Miracle at Arrow Lake
A miracle that saved at least two lives undeniably.
When I was a young man, countless hours and many months of planning went into the annual fishing trips. Two to three week trips were normal in May for the walleye open in Northern Ontario Canada; always looking for the trophy fish. The same thrill and anticipation was felt for the opening of Small mouth Bass on the July long weekend.
One friend and I were hard core fishermen. We went despite any weather or circumstances in life. No was not an option. We had even gone out in mid November when everything was frozen except Lake Superior. We placed fishing before everything; over major family and friends' events because our desire for the "Isa Hauki" * (literal translation: Father Pike general meaning the grand fish of any species). To say we were obsessed with fishing would be a huge understatement.
Arrow Lake is about a hour drive SW of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Every July long weekend meant a fishing trip there with a five mile boat ride across Arrow and a short half hour hike to Little Whitefish Lake (close to the U.S.A. border). My friend was obsessed with getting a trophy smallmouth bass. We were after the big fish, only eating a few injured fish, we took great care to released the fish. I had caught and released several 5 and 6 lbs. in the years before yet these huge fish had eluted my fishing buddy. Hauling in a trophy was all that he talked about in the weeks leading up to our annual trip.
When I told him a few days before that we were not going, he was more than a little upset. I had an overwhelming feeling to cancel the trip. I had never before or since had such a feeling of panic; a sick feeling about going on a fishing trip. I knew I could not go but what to tell my friend? I made up excuses and lies to get out of us going. This was the first time I ever cancelled a fishing trip. (Even going before ice out on one long May weekend waiting days for the ice to clear off the lake).
On the day we would have been at Little Whitefish and on the lake, I looked up at the sky. The sky was green. Never before or since had I seen a sky that colour before a storm.
Remember, we live above the 49th parallel. This is 1998 no one talked about global warming. Northern Ontario is not a flat landscape. It is a rocky, hilly terrain hence all our many lakes. A very powerful tornado- yes, tornado-the only one to hit this part of Northern Ontario- struck exactly where we were supposed to be.
The news was full of the trapped campers on the main campsite on Arrow Lake (that we traveled through to hike up to Little Whitefish). It took days to get people out. Even then, the full devastation wasn't known to us. After a month my friend and I, plus another friend, went across Arrow Lake to the trail; thinking the destruction was only along Arrow we thought we could cut our way in. A trail buried under a mountain of old growth trees strewn in a tangled heap. We were still determined. After a few futile hours with chainsaws to find the trail
one of my buddies said he was going to check how deep this mess of fallen trees went. He returned after twenty minutes of trying to climb over to see if we could carve a path. As far as he could see the forest was a twisted heap of wood. We gave up
I didn't truly realize the damage until a few years latter when my wife and I decided to challenge ourselves and make the trip into Little Whitefish. It took us over six hours to climb precariously on top of the mountain of dangerous piles of pines with stabbing wooden skewers many feet below. This hike had been normally a half hour hike.
This small lake close to Arrow was destroyed. An old growth forest with Cedars that took two/three adults to encompass their arms around: Red Pine, White Pine, Scotch Pine, tall and beautiful, were snapped 10 to 20 feet up. For years before the tornado, we had hidden our boat in the bush, instead of carrying it back and forth. A few other people chained their boats and canoes on trees but all that was left was a broken chain and the handle from the stern they had just vanished. Our boat, though trees had fallen on top, was still intact.
We headed by boat to our old campsite across the lake. It looked like a bomb had gone off. The campsite was leveled. Death would have met my friend and I. There was no place to hide or run. This site could never be used again for camping. The spot where we pitched our tent in the forest for years and the huge trees, that we hung our packsacks from to keep food safe from the bears, were bowled over. Our bodies would have been smashed under the great pines.
This was truly a miracle. A miracle I need to talk about and share.
When I had this experience, the panic not to go on our annual fishing trip is very difficult to explain. There was no voice speaking to me. It was an unpleasant feeling. Queasy, kind of like vertigo and it stayed with me until I decided not to go. I have always been a Christian, I cannot remember a time when I didn't believe in God. God saved both my friend and I by sending that feeling.
There have not been any other tornados in this area since this one. Arrow Lake campground was full of campers celebrating Canada Day on the July long weekend. The people huddled in the middle and surrounded themselves with their vehicles to take the force of the trees falling and debris flying. They too were touched with a miracle; all were alive despite the smashed up forest. It took days to clear the road to get them out. We would have had no where to hide at our campsite. How would we have escaped?
My Lord saved my friend and me from certain death. My heavenly Father, my Lord and Savior saved my life- not anything else. God, who saved us all when He gave us Jesus; God sent an angel to instill this feeling of fear and dread to save me. Hard to believe He would care that much about me but He does care for each and every one of us. God needs to hear your voice. Pray to Him, talk to Him. He will listen and answer you. But you need Faith, true Faith. I can never thank God enough, but I can share this story of how He saved our lives that day.
By Erick W. Rantala
Edited by S.R. Rantala