a stroll along the pigeon...


the crossing


The worst part, now that the swamp was behind me, was that there was no suitable place to camp in sight. The trail down this side of the river had vanished and I didn't feel like fighting through the vegetation along the bank until I found it again. That left the opposite bank.

Since my clothes and hiking boots were already wet, I saw no reason why I shouldn't just find a spot to wade across the stream and then follow the far bank until I found a suitable camping spot. Mistake number four.

As I mentioned earlier, the Pigeon is mostly shallow with a sandy bottom. That's true of most areas, but I had just moved through a muck filled swamp and should have known that this was a bad place to cross. What made it tempting was the same thing that made it hazardous, the stream had widened and slowed through this stretch.

After tightening the straps on my pack, I moved cautiously out into the current. I could see the bottom through the clear water so there was little danger of losing my footing on an unseen rock or log. I cautiously pushed one foot ahead of the other and was soon in midstream with the water near the top of my thighs.

Everything was going well until suddenly my forward foot sank past the ankle. Luckily, I caught my balance before falling face first into the stream. The suction of the sand and water had my foot in a tight grip that didn't seem like it would ever let go. I had a brief flash of humor at my situation and pictured some lone angler stumbling upon my skeleton sometime in the future. I might die with my boots on, like an old-time gunfighter.

The humor of the situation soon vanished as I struggled to pull my foot free. No matter what I tried, it wouldn't come lose. I must have been a real sight standing in the middle of the stream with my arms flailing about and cursing a blue streak like a drill sergeant. The pack on my back and the current flowing against my legs made it difficult to keep my balance. That's when I made mistake number five.

Frustrated at the absurdity of my situation I gave a strong pull and lunged back at the same time. The tight grip on my boot loosened, but so did my hold on my balance. Over I went. Now my situation was reversed. My legs were in the air above me while my head was under water.

I twisted until I was face down and scrambled for footing on the loose bottom. By the time I managed to slow my journey downstream I had drifted several yards. The water was never more than waist-deep and at no time did I feel like I was in any danger. The only real damage was to my ego.

This was one of those times I was truly thankful not to have a companion with me on the hike. No one had witnessed my humiliation, except for a few birds and fish. That is, the ones I hadn't scared away with my blundering. I felt humiliated, put upon, and stupid all at the same time.

As soon as I had found my footing, I splashed the rest of the way to the far bank and crawled out of the river like a half-drowned rat. I rolled onto my back with the pack propping me up and stared at the river. I glared at the water as if somehow it had been at fault for the absurd situation. My angry mutterings soon trailed off and I gave a snort of laughter. "Some great woodsman you are, old man," I said aloud.

Part 9...

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