(I don't know if this is the right falls or not... I couldn't find a picture, but this is what I thought it looked like.)
What led up to this precarious position I found myself in? Well, a lot of stupidity on my part. Read on.
It was the summer after my sophomore year and we were on a canoe trip in the Minnesota/Canada boundary waters with my youth group. It was a treacherous trip for a bunch of "city kids" like us (if you can compare small town Iowa to a city...), but I felt superior in my canoe skills since my dad had built a canoe with my uncle and I had been out in it many times. So the mention of a week long trip canoeing and camping in the middle of nowhere with no civilization anywhere in sight? Piece. Of. Cake.
It was hard. It was tiring. It was full of leeches. Lots of leeches (Right, Holly?). It was day after day of paddling, paddling, portaging, paddling, setting up camp, preparing food over a fire, doing "business" in the woods and waking up only to tear down camp and begin more paddling.
But it was also fun. Fun doing new and different things. Fun bonding with friends over tired, aching arms and checking out our newfound biceps. Fun bearing each others' burdens as we each had our own times of feeling empowered and helpless. Fun sitting around the campfire and talking about how awesome our Creator is and singing His praises together.
The day of the above incident started out like the rest. My canoe partner for the day was Eric, which made my day since he was a strong farm boy and would make my job of paddling a little easier. We worked well together and the day was going great. We had heard there was going to be a small waterfall that we'd have to portage around and were looking forward to getting out and enjoying watching the waterfall for awhile.
When we got near the falls, we pulled off to the side where we assumed everyone else would be pulling up to portage. Eric jumped out to relieve himself in the woods and I took my lifejacket off and waited for Eric to come back so we could begin our portage around the falls. But when the other groups showed up, they pulled farther up the shore and hollered down to me that the trail for the portage was further ahead. I figured I could paddle the canoe by myself the 50 or so feet that we needed to go and then Eric wouldn't have to get back in and could just meet me down the shore. However, I forgot how ridiculously stupid it is to try to steer a canoe by yourself from the front. Had I been in the back, there would be no story here.
I pushed out from the shore and realized I'd have to back up a little more to paddle around a piece of land jutting out between me and my destination. As I backed up, I must've gone a little too far and the back of my canoe got caught in the current, which until that point, I hadn't realized was that strong. The water looked deceivingly peaceful. I dug my paddle down deep and paddled as hard as I could, but that was all in vain. I was stuck in the current and I couldn't get out. I heard my friends and my dad (he had come as a sponsor) yelling at me from the shore, telling me to get out of the current. Trust me, I was trying! I wasn't planning on going down a waterfall that day.
I was approaching the waterfall faster and faster and my heart was pounding harder and harder and the people back on shore were screaming louder and louder. What in the world was I going to do?! I had no time to think, just paddle.
And then I saw it. The big black rock jutting out at the top of the falls. It was my only chance. I steered the canoe as close to it as I could and as it approached, I threw my paddle into the canoe and reached out for the rock. But it was wet and slippery and I didn't know how long I'd be able to hold on and how long I'd be able to keep the canoe with me (we needed this canoe for the rest of our trip!, providing that I survived this event). The sight of the rocky falls below me was terrifying and I was losing my fight with the current.
I was in danger.
(to be continued...)