Camping: Best Way To End A Drought?

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 11, 2011

FONTANA — The best remedy for ending a drought? Go camping. More effective than a rain dance, a camping trip makes the storm clouds brew in the heavens and lash down upon tiny canvas tents.
Five minutes before we arrived in this western North Carolina outpost, a storm struck with gusting winds, sharp lightning and driving rain. Trees fell across the roads. Electricity was knocked out across much of Graham County, not that it mattered to us. Michael and I put up our tent in the rain and retreated to the car. It rained for six hours.
It rains a lot in the Great Smoky Mountains, 60 to 80 inches a year. I had packed ponchos, tarps and plastic to fight off the rain we were certain to meet.
Fulfilling an old plan, I brought my third-born here to hike in Joyce Kilmer National Forest, God’s own vacation spot among the giant poplar trees. We brought a measuring tape. The circumference of the largest tree measured 26 feet, 7 inches. The trail narrowed from lack of use as we climbed higher. Most hikers turn around long before reaching the punishing switchbacks. I first hiked this mountain when I was 23. Now 35 years later, the old editor is happy to report that he reached the summit yet again. At 5,300 feet elevation, we were alone with a vista of green mountains as far as we could see and a cool breeze in our faces. Rocks had been piled in a circle to form a campfire spot, but our tent was at the bottom of the mountain. We hiked among flame azalea, mountain laurel and rhododendron in full bloom. A mountain stream rushing over the rocks gave us a concert as we climbed.
“This is God’s temple,” I told my son.
“We are God’s temple,” the recent catechism graduate corrected.
Together, we had a long weekend camping in the shadow of Fontana Dam. We canoed in the Nantahala Gorge, getting plenty wet. We toured the Biltmore House, learning that George Vanderbilt changed clothes four to six times a day. And we hiked the most level section of the entire 2,100-mile …