July 29, 2012
One of the recent trainings for the local volunteer fire department involved the scenario of an injured hiker at Bridal Falls. Since we are only three miles from the entry to the falls, the department chose to stage from our landing. They were paged out as though it were a real emergency, and before long, two fire trucks with boats, as well as the ambulance, descended upon us. For the next two hours, the volunteers worked to bring the hiker down from the falls, carrying him on a backboard along the trail to the shoreline. Then he was placed into a boat and brought back here.
For some of the members, this was their first visit to Bridal Falls. All of this summer, the water has been
running in a spectacular shower over the rocks. I've posted a picture or two on my Facebook page, and they Always get the biggest response. Unfortunately, no one had a camera with them at training---which means that they were all very focused, and working hard on their mock scenario.
Afterwards, some of the people talked about staging a "mock" rescue again, so that they could have that missed photo opportunity. They agreed to meet this afternoon at our place, and travel by boat back to the falls. This time it could be done at a relatively leisurely pace, since it was neither a training nor a real incident. Two neighboring boats arrived, bearing several firefighters in GTVFD garb, and the remaining folks jumped in to one of our boats. Just as they pushed off the dock, another member arrived. He had been caught behind some slower traffic on the trail, and didn't even know that he had just missed his ride. Since we still had a boat on the beach, I hurried to get it going so that he could catch up to the rest of his mates.
The weather had been building up for something big, but an earlier check of the radar made it look as though it was all going to pass on the Canadian side. As we sped down the lake to the east, this seemed to bear itself out, as the dark clouds gathered to the north, and the south remained relatively clear. I should have known better, based on a storm earlier this summer.
We arrived at the mouth of the creek leading up to the falls, and I walked a short ways up the trail with him. Knowing that I needed to get back, I turned around and left him to hike the remainder of the way to the rest of the crew. As soon as I got back to the shore, I knew that I was too late. I wasn't going anywhere, judging by the dark blue line I could see out on the main part of the lake. Little bobs of white told me that the waves were bigger than I wanted to contend with, so I figured it was best to wait until the storm passed. Soon the wind picked up, and then suddenly one big gust came--wham!-- and it was much colder than the winds before it. I kept my eyes on the boats, and did my best to pull them up higher and attempt to secure them.
It wasn't long before the full fury of the storm was upon me, complete with pelting rain, high wind and big rolling waves. One boat wanted to beat up against mine, so I put a cushion between them. I held it in place with one hand, while continuously bailing my boat with the other. Glancing around, I could see that if I didn't move my gas tank, it soon would be in trouble, as was possible in our other boat nearby, too. Honestly, it felt like I needed to be in about three places at once. In no time, I was soaking wet, and I was grateful that the lake had warmed up so much in recent weeks. I just kept bailing, keeping an eye on all of the equipment, and wondering how I managed to get myself into this spot.
Soon I heard voices behind me, and the drenched fire fighters emerged from the woods. They were a jolly lot, despite the weather conditions, and were ribbing each other as though this was an everyday thing for them to be involved in. They helped to bail and right the boats, and one craft even got an opportunity to take off. But then the second wave of the storm hit, and the rest of us retreated for the shore to wait it out again. We joked and talked while we shivered, discussing the need for matches and fixings for s'mores, and how come we all were not better prepared with rain gear. I remarked that at least we all were wash and wear, and obviously no worse for the wear. When we finally deemed it safe to go, we jumped in and shoved off.
Along the way, we picked up some of our canoeists, who had just started back from an otherwise perfect trek to Bridal Falls. They had picnicked at the falls, and were enjoying picking raspberries and thimbleberries on the trail back down, when they first heard the thunder. I had seen them on my way east initially, and had made a mental note to check in on them when I was returning. Greg got there first, and picked up two of the hardy foursome. We came in as the second boat, and picked up the remaining pair, and then we all made our way back to Heston's.
Reflecting on it later in the day, and contemplating why my work for the afternoon was still not done, I decided that it's actually a good thing to get caught up in someone else's adventure. One never knows what serendipity and excitement lies ahead, and who wants to miss out on that?