Thursday, August 20, 2009


Okay, here's some great advice to live by--don't do stupid things. And, if you find yourself in a situation where you are about to do something stupid and perhaps painful, there's probably a way out of it, so keep your eyes open and don't start panicking. Yes, I am now the voice of experience.
And by now you're thinking, "Are you going to tell the story that you obviously came here to tell already?" So, yes, now I will tell the story. Last week, my singles branch made a trip to Yellowstone National Park. That was tons of fun and all, but that's not what this story is about. This story takes place on the trip home from said trip to Yellowstone.
I was riding in a car with three other girls and the driver of our car, along with two other cars, wanted to stop at Lava Hot Springs on our way out of Idaho. I wasn't thrilled about making the stop, but our dear sweet driver didn't give us a choice in the matter. So when we got into Lava we were presented with options. I love options! We could either go soak in a hot-pot or we could rent and inner tube and float down the river. I chose to make the river excursion with about five other people from my branch.
After we rented our tubes, we walked down this shady little dirt path down to the top of the river. We all climbed carefully onto the sharp rocks of the riverbed and waded around the corner where we found a waterfall. At first we were all afraid of it and we figured we must be in the wrong place, but then another group came in behind us and explained that this waterfall was perfectly safe. "This is the easy one," they told us. "It's the other one you want to worry about." But even with this cheery reassurance we weren't convinced of the safety of this activity, so we got out, walked up the dirt path again, and found a place to enter the water on the other side of the falls. We all got on our tubes and had a grand old time floating on the water ... for about a minute and a half. It didn't take us long to notice the loud crashing of water coming from the river before us. Then we were pulled into a strong current, and I was separated from my friends. We rounded another bend and then we saw the falls. They didn't look too deadly, but the warning from the guys at the first set of falls was still fresh in our minds. These were the falls we needed to worry about. Oops.
As we moved with the current toward the falls, fear struck our hearts when we saw the people in front of us tacking the drop-off. Actually, it was more like the drop-off was tackling them. Not one person made it over the falls without falling off of their inner tube. I watched as one and then two of my friends biffed it over the falls, and I swallowed back a scream of terror. But then, I looked ahead of me and realized that I had bigger things to worry about. Now, let me explain how the waterfall worked out. There were two sides, the inside and the outside. The outside was where you wanted to be if you wanted to, you know, live to tell the tale. It wasn't as steep or sharp as the inside, which was about a five-foot straight drop-off into a patch of shallow water lined with porous (aka sharp) rocks.
My inner tube had been pulled into the inside current of the river. I watched in terror as a person on the river in front of me took my destined route and tumbled over the ledge. My eyes widened as I watched him fall. Then my tube spun in the water, and I reached the edge of the waterfall. I tumbled backwards off of my tube, and poor skin met with the unforgiving rocks on the other side. Then I was pulled under the water of a kind of whirlpool. I panicked. My body was still in shock from falling off of the waterfall, but as if that wasn't enough, I was now trapped under water, and my back was searing in pain. As I was pulled by the water, I started imagining what my back must look like, and I can tell you that my imagination was not kind.
Finally I was able to get my head above the water, and I gasped both with the need of air and the shock of the pain when my skin touch the air. I made the mistake of glancing down at my shoulder, and I about passed out. Okay, it wasn't really that bad of an injury, but if that kind of scratch was marring my back, I was in big trouble.
I pushed the thoughts of pain and injuries out of my head temporarily to look around for the shoe that had slipped out of my hand during my tumble off of the waterfall. I also needed to locate my inner tube again. I was lucky enough to have a kind soul point out my shoe that was drifting past me, and I jumped for it. And I saw my tube spinning around in the same whirlpool I had been caught in earlier. I struggled through the suddenly-deep water and finally got the tube back. Now I just had to find my friends and assess the damage to my skin. Oh joy.
The assessment probably shouldn't have been the scary part of this situation, but my best friend is, shall we say, squeamish. i didn't really want her to throw up of faint at the sight of my back (plus I didn't want all the other people in the river to see it either) so I kept as low in the water as I could until I found my best friend again. She quickly assured me that my shoulder had the worst injury, and that I would live to swim another day.
I was relived that I wasn't going to die, but I was not excited about the mile and a half we still had to float down the river. I have never in my life been more frightened of four feet of water. But I made it without further incident, and after a few minutes, my fear dissipated and I was able to enjoy myself again.
Alright, now you're thinking, "That's terrific, but what does it have to do with the nice long monologue you gave at the beginning of this blog about not doing stupid things? Seems to me like you've just been rambling."
And so, to answer that question, I will tell you about the realization I had the next day. As I thought about how scary it was to fall over the waterfall, it occurred to me that the water at the top of the falls was probably only six inches deep at most. So, really, I could have gotten off of the tube at any time and avoided the whole issue. But instead I was so focused on surviving the fall that I didn't realize I could have prevented it.
Is there a moral to this story? Probably. Do I want to spell it out for you completely? No, not really. But it's all there, and you have take a valuable life-lesson out of it if you'd like.
Have a great day!
PS My back is healing up very nicely, thank you. Oh, and as a side note, always remember to look at the ingredients of any soothing ointment you put on freshly torn-up skin: it may contain alcohol.