When we finally arrived at the property, we were met by the caretaker, who unlocked the gate and led us to a clearing next to a calm section of the river. We quickly setup camp and then convinced Pop to drive my brother Jimmy, cousin Danny and myself upriver a couple of miles in the pickup and drop us off so we could take a leisurely float in our inner tubes back down to the campsite. Eventually, we came upon a nice sandy spot to launch our tubes, so we waived goodbye to Pop and proceeded down river. At first, the river was calm and slow moving, so we popped open the beers we had secretly snatched from Pop’s cooler and gently floated along. Little by little, the speed of the current began to increase and eventually we ran into some light rapids. Although this was a little uncomfortable, it was still a lot of fun. That was until we tumbled over our first waterfall.
Although it was only about five foot tall and had a pretty deep pool at the bottom of it, all three of us lost our tubes in the fall. At that point, I think everyone decided that it was a good idea to start heading for shore, but that was easier said than done because the current had ramped up to a fever pace. It wasn’t until we saw our tubes disappear out of sight just a few hundred yards ahead of us that this effort took on a whole new sense of urgency. Danny was the first one to make it to shore and he quickly grabbed my hand to pull me in, but when I grabbed for Jimmy’s hand, his fingers slipped right through mine and in a few seconds he was gone. Both sides of the river were covered in very dense vegetation so we were forced to crawl on our hands and knees through shallow waterways as if we were in a scene from Swiss Family Robinson. At one point, we came across a small pool and floating in the center, we saw a large sombrero. Now I’m not sure if there was anything actually attached to that sombrero, but I can tell you that it sat completely stationary in the center of that pond and never moved.
Eventually, we made it back to the dirt road and started heading barefoot back to camp. Luckily, Pop, who had started to become concerned when after several hours we hadn’t shown back up at camp, pulled up in the pickup truck. After we explained what had happened, he dropped us off at the motor home to get on our motorcycles and search for Jimmy, while he drove to the nearest payphone to alert the authorities. After hours of searching, Danny decided to get off his bike, walk out onto a small rock jetty and that’s where he spotted Jimmy, sitting on a rock in the middle of the river, just ten feet away from a fifty foot waterfall. The crazy part is that later on that day, one of the rescue workers told us that the jetty that Danny had found was the only point on either side of the river where it was possible to see Jimmy’s position. He also informed us that we were camping on the most dangerous part of the river and that so far that year over fifty people had drowned there. The fire/rescue team was able to fire a line from one side of the river to the other in order to bring Jimmy back to safety, with little more than a very nasty sunburn.
It’s like I always say Dude, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls. Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.”