By Guest Writer: Luke Player
Around six in the evening, the canoe finally drifted into the little cove on the island. They carefully unloaded the gear to assure it would remain dry. They set up the tent, threw the sleeping bags inside and paddled off to Echo Rock. As they paddled, Luke looked up at the rock cliff, and he began to remember the first time he had jumped from Echo Rock. He recalled the mixture of exhilaration and frightening feelings, as he slowly scaled the naturally laid stones to the precarious ledge which opened to a panoramic view of the bay. Local history has it that in the late nineteenth century, before roads were built in the area, a steamship that supplied the towns of Maggie River and Almond Harbour caught fire and sank in the bay. On a clear day, one can still see the timbers of the old steamship from the ledge at Echo Rock.
They docked the canoe to the side of the majestic rock surface and tied a line to a birch tree conveniently overhanging the surface of the water. Like most hot July days in the north, the day’s end was a subtle transition into a long, warm evening, with the heat of the day still prevalent in the mid-summer air. On this particular day, the late evening temperature was higher than usual. As he dove through the air, he anticipated the cool feel of the water on his sweltering body. After thirty minutes of climbing and diving, they were both ready to retire for the evening. They jumped back into the canoe and headed toward the tiny island campsite, just three hundred yards in front of them.
As the distinctive sound of crickets filled the air, accompanied by the multitude of mysterious sounds from other diverse night creatures, the sun’s powerful radiance created a timeless portrait on the night’s western sky.
The buzz of thousands of mosquitoes hovering over the surface of the water were silhouetted by the red glow of the sunset. The night became animated in sound and the peculiar northern environment came alive with tranquil vitality.
The time was 9:30pm. Jason started a small fire and they cooked a meal of beans and wieners as they quietly watched the flickering flames. Luke turned and asked Jason a question and he was surprised to see him already heading for the tent to go to sleep. Just then, he looked up at the night sky and saw a ring of clouds forming in the western horizon. Suddenly, he heard a splash on the other side of the island. He ran over to a barren rock-shelf and flashed his light in the rippling water.
A big snapping turtle appeared in the dark water below him. The characteristic hooked head and long tail on the lonely reptile gave it a sinister look as it frantically swam away from the light. As he looked over the water, the rain then began. Nevertheless, Luke doused the fire and headed for the tent.
The air in the tent was hot, but after a while the rain’s hypnotic sound on the tent softly lulled him to sleep as it quenched the night air of its sticky heat. The wind was picking up as the sound of trees bowed to its might and it could be heard all around the tiny island.
Suddenly, Luke awoke. He looked out the tent window and saw a flash of light in the night sky. Just heat lightening, he optimistically thought, as he drifted again into a twilight sleep.
Twenty minutes later, however, the tent abruptly shifted as the wind became strong and severe. They were both awake now and wondered if this was a smart time to get off the island.
Luke looked out the window of the tent at a tiny porch light, about a quarter of a mile up the lake. The light flickered and went out. A power-line must have gone down, he thought to himself. He realized then that this was not a normal storm. As he looked out at the turbulent lake and heard the white waves hit the shore of the island, he knew they were trapped.
The canoe could easily capsize if they took the chance to reach the nearest shelter. The storm raged on, and with every flash of lightening their fear rose as they waited for the inevitable clap of thunder, which sounded so close it shook the tiny island and rang in their ears as a warning of its fury.
Luke reminded himself and his young nephew not to panic. The combination of rain, wind and lightening became so intense that they were forced to yell at each other to communicate over the furious tempest.
What could they do?
Their bodies were drenched from the deluge of rain. They were sitting ducks in the midst of a powerful storm. The lightening flashed with great intensity and they both knew that they could be electrocuted at any second.
The time slowed to endless crawl. The lightening crashed down so close that the ground was alive underneath them. Fear became their greatest enemy. Luke thought about the headlines in tomorrow’s local paper:
Two Careless Canoeists Swept To Death Camping On Tiny Island
They had to act!
They both jumped out of the tent and into a blinding shower of rain. They had to get to the canoe to get off the storm-besieged island. They looked in amazement when they realized the canoe had flipped over and dislodged itself from its original place high up on the rock. The tie-line had torn off the tree limb. They were just in time! Luke had to get to the canoe before it was swept away into the deep water of the lake. He dove into the tumultuous water and came up on the other side of the canoe. The waves lapped against his head and he luckily braced himself on the bottom of the lake, pushing the canoe into the island’s rocky shore. Jason grabbed the tie-line and they lifted the canoe up and over, to empty it of water.
The lightening flashed and they saw its giant forks crash into a tree near Echo Rock, splitting it in half with ease. But, they were paralyzed with fear and decided they had to wait it out in the water-soaked tent. Going out on the lake now would put them in more danger.
It was three in the morning, and the storm had raged for more than three hours. At three-thirty, the lightening and the wind began to subside and they were ready to risk an escape in an empty canoe.
They placed the canoe in the water and paddled for the nearest cottage with all their might. The lake was still rough and the white waves became a formidable obstacle in the dark.
The wind gusted unpredictably. The canoe turned abruptly and the waves haphazardly hit the side of the tiny craft, pushing it into the bay. Luke started having second thoughts about their decision to cross over to the cottage on the mainland, but they could not turn back now.
The cold rain dripped from their weary faces as water lapped over the sides of the canoe.
The wind subsided and attacked like a bull on a rampage. After forty-five minutes of wind and waves, Luke pointed to the dock in excitement. Just as hope became alive in them, a colossal wave rolled mightily over the side of the canoe, sweeping them into the uproarious lake.
Fortunately, Luke and Jason were both strong swimmers and they did not panic easily. The night seemed endless and surreal as the dark water encompassed their every thought. Luke then looked behind him and saw the protruding dock just a few feet away.
They had made it….
Luke opened his eyes and it took a few moments to realize where his exhausted body had fallen two hours before, in the dark. The water was now calm as the early rays of the sun shone over the tree-line in the east. The canoe was rhythmically hitting the rocks just twenty feet to the left of the dock. As Luke’s eyes came into focus, he thought that the once proud craft looked broken and demoralized as the water swelled over its humble crescent form.
A man then appeared on the dock and told them about the tornado that had touched down in the area. They suddenly realized that the storm had left a path of destruction, with immense pine trees split in half and cottages with trees leaning on them, precariously.
As Luke and Jason drove out onto the main highway, they looked in wonder at the legacy of the storm. It was a storm that would be well-remembered by the two fortunate survivors.
Luke turned to his nephew and said:
A philosopher by the name of Nietzsche once wrote what I am feeling right now…
‘What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.’
Leave a comment! I love ’em and the guest writer, Luke Player, will love ’em too!
(All photos were found on google images and pinterest and https://naturesknocking.wordpress.com/ )