We’ve had some crazy wind lately. Stepping out into the fierce gusts reminded me of another time several years ago. I enjoy going back and looking at photos and writing from my road trips. One of my favorite road trip experiences was actually a bit of a trial, but the way God held and protected me during that time was amazing. Considering everything going on with COVID-19 these days, I’ve decided to re-share that adventure. Most of this was written in 2018, but I’ve updated it a bit.
(For context, when this story happened, I was travelling on the Trans-Taiga in northern Quebec. The Trans-Taiga is an exceptional road. ~666 km of gravel, following a hydro dam system. By most definitions it is the most remote road in North America. Its eastern terminus is more than 700 km from the closest town. 306 km from the last gas station. The end of the road is the farthest north you can drive in Eastern Canada. This story occurs in the middle of that road.)
As my first day of Taiga driving came to a close, I began looking for a place to spend the night. The last official camping spot was at km 203, but there was still a lot of daylight left at that point so I continued on. It was getting late when I rolled into the Belvedere near Keyano…somewhere around km 300. A little road goes to the top of the tallest hill in the area. 360 views all around, including the dam to the east.
I breathed a sigh of relief. This would be a great camping spot. It was a little overcast, but otherwise very calm and quiet…and such amazing views. First thing was to setup the tent…after fixing a broken strap with duct tape. I wandered around a bit and took some pictures, then had dinner: KD with tuna. One of my camp staples.
At this point it was spitting rain, but didn’t seem like it would go on. I retreated to the tent, downloaded pictures to my laptop, and wrote about the day’s journey. Now it was getting dark and the wind was picking up. I moved the Jeep close, on an angle to help block the wind, then tightened the tent stakes, and added the extra lines to the fly. At this point, it was a bit windy and raining, but not any worse than previous experiences.
The howling wind and flapping of the tent woke me around midnight. The gusting wind was pushing the tent down, scattering droplets of water around. I moved into the middle of the tent, but the wind continued and seemed to be getting worse. A particularly bad run of wind had me holding up an arm to keep the tent from flattening again. The storm continued to get worse. Before long I was sitting, then standing…holding the tent up.
During all this I had started praying that God would allow the wind to die down. I’ve had experiences when the storm did stop, so I truly believed it could get better. It didn’t. But something did happen. The rain stopped. That was my cue.
Emerging from the tent, the howling wind enveloped me. As if to point out how bad the wind was, the tent instantly flattened without me in it to hold it up. The crazy thing is, all of the stakes were still in and everything was still connected as it should be. The wind was just that powerful. I quickly threw all my stuff in the Jeep. Knowing there was no way to easily pack the tent in the wind, I un-staked it, disconnected the tent poles and threw it under the rear of the Jeep, with a pack of water on top to keep it from blowing away. Meanwhile, lightning had started streaking through the sky in the distance. A thought ran through my head of how crazy it was to be on the highest hill in the area in a thunderstorm…
Sitting in the crowded Jeep, hugging my pillow…everything rocking back and forth in the wind. Rain resumed pouring from the sky, running down the windows so I couldn’t really see much of the lightning as it crashed around. I was tired and did sleep fitfully. But for the moments I was awake, there was a strange awe that filled my mind. I got out in the morning…and realized that the wind, which was still howling was now coming from the opposite direction as before.
The wind was still fiercely swirling in the early morning as I did my best to fold up the tent Then down the road I continued, knowing that Mirage Outfitters was only 50 km down the road…at km 358. Taking a rain day on a trip is always a hard call. There are some days the rain stops and the sun comes out, and others where the moody skies add to the experience. This didn’t seem to be one of those days. I pulled into Mirage still undecided. At a minimum, I needed to stop for gas as this is the last chance…in fact, Mirage is the last real bit of civilization before the end of the road.
I walked into the lobby. The guy behind the desk was on the phone…speaking in French. He finished and I asked if he spoke English. His answer was short and simple: “No.” Feeling a bit dazed from my sleepless night of adventure, I stood there not knowing what to say. He knew a few English words so he asked: “Coffee? Gas?” A coffee sounded so good at this point. I headed back to the cafeteria and sat by the window with my coffee. Half an hour later I was still undecided.
So I sat down in one of the chairs in the lobby and paged through some French tourist info booklets. Two hours later I was still there…my sleepless night had really done me in. I eventually decided to call it and stay the night. At this point there was a lady behind the desk. She didn’t speak or seem to understand English at all. Luckily, there was a guy there who translated a bit and got me through the basic transaction of getting a room. He left. Even in French, If she spoke slowly and simply, I could sort of understand…at least enough to get by. That being said, it turns out everyone else at this place spoke English…but it was kind of fun to interact with these two. By the time I headed out we were all smiles and laughs, kind of understanding each other even if there was a barrier.
Lunch was being served, and the Cafeteria was offering poutine! I’ve always thought I should have an authentic poutine in Quebec, and in this case I did it in a lodge at the end of the world in the far north. I spoke with a few of the staff. It was interesting to note that even this far along the road, even if they had all been to the end of the road, the response was always: that’s a long way. They were all very friendly, and I even overheard the guy running the cafeteria trying to learn the English names of the food options.(I’m pretty sure I was the only person there who couldn’t speak French)
I slept for most of the afternoon, and went out for a walk after dinner. The storm clouds were clearing. The following day was still a bit overcast, but in an epic way. I’m glad I took this rain day. Blessed to have a resting place after my encounter with a mighty God in the powerful storm.
When I tell this story, the response is often one of concern. But for me, there is something amazing about the experience. I’ve always kind of wanted to experience a true storm while camping…while knowing that I really didn’t want the fullness of what that would entail.
God’s power was on display. A power that can flatten tents, rock Jeeps, and flash lightning. A fearful power. A terrible power. Yet, the same power stopped the rain at the right moment, and provided safety in a different shelter. This terrible, mighty power of God is one that can be caring and loving, without changing in ferocity.
It’s hard to explain beyond that, but as I sat in a rocking Jeep, blown by the wind, there was a feeling of awe, a feeling of being covered. Covered, pardoned by a God who doesn’t have to become less mighty to do so. If you give your life to Him, He will protect you, no matter how fierce the storm.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
The rest of the journey along the Trans-Taiga was uneventful and beautiful. The end of the road was awesome. But this moment of protection in the storm will stick in my mind as the true highlight.