I am very happy to see that no one thinks of me as a big cheater for doing a canoe trip. Because after hiking one day through the Shenandoah National Park with Jesse, we decided that a canoe trip actually sounded pretty rare and special. I think Virginia is trying to kill me. Temps have been in the high 90s and deer ticks are in abundance. As water sources got fewer and fewer, floating down the river just kept sounding sweeter and sweeter. So we did it.
It’s possible that the A.T. got mad at me for it though, as we turned out to have a near death experience pretty much immediately. That may be an over-dramatization, and I apologize, for that’s just the way I am. We hit the river with another hiker, Boyscout, who took a kayak. After an hour of smiles and cool water splashing us we were sort of thinking that everyone still on the trail is a sucker for not being there too. I think that’s about when mother nature gave us a smacking. We came around a narrow bend in the river to find a strainer (uprooted tree) dead center. Boyscout hit it right away, flipped, and got trapped under it. Jesse and I thought he was in serious trouble, and instead of doing the smart thing, which would have been going to shore and throwing him a rope, we paddled hard right for him to try to get him out. Naturally, we ended up flipped and hanging to the same tree.
I thought back to my tiny pieces of rafting experience in Glacier, and how they say, avoid strainers at all costs, keep your feet above water so they don’t get trapped in rocks or other debris, and swim with the river to shore. So I told everyone else to do the same, and Boyscout and I ended up downstream a little on separate banks. Jesse, possibly being less panicked than I, realized that he should use the small window of opportunity he had to retrieve the canoe. He was able to manage standing on top of it, and wedging the canoe out from underneath. Once it was loose in the river, he basically floated on top of it to shore. I never would have thought to give a damn about any of our stuff or the boat itself at the time, but I’m sure glad Jesse did. Only because he’s safe now and if I’d have lost all of my hiking gear, that could have been it for me, not to mention the possibility of having to pay for the outfitter’s gear that was lost by us. Boyscout’s chest and arms were all scratched up, and he had lost his paddle and a lot of his gear to the river. Jesse and I were in good shape and everything except for Jesse’s paddle and sunglasses was still floating inside our canoe.
It turned out we had an audience. We walked into a guys yard on our side of the river, told him about our little mishap, and he laughed and said, “I know, I watched you guys swimmin!'” As shook up as we were, it was kind of nice to get laughed at. He told us that a motor boat had been caught under that same tree, not a week before. Apparently the tree was a new obstacle in the river, which came with the recent flooding. He happened to have spare paddles and didn’t mind parting with them. Kind of crazy to have that kind of luck. So we let our nerves settle and then hit the river again, this time extremely cautious around every corner. Within minutes, we found both paddles, and most of Boyscout’s gear.
Jesse was beating himself up a little bit for the spill. I don’t blame him at all, both of us were underestimating the river. We figured, if the outfitter drops you off at a boat launch with no map, no safety tips, no warnings of coming obstacles, then it must not be very rough water, or they would have had the pants sued off them long ago. He even said, as he gave us life jackets, “Law requires you to have these, but I know you aren’t gonna use em. They make a great seat cushion if nothin’ else.” We never dreamed that there were parts of the river with dangers they didn’t even know about. That was our mistake. Plus, when you see another person in a very dangerous situation, and have 20 seconds to decide what to do about it, you’re bound to make some hasty and maybe regrettable choices.
Crazy as it may sound. I’m still glad we took the river. Nothing even close to as dangerous as that happened again. We met lots of nice locals. The outfitters felt terrible and were very apologetic (even bought us a 6 pack). Saw lots of big fish jumping, and made some pretty big memories. The real kicker, is that I lost my phone and camera, and Jesse lost his phone. Life without a phone is tough. I should have one meeting me in the mail soonish, but I’m probably going to have to get along for another week or so. I ordered a phone on line, but what do you know, it isn’t here yet. Sorry to everyone who can’t get a hold of me. I will check my email and this blog again tomorrow. Jesse and I are staying in Front Royal for 2 nights, tonight we are at a hotel with no phone in the room. Which sucks. We will make sure to find one with a phone for tomorrow and make rounds calling friends and family.
It’s been so great to have Jesse here, and the Shenandoah National Park was absolutely gorgeous. Jesse will be taking off on Thursday morning. I will miss him dearly, but I’m happy to have had him with me all this time. I’m almost to the 1000 mile marker, well by almost, I mean a couple of days (40 miles). I feel ready to start kicking some A.T. butt, even though there is no excuse for this god-awful heat! Let it try and stop me! Maine or bust!