Writing on 7/1/15 (in the evening)
So, I had a rather eventful day today. We decided to go tubing with some of Debbie’s extended family. Apparently Dale and Deb had gone to a nearby tire shop and scored a bunch of free truck tubes.
It’s something I had often contemplated about doing near Gainesville, but just never got around to doing.
It was fun, we drifted for a good couple of hours and drank some beers. It was very smooth for the most part aside from the occasional rapid.
Once we came up on the area where we jumped out of the river, two girls that had gone with us decided to go and jump off of a nearby rock into the river. The catch is that we had to go a little bit downstream, and this part of the river had an absurdly deep and fast rapid. To the point that I certainly would never have thrown myself into that scary, wide, deep, and fast section of the river without some sort of flotation device if I was by myself seeing this place for the first time.
But the girls said they had done it before. So I didn’t think anything of it. It was an incredibly strong current, certainly stronger than anything I had ever experienced before. In retrospect I should have remained calm and let the current take me rather than try to have as much say as I did in where I was going. By the time the current had pulled us to the boulder I was panting and completely wiped out.
Once there, one of the girls started climbing fairly high onto the rock. She assured me that she’d looked at the area we’d be diving into with goggles and that it was plenty deep.
Given that this was my first time doing something like this they suggested I jump off somewhere fairly low, but I suppose my testosterone wouldn’t allow for being shown up by a girl, so I decided I’d jump from as high as she decided to. And so I did. It was rather exciting, and it certainly felt like I was falling for quite awhile.
We swam across (we couldn’t get back to where the tubes and everyone else was on that same side due to the rock and the current) in order to get up the river enough to then swim across again towards the tubes. The idea being not to get pulled into the rapids again.
Well, I haven’t done much swimming lately. I was already beat from getting to the rock, swimming across, and walking upriver.
I figured if the girls were swimming across without walking further, I could do it from where I was (a tiny bit closer to the rapids).
I knew I’d be totally wiped by the time I got across, but I figured if I swam as hard as I could, I’d get there.
I started swimming with all the vigor I had in me and more. I stopped swimming for a split second to look up and see how much further I had to go.
I picked a really bad place to stop swimming: I was smack in the middle of the current. And since I got vertical to look up, my body was lower in the water, catching more current, and getting pulled faster.
I was totally out of breath, exhausted, panting, and had the immediate realization that I wasn’t going to make it across: I was going to be getting pulled into the rapid again.
It’s scary, because it does pull you down as you go over the worst of it.
Well, sure enough, once the current pulled me into the rapid I didn’t have enough stamina left to keep myself above the water. I ended up taking in a huge gasp of water.
Here I was, getting pulled downstream at an alarming speed, my muscles had nothing left, I was totally out of breath, barely able to tread water, lungs filled.
I started panicking, but thought to myself something I’d heard in mythbusters: calm people live, scared people die.
It was terrifying. I was trying my best to cough up as much water I could so that the next breath could be deeper. I was barely able to take a miniscule gasp at a time. All the while trying to keep my head above the water as I’m getting pulled along.
I figured if I can just get my air situation resolved, I can worry about getting to one side or the other later. The river was eventually going to send me crashing into the boulder anyway, so I thought to myself that I just needed to have enough oomph to grab on to it once I got there.
Eventually the current pushed me off towards one side, and I was able to dog paddle to shore.
It’s definitively the closest I’ve ever been to drowning. “F**k, am I really going to drown here?” was a distinct thought once my lungs got full of water.
All’s well that ends well, I suppose. It certainly made for a good story to write here.
Once we made it back to Deb’s place, we had a pizza and some of Dale’s favorite poison.
We might do a little bit more drinking tonight. We’re planning to leave early-ish tomorrow towards Calgary.