In life we all have adventures....some are fun....some are not...some change us....for a bit....some change us permanently. Before this adventure I was a Christian...or should I say, I was a church goer. ...Somewhere along the way I had missed the spiritual boat...but after this I would find my way back.
July 12th was a glorious day, and I was packing for my newest adventure. I was going white water rafting on the Deschutes River in Oregon. It was just going to be a little overnighter, yet the apprehension I felt was almost nauseating. The songs of the musical, "The Man of La Mancha" would not leave my head as I continued to fill my L.L. Bean backpack with a change of clothes, some sweats, and other essentials I felt I would need. My camera and journal topped the pack and I walked out of my apartment. I was ready for anything....or was I? Had I forgotten anything? Whoops - I threw my gideon bible in. You never know. No one here in Alabama wanted me to do this - but I felt led to go.
The trip was about four hours and when we arrived at the river bank, I was amused at myself for the earlier queasiness. This river looked harmless enough. I had rafter the Ocoee in North Carolina as a teenager, and it was definitely worse than this. We readied ourselves for the first leg of the adventure. We would load up and raft about 10 miles, pull out and camp for the night. The first leg offered nothing to write home about. The group in the raft had a great deal of fun bonding and challenging the other rafts we met as we drifted lazily down the river. Evening came quickly and soon it was time to set up a campsite before the best ones were taken.
The place we chose had a heady smell of sage. I sdtood and felt the remnants of the sun burns its image on my chapped face and inhaled the fragrances of the canyon. We set up our tents and began supper preparation. There would be no campfire tonight...just a battered Coleman stove and lantern. This was a high-risk fire area. The supper detail fixed burritos, avocado dip, and tostidoes for our meal. We all were ravenouse and ate the food as if this was to be our last supper, washed the dishes and packed them away for the next day. We then gathered around the stove and pulled our our guitars and began to sing. We sang everything from the Eagles to old scout songs and finally our guide told us that if we were going to get an early start we needed to call it a night. I was glad. The calluses on my fingers from playing the songs were beginning to throb. We all went to our assigned tents.
I lay down and felt the old feelings of claustrophobia close in as we lay there safe within the confines of the tent. I had to get out! It was a beautiful night...I would sleep under the stars. I quickly and quietly withdrew into the aromatic outdoors. I lay there under the stars and smelled the safe and sang softly to myself. Diane and Cecilia joined me shortly. The star show was so awesome and I felt the weight of tiredness tugging at my eyes. I fell into a sound sleep...but sleep would not last long. We were pelted into awakeness by the feel of razor sharp rain drops. A storm had moved into the canoyon...we all headed for the supply van. The three of us slept in the van the remainder of the night...and when the morning lifht finally reared her head...I felt like hell!
The pinks and grays of dawn came peeping. July the 13th was going to be another beautiful day. You could see no traces of the night storm. "Look out Deschutes, Here I come!" After a quiet breakfast of hot tea and granola, we closed out camp and headed for the raftsd. Our bright yellow raft sat on the shoreline laughing at us to come and play again. We named her the Yellow Submaring. Looking back now I can see where that would be a poor choice of words. The crew was an ageless one. All of us had long seen 30 something. Steve, Diane, Ruth, Cecelia, Clark(the guide), Tia Maria, and I made up this motley crew. The start was fun. We were all natural competitors so we left ahead of the rest. We straddled the yellow raft and away we went. Our first little class two rapid was met with Tia Maria being tossed into the drink. the guide scooped her up effortlessly, and she was back in the boat safe and sound before any of us even knew she was gone. The Box-Cars was a class three rapid and the challenge was loads of fun. The morning part of the trip had been dlightful. We stopped for a lunch of fruit and more granola and continued on. On to the quest....our goal. Our mottoes had become, " all for One and One for All. Let's Take it Ove the Edge, Let's Take it to the Limit!" So at Oak Springs, a class five waterfall, over the edge we went....but something was wrong. The wind was up and we lost control of our tiny craft. We were catapulted from the raft, and my experience into the bowels of hell began.
The last thing I remember was seeing Steve fly through the air and then everything went black for me. I struggled to the surface only to find myself trapped under the raft as it was being sucked down into a maelstrom. Something was holding me down!!!!! I emerged in the air pocked of the raft to find a rope around my throat choking the life out of me. I fought with it and finally broke free before I was sucked down into the eddy again. My life as I knew it was passing before my eyes and I felt myself...crying...I didn't know if I was really crying or just imagining it. I was somewhere between here and unconsciousness. I was filled with sadness at never having the chance to see Kat grown. I was terrified and gagging when suddenly I felt a rock under my feet. I pushed hard against it, propelled myself against the raft, broke the suction of the eddy, and left my would-be grave. It was as if a giant hand reached in and plucked me out. I was literally thrown through the air. The people who watched helplessly on the bank said that if it hadn't been so frightening it would have been amusing. I looked like a bronco buster that had just been thrown off a wild horse. I landed in the middle of the raging Deschutes on a slick rock. I dug my fingers in and held on for dear life. This was my Solid Rock. I tasted blood but did not know where it was coming from. My head hurt, and the vision in my left eye was blurred. A kayaker floated out to me and told me to let go and float down to him. I screamed to myself, "WAS HE CRAZY!!" I was not leting go of nothing! did he not know where I had just come from? Did he not know that I had been brutally beaten by rocks like the ones that were between my haven and his boat? He realized that I was in shock...so he kep talking to me gently. His warm, friendly, velvety voice finally convinced me to let go and he caught me. Putting the wet remnant of a person in the kayak he took me to the shore where the rest of the frightened group waited. I turned to thank him but he was gone. I chuckled and knew God was with me. I was so dizzy, confused, and nauseated. I couldn't stand andas soon as I was helped from the boat....passed out. Patty came over and revived me, check me out and went into action. I was pretty banged up, had a possible concussion, and was in shock. I had to be gotten out of the canyon....and fast. the guides radioed for a rescue unit and waited with me. Everyone wrapped their arms around me to ward off shock....I remember nothing except that I was colder than I had ever been in my life...The helicopter arrived and I was air lifted to the Dalles, treated for a concussion, cuts, bruises, and shock. The rest of the team finished the course and picked me up at the emergency room. We headed back to Walla Walla. They had been instructed not to let me see a mirror....just yet. It was a good thing When I finally did see a mirror I would terrify myself and little children. Quasi Moto and the Gargoyles of Notre Dame had nothing on me.
I bathed in a warm tub, wearily put on my pajamas, and settled down for sleep. The sedative I had been given earlier kicked in and I floated off to sleep....but only briefly....Minutes after I closed my eyes....the water came back and I was drowning again. I awoke with a loud scream.....over and over I tried to sleep....over and over....I was drowning. Finally Father Jim put is rocking chair next to my bed....and diligently prayed me through the night. I slept peacefully....knowing that God had put me here for a reason....a lesson....and I became determined to listen to what God had to say to me.....(to be continued)
To Joey, With Love....WINNER!
1 year ago