rumbles and rain pelts the RV windows. We are preparing for a quiet evening in the safety of our little house, listening to Dirty Dancing and drowning our meteorological worries in the nostalgia of a good old rom com because no matter the weather, we are having the time of our lives !

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