*Odyssey through the Monsoon*
By: Gordonnach
03 December 2007

You know that the training and example is sinking in when...

Your son writes about a interesting survival experience for his school assignment:

It was overcast evening last fall when my dad and I left our house. We needed to catch up with our Boy Scout troop who had left 3 hours before. This was to be a 3-day-you-carry-it-all backpack trip!

Little did we know it was to be an adventure of extreme weather, inadequate trail mapping and sheer determination.

So it was at 9pm that we arrived at the jump off point by the Lewis River trail head. Darkness was falling as we shouldered our 45lb backpacks.

“Double check time, son,” my Dad said.

Ponchos? Check

Headlamp? Check

Food? Check

Ground cover? Check

Etc. etc. etc.

What can I say – he is always like that! “Dr. Overprepared”

We were heading out onto a trail we had never hiked before with a storm about to break on our heads.

Not 50 feet on the trail when the sky turned completely dark. Yuck!

“Let's get our headlamps on,” I said.

“Rightee Oh.”

Oh well! That's my dad - gung-ho to the end!

As we looked around I noticed that to the right the trail went into a sheer cliff down to the Dark, Swift Moving Lewis River.

“Well,” I said to myself, “We do not want to end up down there!”

And as if the Gods of Nature had heard me – the dark and foreboding skies opened up with a fierce downpour of cold rain.

And as if that was not enough then the wind started to blow shaking the trees and even more rain in bucket loads.

“Ok son, let's get the ponchos on – turn around I'll get yours out then you get mine.”

Soon we were less wet (not dry mind you but at least less wet).

We headed out to meet the troop at the jump off point 1 mile up the trail. This should be an easy hike I murmured to myself.

Sometimes my dad tells stories of monsoons, green lush vegetation and mud that squishes every time you step. And I THOUGHT it was made up. WRONG – WAY WRONG.

We hiked for an hour. No sign of the troop yet.

But the rain was filling up the trail as if there was no tomorrow The trail become little streams and lakes. This meant that we had to walk in the brush beside the trail, slowing us down.

We hiked a second hour - were the heck is the troop?

“This is strange” said my dad “In theory, we should have met them by now. I guess I'm out of shape, my backpack is getting a mite heavy”.

"A mite heavy," said he - mine feels like a gorilla is sitting on it.

We hiked over a prehistoric wooden bridge (obviously left over from the mesozoic period).

The stream was swollen and within one foot of the underside of the bridge. Not a good sign to any one who knows the wilderness.

We hiked a third hour - the wind was still blowing, the rain was still coming down in truckloads and my dad was still enthusiastic about the hike. He's like that - "never say die."

Well I felt like dying. I was wet, muddy to my knees, overheated by the poncho and still no troop. Yuck!

At mid-night (yes mid-night!) we had a discussion about what to do.

Items of note:

  • We had been hiking steady for 3 hours
  • We had not found the troop
  • We had not found the jump off point
  • I was tired etc, etc, etc...you get the drift

    Well my dad made a command decision as to what to do.

    So he said, "“what do you want to do, Son?"

    Like this is the time I want to be responsible for what happens!

    He's the dad - let him lead!

    "Well Dad," I said, "what are our choices?"

    1)Hike on and maybe we will find them

    2)Camp here and find them in the morning

    3)Hike out and cut our losses

    "Well," said I, "If we have not found them in 3 hours then we probably won't in the next 5 minutes. If we camp, we can rest up but we will have to slog thru the mud again in the morning (like it was not already morning!) I vote for hiking out!"

    "Long way out," said my dad, "How's your energy level?"

    "If we can rest, eat and re-hydrate, ok Dad."

    He said, "My vote would be to camp but a shower would feel good right now so I'll throw my vote with yours - let's rest and hike out!"

    (I guess he was getting bummed and tired also)

    So back we hiked over hill and dale, down switchbacks and thru the rainiest and muddiest trail I have ever had the dis-pleasure to being on.

    Over the prehistoric bridge (with no hand rails) with the stream now over the top lip. Very unsteady I might say!

    Shades of darkness I had never, ever known before. I was getting more and more tired by the second.

    Then my dad's headlamp went out. Great, I thought, now I will have to lead him out blind through a forest I don't know and on a trail I've never been on before.

    "It's ok – I bet it's just batteries." In a flash he was lit up again. Then he turned me around and started to unload my backpack. "What do you think you are doing?" – I yelled (I guess I should not have yelled – but I was tired).

    "Son I just want to lighten your load."

    No!! I packed it in and I will pack it out.

    "Ok," he said, but before he turned back on the trail I saw a grudging smile of approval.

    Somehow that exchange changed how I was feeling I was refreshed and gathering more energy than before.

    "Dad – I want to lead off," and off we went!

    I was careful on the cliffs and within two hours we were at the car.

    Muddied, tired but unbowed.

    After our packs were stowed but before we left - my Dad told me:

    Tonight you proved yourself to be a man.

    Your choices, your determination and your leadership led us out of the forest.

    I'm proud of you.

    End of story

    PS - we got home at 5 am and slept for the next day. I still wonder if the troop ditched us?

    Of Course I cannot express how stunned and proud I was/am!

    He did not freak out, melt down or explode. He accepted the situation, determined a plan and made it so! (JL Picard)

    And I also wonder why the troop ditched us?

    No matter I found gold that night and have cherished it ever since!

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