Thursday, December 23, 2010

Take Me to the River

The Mighty Neuse! That slight turbulence is where Andy and I were swept down the river many yards.

One of my favorite trails in the Raleigh Greenway system is the Neuse River Trail. The trail has tamped down dirt on the surface which is good for the knees and feet. The trail affords quite a bit of isolation, and goes for about four miles along the Neuse River. Even if there are a couple of dozen users on the trail, the people are usually spread out quite a bit so one won’t be bumping into another every few seconds like on other trails.

However, the trail does have a few drawbacks. Even though the trail mostly goes through wooded areas, the trails width means that the trees give no shade on the trail itself. Also, since the trail abuts a river and quite a bit of marshy areas, the trail is usually quite humid, making the shadeless trail that much more hot. Lastly, there are no water fountains to be found. Should one find oneself parched and overheated, one could be shit out of luck. One time on an 8 mile run, I pushed myself harder than I should have and had the only bout of heat exhaustion in my time of running. I almost passed out. I staggered around a bit, kneeled down and regained my composure. It was a close call.

All in all, it’s a great trail!

On one trip down to NC while I was visiting from NJ, I wanted to take the babies for a trip to a new place for them. I took them to the Neuse River trail. There was a spot about a mile into the trail where we could quietly slip into the river and play a bit even though recreational swimming is forbidden by the park authorities. It would also give the babies a chance to cool off after a longish walk in the summer. I had to take precautions to ensure the babies wouldn’t overheat which they were prone to do in the summer.

When we made it to the spur that would take us to the river itself, I let the babies off leash. They followed me to the water and immediately walked into the river. They had a wonderful time. I even got in myself. The water was cool but not cold. I climbed out and walked on some boulders extending to the middle of the river. I went back in and Andy followed me. At the middle of the river was small trickle of water where the water contracted to squeeze through the boulders in the river. It didn’t seem like a big deal until I was caught up in the flow. I was immediately swept downstream 10 or 15 yards. Andy was pulled down the stream , too.

This is when the problem started. As he was taken further away from me and lost control, he started to panic. He turned upstream and tried to swim towards me. I could tell if he kept going, he would have exhausted himself and drowned. I couldn’t say ‘stop.’ I pointed with my right hand for him to go the bank of the river. Fortunately for me, Andy responds very well to hand signals. He would have made a great hunting dog. Andy took my guidance and swam to the bank out of danger.

Did I mention that my mom went on the trip with us? She was standing on a bridge overlooking this spur. She could tell Andy was startled and panicky. When Andy made it safely to the edge, my mom chewed me out. She used words like ‘god damnit’ and ‘you almost killed my baby boy’ and ‘you’re never taking the dogs here again.’

She had a point. I needlessly put the dogs in peril. Abby had gone in before Andy. Even though she was caught in the flow, she handled it with much more composure than Andy. Andy’s fear was palpable. Hell, in some ways I was in peril. The current was strong. Even though from the surface that small trickle looked harmless, it packed quite a bit of umph to it, and I used to be a competitive swimmer. My best bet to get out of the situation was to swim in a diagonal fashion towards the bank.

I had to learn again the hard way not to take a dog to a body of water that doesn’t have a beach area.

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