Day 186: fearless in the grand canyon :: day 7, part 2, falling out of the boat and swimming through lava

5 Jul

Lava, part 2. (continued)

Just after our boat navigated through the LAVA field, we were summoned for a rescue mission.

Kim fell out of her boat and floated right through the rapid in the middle of LAVA LAND, swirling in and out of the water.

This was the moment Keith had prepared us for on our first day — Kim was officially on her very own whitewater adventure, on the biggest, baddest, rapid of the river.

But, all we could see was a turquoise shirt bobbing up and down in the water. I couldn’t tell if she was swimming or swirling but she was quickly running the rapid without a boat.

In unison, three boats turned with one mission in mind — get Kim back in a boat, any boat.

All forward!
Two rope bags flew out into the water from two different boats.
One hit Kim directly, but she floated through it.
A boat extended a paddle but she couldn’t reach it.
Kevin grabbed for and caught the edge of Kim’s life jacket.
Dave (Kim’s husband) grasped both sides of Kim’s jacket and pulled her up.
Kyle (Kim’s son) put his arms around both father and mother and in one heave pulled everyone into the boat.

Mission accomplished.
They say Lava is the longest fifteen seconds of your life if you unintentionally swim it.  When I spoke to Kim after her whitewater adventure all she could remember was seeing the sky and not being able to breathe.

She flawlessly executed all the safety instructions and floated on her back, extending her arms and legs. But, she couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t get any air. She didn’t know where she was, if she was going to hit the rocks or where the boat was, and just as soon as the rapid ride was over she finally came up for air — under the boat.

It was her last straw.
She closed her eyes.
And, then, she was pulled in.

The worst part was watching her rescue and not knowing if she was okay. As soon as Kim was pulled into the boat she didn’t sit up. Then, our boat floated down river with the current and we were left cranking our necks to see if we could spot that turquoise shirt.

It was nowhere to be seen.

Finally, Kim’s boat pulled into our lunch spot, where we all waited lining the shore, looking for signs of trauma.

Kim, drained of all color in her face but all smiles, just shrugged, saying:  “I lost my hat.”

Small sacrifice for joining the Lava Swim Team.

It’s hard to put this day into words, so I asked everyone on the trip to help me out. This is LAVA in their own words: (can you guess which one is mine?)

Rescue Mission
Wall of Water
Wicked Wild
High Side of Good
A-O River
Sack Up
Joyful Success
Holy Shit
Oh F—, Here We Go!
This Is It!
Glad I Can High Side
Rock It!
Lovemore Fearless

And, it was.
Here is a video snapshot of what could happen in LAVA, if you’re not careful, and what we all thankfully avoided:  video click here

After our lavatastic adventure, we circled the wagons and prepared for THE NAP.

Running LAVA is exhausting.

And shade is hard to come by.

But more than anything, coming out of the rapid together, as a family, all intact, was good reason for sweet dreams.

And, then we headed down river to find camp.

That night, the guitar came out and we sang, “I’m a Surviver” in campground unison — because we all were.

For the first time in a week, we let loose and let the party begin.

But, somewhere deep inside, I had a feeling we had some help that day. Whatever happened under the water, whatever got Kim through, it felt like more than our paddles and boats.

So, before I went to sleep, I looked up at the Milky Way, at all those bright, shiny stars that cascade across the blackened night sky and said one more thank you.

To Cindie. 

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