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“The last river.” (Part 2)


We were about to end our night of visiting around the campsite when we saw clouds gathering and darkening as a storm started blowing in. We had not had any weather at all during any of the days, only a few fast-developing rainstorms at night, those rainstorms Todd felt protected us from all the wild creatures that roamed at night. The four of us had to hurry before the rain came down hard and put everything in big metal containers that were there at the campsite. We did all of that quickly, and Todd and I managed to slip inside our tent just as the wind got to swirling the rain down on us.

Once in the tent, Todd and I talked a bit – the first time he and I had a chance to go over things – and I told him that, if it was all right with him, I would get up as early as possible and try to get a head start on him. That would allow me to take advantage of the cool part of the day and allow Todd to travel for a good bit at his normal quick pace until he caught up with me.

We had a good night’s sleep – the best of the trip – and again the next morning I was up at the sun to get an early start on day six of our trip. We knew we still had ten and a half miles to go to get back, and I wanted to get as early of a start as possible to see how far we could go. Our plan was to find a spot along the trail that night to camp since we knew we would not be able to make it all the way out, and there were no campsites once we started the two-to-three-mile trek up the mountain.

I got up with the sun and was figuring I would probably leave before my Idaho cowboy friends got up, so after I gathered all my things I wrote them a thank-you note. I just put the note by some of Mr. Dale’s things, and about then the two got up and began to corral the horses. Dale came over to make sure I knew the right trail to take and even saved me from taking off on the wrong one. I thanked them again for their tremendous help, and then I was off, feeling strong.

When I walked the two-hundred feet out of the campsite to the main trail, I still wasn’t sure which way to go. There was a sign at the trail that pointed to the right, which would have been heading east. I knew east wasn’t the way I needed to go ultimately, but I went that way for half a minute thinking that the trail I needed to be on was up that way a bit. The cowboy reminded me as I left to be sure and turn left when I got to the trail, but the sign confused me. I didn’t think turning to the right there was right, so I then turned back the other way and headed west until I came to a deep river a couple of hundred feet from the beginning.

The river surprised me – I didn’t remember anyone telling me that I would get to a river so quickly – so I turned back once again and went back up the hill from where I had come, noticing that the sun appeared to be coming up over Mount Sheridan in the distance to my right. I had almost made it back to the two-hundred feet or so to the trail that leads to the camp when I realized that the sun was reflecting off of the mountain and that the mountain was to the west, not the east. My sense of direction, obviously, was not the best, but I knew I should be heading west. For the final time, I turned around again and went back to the river and began making my journey deeper into the wilderness, confident, then, that I was heading the right way after that ten-minute circling I had done.

Once back at the river, I went straight into the cold river – which was the lower section of the water Dale and I had soaked in the night before – and found it to be the deepest water we had crossed the entire journey, and, as you know, we had crossed many rivers. I believe this would be the last river we would cross on the journey, and, as I reflect back, that thought has a certain finality to it.

We will all cross many rivers in our time, and one day we’ll come to this last one, too.

I had little time to pause and marvel at its beauty, unlike the one twenty-four hours previous. The end for us was almost in sight; and I knew that on this Friday I would have many more miles to go before sleep, as we said when this journey began.

Unknown to me at the time, that night I would sleep in a place I never would have imagined.

Ellis County Press

208 S Central St. 
Ferris, TX 75125