November 20, 2021
“A towel, [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says], is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.”
— Douglas Adams
It was a sunny summer day in the forest.
Peppermint Creek was a rushing playful sparkle.
It cut through trees, fern and boulders.
The water was so clear that schools of river trout could be seen.
Jays and warblers harmonized to the syncopating creek.
Paula and I were dressed in shorts and sun shirts.
We wore tennis shoes with no socks.
The sun baked through the filter of tree tops.
Our step was light along the creek side trail.
We came from up stream where the rock slide is.
The slide is a flat slippery granite boulder which had flung us down a long slope into a shallow pool at the bottom of a hill.
Remember Slip and Slides?
The rock slide is better.
We must have ridden the slide a dozen times.
We were dry now and no one was on the trail.
The forest was ours.
The creek had been rapids for the last twenty minutes but was starting to slow.
A squirrel ran up to us, begged on hind legs, then scurried away, tail flitting behind him.
We giggled at paradise.
Around a bend in the trail the creek suddenly poured into a perfectly round 20 foot diameter depression in the rock.
The water in the hole swirled around.
Down creek the water spilled into another slightly larger hole.
The swirling water was a little slower in this second hole.
At the down stream end the water poured into a third smaller hole.
The swirling of the third hole was ferocious.
The water leaped out of the last hole and cascaded down a craggy waterfall.
The waterfall roared.
A rainbow across the bottom of the waterfall was a false promise.
We retraced our steps to the first hole.
“It looks like a Jacuzzi,” I said.
“They are forest tubs,” said Paula.
It was now mid day and I was hot.
Sweat coated my body.
The tub sure looked good.
“I’m going to jump in,” I said.
“I don’t think so. Are you sure?” Paula’s brow furrowed.
“Yep. Hold my towel.”
We still had our towels from the rock slide.
I jumped in.
The water was cool and invigorating.
The tub was deep, maybe 10’ or so.
The swirling current pulled me along the perimeter of the tub in a steady circle.
I looked up at Paula.
She looked worried.
“Come on out,” she said.
I noticed the banks of the tub looked steeper from inside than they had from the outside.
I reached up to pull myself out and I could not reach the edge.
My hands slipped along the smooth interior of the tub as the current dragged me around.
I’m not a great swimmer so my frustration built quickly.
“I can’t get out of this one.”
“I’m going to go into the next tub,” I said, maybe a little louder than I meant.
When the spillway came around I grabbed an adjacent boulder and scooted over the smooth mouth into the second pool.
Here the water was calmer, but the banks were still steep and tall.
At least I could hold onto a rock outcropping and rest from swimming.
I reached up to grab the edge but it was beyond my reach.
Paula reached down toward me, but our hands were still a foot apart.
Even if we had a rope the sides of the tub were slippery and too steep.
“The bank of the next pool is less steep,” Paula said. Her customary confidence was gone from her voice.
I remembered what lay beyond and it was not survivable.
The spillway came around and I went for it.
I was now in a whirlpool.
The current whipped me around.
The bottom was below my feet.
The edge was just beyond my hands.
As the spillway came around it was all I could do to push past it.
Paula was desperate.
“Should I go for help?”
“Too far. I won’t last.”
Paula looked down at her hands, still holding the towels.
“THAT’S IT!” she exclaimed.
Quickly she tied the two towels together.
She tied one end to a belt loop on her shorts.
She braced herself on a boulder near the edge and threw down the towel.
As I came around I grabbed at the towel and missed.
Around I whirled pushing past the spillway.
On the next approach I grasped the towel.
Summoning all my remaining strength I pulled myself hand over hand out of the tub.
I fell into Paula’s lap trembling.
She held me tight and made small sounds.
After a while we stood up.
I looked down into the tub and its swirling whirlpool.
The birds were still singing with the creek.
The wind in the trees was rhythm for the song.
At the bottom of the fall, the rainbow still spoke falsely of the idyllic forest.