Ass Backwards Adventure

A Guest Post by Tricia:

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Hi Everyone, I'm Tricia. Matt asked me to pop over and do a guest post for him this week. Poor guy. He had a great fall and really hurt his shoulder. Everyone say "Awwwwwwww, or Ewwwwwwwwwwww". Come on- I can't hear you. That's better.

Since I'm a nurse I've given Matt a nice dose of his pain medication so he's feeling pretty good right now. I'll keep an eye on him while I'm here. I might even lightly massage that poor shoulder of his and see if that helps too. Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I might not do that after all. He'll want me around all the time while his shoulder is healing and I don't think I can do that since it's a bit of a commute back and forth.

Matt wanted me to write a post about an outdoor adventure. I'm not as adventurous these days as I used to be so I'll take you back into the past.

NOTE from MTMD: This is a VERY long post. It's funny as hell and it's written very well, but if you're going to do this justice, and you should because Tricia's writing is amazing, curl up with a good cup of coffee or a nice cold one because this is going to take you awhile!

When I was in high school they created this class called "Environmental Studies". A lot of people decided to take it because it sounded like an easy credit. I thought that I'd end up with a very good mark from the class because, as I was growing up, my family had a cottage and we spent almost every weekend up at the cottage. I was pretty sure I was going into the class with a bit more knowledge and skills than many of the other students.

I can't remember the exact curriculum but the course involved three or four class trips, a first aid course, and a wilderness survival course. We studied some botany - how to identify the various leaves from trees native to the areas we'd be travelling to, how to build a lean-to both in the winter and in the summer, and how to create a snare to catch rabbits or other small game. Doesn't sound like your typical high school course now does it?

I'm not sure that we took any trips in the fall, so perhaps there were only three class outings. All of the trips took place over 3 or 4 days. The first trip that I remember was the winter survival trip. We arrived at the lodge, somewhere in eastern Ontario Canada in the late morning. The teacher and other chaperones/guides took us out in the afternoon on snowshoes. They showed us the various trails in the area, and I think we all practiced making a trap for small animals--a snare. We would be marked on the making of the snare, using a compass, and building a winter worthy lean-to.

That evening the teacher and the guides broke us up into groups of 5 or so students and led us out into separate areas of the wilderness. We were given a set of co-ordinates and a clue. It was to be a scavenger hunt that would take us on trails in the forest, along country side roads and eventually back to the lodge. I can't for the life of me remember what we were hunting for, but each time we figured out a clue we'd find a new set of coordinates to follow with our trusty compasses to get us to the next clue.

Did I mention that it was about -20 Celsius ( -4 F) outside that night? No? Well it was, it was January after all. I think my team was outside for at least four hours. We didn't make it back first but we certainly weren't last. No, I remember that the teachers and guides had to go out and find the last team. They didn't do very well with their compasses.

The next day we were all sent outside into the cold to build our lean-to's. A lean to is a shelter that is made out of branches both live and dead. You build the structure with dead logs and branches from the surrounding ground cover. Yes, really easy to find in a snow covered area! Then, if you are a good survivalist you pull out your trusty twine and lash the structure together with some jute. If you didn't expect to be caught out in the middle of nowhere and end up having to make a lean-to you'd use grassy reeds, or long strips of green pliable bark as twine, or you'd search for branches that you could interlock together i.e. ones with y shaped ends that you could rest another branch into and hopefully it would end up being secure. I think we had twine.

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After you've created the basic structure of the lean-to which is usually low on one end and high on the other - like one half of a tent, you need to find some pine or cedar bows to cover the structure with to make it water and wind proof. You also need to gather a lot of these live branches from pine or cedar trees to create a bed for yourself to sleep on. Especially in the winter. You don't want to end up sleeping on the cold snow!

We worked in small teams to build our lean-to's. I think it was teams of two. Then we were marked on our creations. That night we got to sleep outside in the lean-to's that we'd made. That was fun! I don't remember being too uncomfortable so my team must have done well. Oh I forgot to mention that somewhere along the line we also learned how to make a fire by rubbing sticks together to get a spark. Forget the flint that they get to use on Survivor, this is the real way to make a fire. I think we were all successful after several attempts.

(Oh look everyone- Matt's fallen asleep. He's got a goofy look on his face. He must be dreaming. those meds have really kicked in!)

The next class trip was really cool. We'd been taking our first-aid course in class and the trip was to be a combination of our first-aid exam and to learn how to rock climb. Now doesn't that sound like a good combination? If anyone injured themselves badly rock climbing, why, we'd all know just what to do. Yeah right.

What we didn't know until we arrived at our location was that our teacher had enlisted some of the members of our senior high school drama class to come along on the trip and play "victims" for our first aid testing. They really did a good job.

They used special effect techniques to make puncture wounds on their arms or hands, had objects sticking out of their legs thanks to special effects make up, blood and gore and so on. It really was fantastic to actually put a donut dressing on a realistic looking 'puncture / foreign object sticking out of body part' type of wound. I've never heard of anyone taking a first aid course that ended with the treating of realistic looking wounds and actors acting out typical - in need of first aid type - situations. I learned so much that weekend on that course, and I often wonder if by having such a realistic course if that was what first got me interested in becoming a nurse.

I'm not going to get into all of the ins and outs of the rock climbing part of that trip. I'd already been rock climbing for years prior to this trip and for me it was pretty basic. Learning how to climb up a fairly easy cliff with basic rock climbing equipment (rope, bolt hangers, carbiners and harnesses). The class had already learned how to create a number of knots that are used for both rock climbing, canoeing and for other applications. We practiced climbing and belaying and we marked on our performances.

No one ended up injuring themselves so we didn't get to practice our newly acquired first-aid techniques, but I remember seeing some pretty white faces as a few of the kids faced the climb.

The last trip was the most memorable and truly the one that I had meant to talk about during my guest stint here at MTMD.

It was a whitewater canoeing trip! I swear I was born in a canoe. Canoes have been part of my life from the time I was a toddler or perhaps even younger. My very first memory of actually being in a canoe occurred when I was about 2 1/2 years old, and I've been in a canoe every year of my life since then with the exception of the last few years.

Most people probably think of canoeing as being a more sedate activity. Look at all the pictures of a lone canoeist paddling quietly on a calm lake or river. It is peaceful and it can be sedate, but the type of canoeing I enjoy most is canoeing on fast water. Spring and Fall are usually the best seasons to canoe in fast or whitewater since the water levels are higher due to spring run off or autumn rain.

Since this last trip was meant to be a canoeing adventure I ended up being paired with the least experienced teenager in the group. Poor Simon, he had no clue. We set out canoeing in pairs along one of the rivers in the Ottawa Valley region of Ontario. I'm sorry I can't remember which river it was but it was small and fairly tame. I believe it might have been early June when we took this trip so the waters weren't as dangerous as they would have been the month before.

During the first hour or two of our river adventure we were on relatively calm water. The kids that weren't very experienced canoeing got a chance to practice their paddling skills, steering and maneuvering the canoe the way they wanted it to go. We also had to portage across some narrower and shallow areas of the river so that added to the over-all experience. Simon and I were about the same height, but he either wasn't very strong or hadn't mastered how to carry a canoe through the forest because I remember us banging into some trees more than once and the canoe tipping over and unbalancing us a few times.

That should have been my warning!

Since I had more experience I was in the stern or back end of the canoe and Simon was in the Bow or front of the canoe. My primary job was to steer the canoe - with Simon's help of course. When we started to reach faster water Simon's main job was to spot rocks and tell me where they were as he assisted in trying to help steer us away from the rocks.

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Whitewater Canoeists In Action

Things were going relatively well until we reached our first and only area of white water. It was approximately 200 yards of medium rapids and then a short drop over some rocks into a pool of deeper water below. Simon didn't do his job as well as he could have, he missed a rock or he told me about it too late. Either way, we hit it and the next thing I knew the canoe was spinning around and we were travelling quickly along the rapids BACKWARDS!

There was no time to get the canoe turned around or to try to maneuver it over to the side of the river before we hit the "falls". I really used all of my skills to steer the canoe through the maize of rocks. I'm surprised that we didn't hit any as we travelled backwards through the water. Before I knew it we had reached the falls and here we were swooping down it backwards. I'd never before, and have never since, gone down a falls backwards. It was perhaps a 20 to 30 foot drop. Very interesting and exciting. My adrenaline must have just been pumping by that time.

"Ok we made it down the falls. Did anyone take a picture?"

It was too early to be relieved that we'd made it through. I could see our teacher running along the side of the bank and just at the moment our canoe turned sideways in the swirling water. Simon had given up paddling by this time and I think he was totally terrified. Actually I think he gave up paddling when we hit the first rock that turned us around backwards a few minutes earlier.

I couldn't turn the canoe around--backwards or forwards without his help in the rush of water we were caught in, and the next thing I knew we slammed into a boulder. The canoe tipped over and I managed to jump out. My legs were being squished against the hull of the canoe by the pressure of the water behind me but the majority of my body was above the water. I knew I was safe.

Simon on the other hand was not. He did not jump out of the canoe as it hit the boulder and he ended up trapped under the overturned canoe. Our teacher leapt into the water and pulled the canoe off of poor Simon. He'd had his life jacket on and there was air trapped under the canoe where he had been. He was ok but shaken up. I felt so bad. There was nothing I could have done to prevent our final accident but I still felt like it was my fault that Simon had almost got badly hurt.

We hauled the canoe over to the river bank and it was then that I noticed the middle of the hull was all bent in from where it had hit the rock. I'm thankful now that that wasn't one of our heads! Our teacher stomped on the huge dent until it went back down.

Needless to say the teacher separated Simon and I. I think Simon ended up completing the trip in the teacher's canoe. I got a different and slightly more experienced partner. I was, however, stuck in the dented canoe. It didn't steer very well. Thankfully, most of the water from there on in was pretty calm.

I have never, and will never, get in a boat - raft or canoe, with an inexperienced person ever again. A person with some experience behind them yes--but absolutely none - no way. I have a feeling that Simon probably never got in another canoe after that day. I don't think he liked the experience.

I really wonder what kind of release forms our parents had to sign when we signed up for that class? There were so many possibilities for injury, I'm surprised the school even let the course take place.

Matt, Matt ... wake up! I'm leaving now, gotta hit the road. You need to wake up and take over your blog again. Oh man is he ever funny when he's sleepy. He's just sitting there blinking repeatedly.

Ok, well, he needs a minute to become more alert. I'll just take this minute to remind you to visit his latest room-mate Texas RV Traveler. If you want to learn more about Texas or if you're thinking of visiting the great State of Texas sometime in the future you have to see this site. It's just chock full of great information.

Thanks for reading.


utenzi said...

That was a great post, Tricia, and I really doubt you needed to wake Matt up at the end like that. I assure you, I was riveted! And it's not just because I have a thing for nurses either!

June 09, 2006 3:36 PM
michele said...

Tricia you did matt proud,
great interesting and funny post.

June 09, 2006 4:16 PM
Tricia said...

Thanks for the compliments Utenzi and Michele. That was definitely one of the strangest yet most enjoyable classes I ever took.

And Thank you Matt for letting me guest blog for you this week too!

June 10, 2006 3:01 AM
Mr. Fabulous said...

Awesome post! Heck, you're lucky to be alive!

June 10, 2006 7:22 AM
Chi said...

What fascinating reading...I enjoyed it so much. The canoe expedition was spell-binding but I'm glad neither of you were hurt! *s*

June 12, 2006 5:20 PM
LadyBugCrossing said...

Great post!! I have a canoe story up too! Nothing as dramatic and dangerous as yours, though...

June 14, 2006 6:45 PM
Cat said...

Wonderful post, Tricia! I loved reading it and I was curled up with some hot chai tea here...

I'd love to go down a river with ya.

June 16, 2006 1:59 PM

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