Wednesday, July 6, 2011

An evening walk

Last Monday evening after dinner, Valerie and I decided to drive up north with Tucker, our Lab mix, and take an evening walk. We drove to Phantom Hill and walked north on the Harriman Trail. On our way we discussed not letting Tucker near the river as the water was running fast, cold and deep. We walked for a mile or two on the trail, crossing Boulder Creek, which was moving very fast. The next drainage we came to was a small overflow from the runoff of Boulder Creek. I thought it looked tame enough to let Tucker have a quick drink. Big mistake! The water entered a culvert on the right, the trail crossed over it and the water exited on the other side of the trail about 40 feet.

Tucker went in for a drink, took one step too far and I could see he was going to be sucked into the culvert. We ran to where he had stepped into the water and tried to grab his collar before he was sucked into the culvert. I missed him and he was gone. Valerie ran after him as he exited on the other side and was able to get out of the creek on his own.

The next thing I knew, I was in the water and also being sucked into the culvert. The pressure from the water entering it was incredible. As my body was being sucked in, I managed to grab the edges of the pipe with my forearms. My legs and most of my body up to my neck were being sucked into the culvert. With great difficulty, I managed to pull myself out with my forearms. I didn't realize the danger I was in, I just knew I wasn't going through the pipe. I don't know how but I pulled myself out. It all happened so quickly.

It didn't seem like that big of a deal right after it happened. Tucker was OK. He was sucked all the way through by the incredible power of the water. He was freaked out, but since he's a Lab, we were not sure if he even knew what happened. As for Valerie and myself, I was soaking wet, bleeding from both arms with the cuts and scrapes from the jagged edges of the pipe and shaken up.

We realized as we walked back to the car how close to a major disaster this was. Tucker and I both narrowly escaped death. Valerie almost witnessed that happening to us and we were two miles from the car. No cell service, no one near to call for help. The thought of drowning has always been a nightmare of mine, the thought of drowning inside a culvert? And all of this happened in a matter of seconds. One second we are walking, enjoying the beauty of the north valley, and the next second we were fighting for life without knowing that is what is happening. At the time it was just survival. We were lucky! Incredibly lucky and very thankful.

We have always had a huge appreciation of nature and the beauty of this valley. We have always known of the power of the snow in the winter. We now have an even greater respect for the power of the same water during the summer.

I am sending this story to the Express with the hope that those who read it take special care around all moving water this year. Especially watch your kids and dogs, and as I know from my experience, please watch out for yourself too.

Johnny Bolton


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