Day Five: The Site that Brought us Down
I awoke the next morning feeling exceptionally cold. It had definitely not been warm the night before. I was loathe to leave what shelter the tent gave me, but I finally got up and wandered around aimlessly for a while.
After a time, we started packing up and striking camp. It was windy again, but this time the wind was actually less than the first day, and it was going the same direction we were – which meant the wind would be at our backs and to our distinct advantage.
Lana protested our leaving the site that morning because of the wind. The rest of us were anxious to get on our way out of Kokoko, since that was the agreed upon plan for the trip and we didn’t want to have to make the portage and the entire paddle back to the landing all in one day. Paul asked who wanted to leave and held up his own hand, and I held up mine. I couldn’t really focus on anyone else at the time, being still bleary-eyed, but it seemed agreed upon that we were leaving within the hour. Lana’s protest was acknowledged and then outvoted by the group, and we set out shortly thereafter.
It was a very nice, leisurely paddle to the portage. The wind was, indeed, at our backs, making it much easier to get where we wanted to go than the first day. The plan was to portage out and head for the campsite we had seen on the first day with the tall rock and the bench. The thought of a bench at that point sounded like pure luxury to us, and we were looking forward to it. It had looked like a very nice site when we had gone by it the first day.
The portage was smooth. We were greeted again by the Kingfisher we had seen on the portage in and we continued on into the bay, past the skeletal boat remains. The weather was of the sort that when the sun came out you wanted to take layers off, but when the clouds came back you wanted to put them back on. It got frustrating after a while, so I found some middle ground and stuck with it.
As we approached the narrows once more, we saw a river otter striking a very strange pose near the shore. Both his head and his tail were sticking out of the water like some sort of strange water lizard. He watched us cautiously, then disappeared under the water, only to reappear a moment later to watch us some more, his nostrils flaring the whole time. We all paddled past him one at a time, us watching him watching us.
We kept on, following the channel/bay/river/arm out towards the campsite. A loon kept pace with us at every turn it seemed. We paused and rafted up at one point for a dip into what was left of our mouse-eaten trail mix. As we sat in the canoes eating trail mix, the wind pushed us softly in the direction we wanted to go. It seemed that everything was working in our favour at that point.
We made it past the site we had stayed at on the first night, knowing that the site we were aiming for was just ahead. Pulling up to it, we sent Shawn out to scout the site and make sure that no one was already camping there. He returned to let us know that it was open, and we unloaded and started looking for tent spots.
The site had platforms, which seemed like a great thing to us after having slept on rocky, rooted ground for days. The largest tents – Adam’s & mine and Paul & Jenn’s – started to try setting up on the platforms. The third platform had Ian’s tent on it in no time and apparently without much trouble.
Adam and I started putting up our tent. The tent we were using, one we had borrowed from Paul and Jenn, was always much bigger than we remembered it being the same morning. It was strangely misleading. We had all the tent poles in and had put the tent up, and were trying to fit it onto the platform, when Paul called out that his tent wouldn’t fit on the platform. Our platform had a couple of extra skids with it, and we were trying to fit it on there.
The skids, however, weren’t in the least stable. I knew this in advance because I had been standing on one of them when it started to tip, and I caught myself before falling anywhere.
We started adjusting the tent, moving it around to see if we could get it to fit at all, and I took a step onto one of the skids. I imagine there’s some sort of physics explanation for what happened next, but all I know is that the skid tipped with me on it and I ended up flying through the air face-first off the edge of the platform to the rock slope below.
I landed on my hand, which immediately felt both incredibly painful and numb. All I could think of as I started sliding headfirst down the rock was is my hand broken? Can I move it? I started flexing my hand against the pain even while I was sliding face first down the rock, making sure that it wasn’t broken.
I’m not sure how long I was there before Adam noticed that I had disappeared. I couldn’t really move or get up, and I felt pretty nauseous for a long time afterwards. I imagine it didn’t help that I was going into a hypoglycemic attack, which turns my brain to mush and makes me shaky anyway. At any rate, I lay on the ground gasping for breath, trying not to throw up and trying not to cry all at once. The first thing I said to Adam was that my hand wasn’t broken, but I couldn’t move it. I didn’t move for a while, letting myself recover.
At that point people started coming over and discussing whether or not we should stay at this site. When I could finally get up again it had been decided by the group that we would move on to something closer to the landing, depending on whether or not I could paddle. I flexed my hand a few times. It hurt like hell, but I figured I could stand it for the amount of time paddling to the next site would take – I knew it wasn’t that far away, after all, and with the wind at our backs I wouldn’t have to power paddle or anything like that.
With that, we decided to break for lunch at the campsite that tried to kill me, and then head on. I wasn’t up to eating much at that point, what with the nausea, but then the hypoglycemia kicked in and I flipped out and went to cry under a tree for a while. This is why we keep Jenny fed when we can. Although it was a nifty tree, all bent over like a rainbow just barely as tall as me.
Once I came back from the rainbow tree, I grabbed some protein and forced myself to eat it. We packed ourselves back up and moved out to the next site.
We rounded the next point to find that we could actually see Loon Lodge ahead. We had somehow taken a very roundabout way into Kokoko Bay that added on an extra hour or so onto our paddle into the bay. Hooray for Wind. We could almost see the site we wanted to get with the Jumping Rock from Bacchanalias past, so we decided to try for it.
I developed a nifty way to paddle that involved not putting pressure on the bruised part of my hand. It worked out fairly well until we reached the site and I stopped paddling. Then I decided to go for the ibuprofen.
First thing I did at the campsite was make myself some real food, as I finally had a bit of an appetite again and I definitely needed to eat something with substance. Adam, Shawn and I walked out to the jumping rock and sat there for a while admiring the view. It was too cold for us to go swimming, however, and as the evening went on it only got colder.
By the time we had lit a fire, we were all wrapping ourselves up in layers of sweaters and huddling together. We watched Mars rise for the last time that trip, when it was at perihelion. A squirrel appeared and started stealing the spilled trail mix from inside our canoes and burying it in random places. All I could think about was the squirrel from Ice Age.
We trailed off to bed again. Shawn woke up at some point late in the night when everyone else had gone to sleep and put out the last of the embers that whoever had been the last at the fire had missed. That was the coldest night of the trip yet. We could see our final destination from our tent doors.