I wasn't scared when I saw that the dead wet leaves of the forest floor turned to rock,
I wasn't scared when I saw that there was mist among the dark roots of the trees,
It was the vibration in the ground and there was a thumbing in my chest that frightened me.. then Looking up....
BUT I'm Getting Ahead of Myself!!
This story all started when I was 10 years old, and my dad wanted to go on the big wilderness trip, a 100 mile Maine river wilderness adventure, The Allagash River!! No roads, no humans except our group, exciting!! But he had to have father and Son and I was to young, and he could not go with out me, and I did not have the merit badges or achievements. He's a talker though, He knew Dr Siegel the Scout master as a friend, chatted him up till here we were both of us on the roster.
Now it was 8 days into a 10 day trip, It was wonderful every day we saw moose grazing the shores with their calfs, ran rapids each day, heard loon's lonely cry at night, ate by camp fire, slept in tents and watched the Norther lights flicker in the night sky and, and looking up I wondered why I was so blessed, I wondered why.
The scout master Dr Siegel must have been a type A personality because during the pre-trip training sessions there were slide shows, note books, hand outs. And I studied and studied the white water river terminology like: the down stream V formed by the current hitting an under water rock and spitting the surface which you then had to steer around by ordering "cross bow rudder" and "sweep left"!! And then the upstream V formed by two underwater rocks which indicated you aimed for the center of the V to catch the middle .. unless it was a rooster tail wave which could capsize you!! And we had on land dry trainings for the J stroke, then sweep, cross bow rudder. And a pool session to practice pull two for docking and maneuvering. Me and Tod were great, we practiced and had it all down, we were the cats meow!!!
-- Transition -- onto the river... into the stern of the canoe
Tod an older scout about my height and weight was assigned to me, we became great and forever friends, we were a well oiled machine. We got our own canoe and I was the stern man!! the one steering. He was a little taler so could read the water better from the front, and I knew all the strokes so could call them out to him.
On this day, after almost 8 days, WE somehow became the lead canoe of the 12 canoes, maybe because we were so good, ..... (or maybe because the scout master's son's were fighting and he was distacted), but we had already run 5 rapids on this day and knew what to do. We were ready to leading the entire pack of canoesl!!
The river looked like it ended, there was a silver horizon line, it held the reflections of just the tips of trees, mirror perfect but slightly curved up because the pool was bowed up .... as if in anticipation of the plunge..... It was like water in a glass filled slightly above the lip, the surface tension holding it in a curve above the rocks at the edge of the drop into the rapids. with a little bit of white mist rising
We sat up high and scouted as best we could,
Tod picked the left, the best path because it was the outer bend in the river, where the deeper current would be and avoid the crumbling river bank on the right.
So with a big yell "Pull Left" We yelled, and with one great pull we let the river pick us and propel us over the edge and down between the rocks into the rapids,
Just then I noticed a board on a rock
which might have writing on it,
... to late,
to late but we hadn't see any signs or people on the river in 8 days so it couldn't be could it?
we shot down the wave of the downstream V like experts, just scurrying past the rooster tail and to the left of a rock, PULL LEFT PULL LEFT, then quick quick to the right, PULL RIGHT PULL RIGHT, then quickly catching an eddy behind another big rock we paused for a second, The rapids were getting fierce, the spray and the noise was deafening!!
** Suddenly Tod yelled, I could hardly hear him over the chaos "hey there's a man over there" and sure enough, on the shore there was a man waving at us with no canoe, "well he'll just have to talk to the rest of the troop, its to tough to cross that shallow slow bone yard of rapids to get to him.
We pealed out with a wide sweep back into the current, PULL PULL, cross bow rudder, sweep sweep, to the left of some rocks, then back RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT, and we were really doing well, but it was intense IT WAS GETTING REALLY INTENSE. But we had it nailed, we were flying, and the rocks were bigger and the water was faster, it was coalescing into a chute, but we were really doing really really well, a well oiled machine.
We were feeling like the best, a well oiled team,
Then Tod Yelled
"Hey that man looks like he's in trouble"
sure enough, with barely enough time to glance at the shore, the man was now jumping and waving with both hands,
"Auuu, Geeze, Well we're scouts, we'd better go help him!"
so begrudgingly, I didn't want to, but I caught an eddy, painstakingly struggled and bounced our way across the boneyard of rocks, pulling hard sometimes upstream against the current, over to the man's shore line... it wasn't easy, but we pulled and ferried, and navigated over and around and then finally into the shore pulled up the canoe just as he walked up into the woods, and we followed..
== The walk
One step into the forest and the cayuse of the river rapids were left behind, it was utterly quiet.
We followed the man, followed with questions, but felt we couldn't ask,
then I noticed that the dead wet leaves of the forest floor turned to rock,
and then I saw that there was mist among the dark roots of the trees, There was water dripping from the bushes...
But It was the vibration in the ground and the thrumbing that I felt in my chest that frightened me..
then Looking up we saw a bright opening from the dark dark forest and we stepped out .. we suddenly stepped from the woods onto an parapet above huge waterfalls,
The entire river was sweeping around the corner and plunging down upon the rocks with unbelievable force, the remains of whole tree trunks were being slammed, smashing them, splintering them on the granite rocks below. Now the roar was terrifying, the wind from the ferocity of the on-slot blew back our hats and hair, we grabbed each other and looked at each other, terrified!!!
and then slowly, slowly turned to the Man, ...
---- but we were alone ----
A little while later, all the other scouts finally came up to the cliff above the falls we didn't know what to say, so we never said anything. Instead we watched as they threw things into the water, watching them disappear, and they tried to yell over the incredible roar of the falls!!!
There are times now when I look back,
I know that as a little kid I almost could have died,
and I wonder why me, why I didn't die, and I wonder, ...
Even now there are times,
close calls, call them miss-adventures, times I survived .... just barely
And I look around for that Man, and I wonder why me, and I wonder why, ....
Thank you all, Tom Ostberg