Swept Down River

"You're okay baby" was the last thing I heard before our brief moment of panicked eye contact was broken and I submerged under the swirling waters of the glacial river and was pushed beneath the log that moments before I had been standing upon.

It had appeared to be a fairly simple log crossing. A much better option than trying to get into the deep gray silty water that rushed by in currents much to powerful to cross. The large fallen tree spanned most of the river and the footing seemed solid and dry across the thick bark. I was standing on that thick bark when it broke beneath my feet and without a moment to react I was in the deep cold water gasping as I resurfaced. My eyes locked with Goose's and my arm instinctively reached up to grab a hold of the log. At this point time seemed to slow and my thoughts became clear and methodical.

I had to let go of the log. The current was much to strong to try and hold on. I had to let that current pull me under the log and hope that I would surface on the other side. When my head went back under the icy waters Goose's reassuring words of "You're okay" became the background mantra as my mind kicked into auto pilot. The water pushed me under the log and my full backpack began to pull me downwards. I had undone my hip belt and chest strap before attempting the river crossing so it was easy to wiggle my way out of the shoulder straps while swirling under water. In the brief moments that I spent being tumbled in the dark my mind went through a long list of training that up until that moment I had only hoped had been ingrained in my mind enough to become automatic reaction.

Get out of your pack. Check. "You're okay." Hold onto your pack unless it becomes a hazard. You don't want to lose your gear. Check. "You're okay." There is another large log ahead followed by lots of branches through the next turns of the river, you need to get out before you hit those underwater snagging dangers. "You're okay." Swim hard to the bank away from the snags. Check. "You're okay." Goose should be able to access the river from the bank for the next few turns, if you get caught under water he might be able to help save you. That's assuring. "You're okay." Don't use your feet to try and stop, you could get caught and pushed back under. Swim, swim hard. "You're okay." I can touch bottom here. I'm getting close to the shore. I can stand. I can make it to the shore. "You're okay."

I waded into knee deep water while Goose rushed across the riverbank and I stood somewhat in shock while he took the dripping pack that I held out to him. I watched him quickly open the pack and pull out my stuff sacks searching for dry clothing. I remained in the water as time began to regain a normal rhythm and I realized that I was soaked, I was freezing cold and most importantly I was safe.

I know that every time I head into the woods there are potential dangers and I can only try and prepare myself for how to react when faced with those dangers. This terrifying incident was a reminder of how quickly things can go horribly wrong, but thankfully it was also reassurance that the my preparation and training for these possible dangers could, and did, help to keep me alive.