dontravis.com blog post #585
Photo courtesy of Phys.org.
NERDS IN THE WILD
In what must have been the middle of the night, I woke. It had stopped raining, at least I couldn’t hear water hitting the tent. Of course, I couldn’t hear much of anything because of a dull roaring sound. It took a few minutes to understand it must be the creek. The shelf where I lay must have been ten feet above the water. But maybe not. It sounded closer – and angrier – than that peaceful little trickle of yesterday.
Then I realized my butt was wet. Wet and cold. That’s what had awakened me. I put my hand out and dipped my fingers in half an inch of frigid liquid.
“Ron!” I yelled. “Get up! There’s water in the tent.” I fought my way out of the sleeping bag and stood in the water. And my feet had been about the only part of me that wasn’t freezing. I heard Ron splashing and cursing in around in the darkness.
“Glasses! Can’t find my glasses.” That all came out in a moan.
Then I felt the tent move. Not much, but just a little. Hell, it shouldn’t be moving at all. The water was now up around my ankles.
“Get out!” I screamed. “The tent’s about go.”
“Glasses! Gotta find my glasses!”
I found the zipper and managed to get it halfway up. “Forget your glasses. Save your ass!”
I fought my way out of the tent into a freezing wind. I was pretty sure it had stopped raining, but water still pelted my face. Whipped up by the wind, probably. Ron blundered out of the tent and almost shoved me down into the creek. The clouds had cleared and a moon directly overhead provided a little light. I felt blood drain from my face as I looked across the canyon at a broad expanse of boiling water. Yesterday’s playful creek had become an angry river. And we were standing in it.
I turned and ran into Ron. “Run,” I said. “Climb the walls. We gotta get higher.”
“G-grab our packs,” he stammered.
Even as he said it, our tent swayed before the wind, and then it was gone. We watched with our jaws sagging as it floated for a minute, and then collapsed from the weight of the water inside. It was out of sight within ten seconds.
Just as I started for the wall of rock behind me, a deep booming sound halted me. “What’s that?”
“D-dunno,” Ron stammered. “Maybe thunder.”
It came again … and again. A booming, thudding grinding sound. Getting closer. And then I understood.
“That’s not thunder. Move. Climb for your life!”
“What is it?”
“Climb, man, climb. Don’t waste time talking.
I’m not sure how we did it given the combination of total darkness eased only by the moon’s glow and rocks still slippery from the rain, but we began to ascend the nearly vertical walls of Grolier Canyon. All the while the terrible booming came closer and closer.
I reached a ledge and paused to grab Ron’s collar and drag him up beside me. I had no idea if we were high enough, but I’d done all I could. I wasn’t going to be able to climb another inch. So I started praying while the wind tried to snatch us off our precarious perch.
The booming grew louder and louder until it was almost ear-splitting. My chilled blood ran even colder. Ron grabbed my arm and let out a moan as a wall of water rushed toward us, an occasional boulder the size of a truck occasionally visible inside it.
“Oh, shit! Climb,” Ron yelled.
I grabbed his arm. “Don’t move. If we’re not high enough, it’s too late now.”
“We might fall if we try to climb. Stay still.”
The ten-foot wall of muddy water seemed to move agonizingly slowly. It was like watching death approach at a slow, deliberate pace. But I knew there was nothing slow about it. And the booms filling our ears weren’t death drums, they were boulders and tree trunks and who knew what else being swept along by the power of the water. Why wasn’t I terrified? Why was I calm?
And then it reached us. The angry wall passed right below our feet, but leaping waves reached up to snatch at us. We were drenched anew, but we remained glued to the wall of cork at our backs. And then I saw a tree, reduced to only a sodden log rushing for us. Someone moaned – I think it was me – as a long, cable-like root scraped the canyon wall not twenty feet ahead of us. We clutched one another and watched in awe as the log tumbled, and the whipping root rose and passed just over our heads.
And then the torrent was past. The booming receded, echoing up and down the steep canyon walls. And with the passing came the fear. The absolute terror that had refused to come as we stared Death in the face. I started shivering violently, but didn’t know if it was fright or cold. Probably both. We were without boots, without coats. Thank goodness we’d slept in our clothing. We were soaked to the skin and whipped by a brisk, cold wind.
The water level dropped rapidly after that, but it stubbornly refused to drop enough for us to clamber down to that rock shelf where we’d pitched our tent. There was no way to go anywhere. We were stranded. Would we freeze to death before cramping leg muscles pitched us off the ledge into the torrent below?
I was still calculating the odds on that when I heard the faint sound of a helicopter.
Ron and I considered skipping school the next Monday, but that would merely delay the inevitable. Dweebs and nerds and geeks – and we were all three – came in for more than their share of harassment at Belvedere High, and our recent adventure brought us more than usual. But it also brought a few “glad you made it” and “close shave, man” comments. We had handled things pretty well until Friday’s edition of the Belvedere Weekly Gazette came out.
The lead story opened with the words “Local Belvedere High students, Ezekiel Harmer (17) and Ronald Smylie (17) ignored a flood warning last Saturday and were caught in a flash flood in Golier Canyon. The two youths were rescued by…
Maybe I am a nerd--sans electronics--because that's exactly the way any invasion of the wilderness by me would likely turn out. Hope you enjoyed the little story. Hopefully, I'll be back on schedule so I can give you something new next week.