My family loves water and in Oklahoma there is plenty of it, over 55,000 MILES of shoreline - pretty amazing for a landlocked state! There are more than 200 man made lakes alone in Oklahoma and some truly beautiful scenery. There are also scenic rivers popular for canoe trips.
A few years ago we decided to visit family and friends in Oklahoma for a week as our vacation and work in some site seeing along the way.
We planned to visit my in-laws, the Myriad Botanical Gardens and the Bricktown area in Oklahoma City. We would go boating with my brother and my nieces, visit some lifelong friends in Fairland, OK and take a trip down the Illinois River in canoes with my niece and her kids. We would finish up with a couple of days in a cabin at Lake Tenkiller and a then day with my parents before coming home.
We should have probably just cancelled our trip when our cat got sick a couple days prior to departure. After several days of visiting the vet, finding out the cat has diabetes and many tears we made the decision that seemed best for him (but sad for us) and said goodbye to a
|Yoda (left) lounging on the patio with Obi|
After losing a pet we really weren't in vacation mode, but we decided to go forward with the remaining days of our trip.
The first few days were a lot of fun, we visited the botanical garden and went to to the lake with my brother and his daughters for some tubing. From there we spent a day with our friends from WAY back before we were married. The trip was going well.
Then we got up and headed for the river for a day of canoeing. (Insert the creepy music here)
We met up with my niece and he two kiddos and rented two canoes and set out for a 12 miles trip down river. It was a beautiful day, the water was not too high and we were virtually alone on the river - which seemed good at the beginning.
We made the first 6 miles with no problem, stopped for lunch and set out for the next 6 miles. We got about 4 miles more down river when the weather started looking stormy. So we paddled hard running for the end of the trip. Our REAL trouble started with the first sharp bend shown in the photo below where a large tree had fallen into the river.
As my niece, her daughter and I rounded the curve and paddling hard, our canoe started to tip and water poured in over the side. We thought this was no big deal, having canoed the river several times we had fallen out many times - but never under these conditions as we soon found out. ONE SECOND - I swear it was ONE SECOND we were tipping and the next second all 3 us were hanging on the trunk of the fallen tree being pulled under by the river with an unbelievable force. Our canoe was sucked to the bottom, bent in the middle and trapped under the tree.
My 9 year old great-niece, Halley, was in the middle and her arms weren't long enough to wrap around the big tree trunk - the river kept pulling her under and my niece and I kept pulling her head back above water. The water was LOUD! We couldn't hear the others downstream calling for us to let go. They couldn't help us, the river was in control and we had to help ourselves.
With a power I don't understand to this day, my niece, Aimee, was able to pull herself up and stand on the trunk of the fallen tree. I kept Halley's head above water with one hand and hung onto the tree for my life with the other arm. Aimee was able to pull her daughter up onto the tree with her which only left me in the water.
I was in the main channel of the river where the water flowed the fastest and the pull was the strongest. I was slipping further and further down and under the tree trunk. All I could see was straight up and the trunk of the tree. As I was hanging there I thought of all the stories I had heard of people swept under brush and trapped on the bottom of a river. I feared if I let go that I would be sucked to the bottom of the river with no way to escape. But eventually, my face was under the water. I could feel it running across my face and I realized I had two choices, I could stay where I was and drown or let go and hope for the best. At least it was my choice - I got to decide - so I let go of the tree. The river immediately carried me under the tree trunk and I popped up on the other side grabbing with both arms for anything and I caught a tree limb. Now I was facing upstream but I was able to turn and look downstream. Downstream toward my husband, downstream where I could see that if I let go, the flow of the water would carry me several yards into a shallow calm portion of the river. So once more I let go and let the river carry me out of the tree and to safety.
Halley refused to go back into the water and the bank was high and eroded. Aimee managed to drag herself and her daughter up the straight bank by climbing on exposed roots. The brush on the bank was head high and they were barefoot. They had to hike upriver to a place safe to cross the river and walk down to meet us. Meanwhile it had begun to thunder, lightning and rain. But our band of six was back together. With one canoe, not knowing how far we had left to go and with no option but to push forward in the river.
Because of erosion along the sides of the river from the sharp curves we had to stay in the river channel to finish the last mile or more. The kids rode in the canoe and the adults hung onto the sides where it was deep and walked where it was shallow. We finally made it to the end and the six of us turned in our one canoe. It was like a
The next morning I called my niece to see if she was okay. She was the only one who could really understand how I felt. Her kids had slept with her. Neither of us had slept much - the AC blowing sounded like water to both of us, but we were fine. Both of us would be willing to take a canoe trip again - but definitely wouldn't float this section of the river again.
|Our brave crew having a good time - minus me - I'm taking the picture - |
while we still had TWO canoes
|Floating in Lake Tenkiller with my baby girl - calm water|
So get out there and have your summer adventures but ALWAYS have healthy respect for the power of water and be thankful for the unadventurous days in life. Because life is the greatest adventure of all.
Be safe out there!