Tuesday, August 7, 2012

story without pictures.

two weeks ago, sports boy and i had a rare day off -- on the same day which was also a weekday -- so we decided to take advantage of the good weather and circumstances and visit the dells of the eau claire.

if you haven't been there, it's gorgeous. it's a county park (about a half hour outside wausau) but it feels like a whole other world.

the first thing we did when we got there was leave our phones (and therefore, cameras) inside the car. maybe that was a mistake, but i'm going to try to take you there anyway.

we left my car in one of many small-ish parking lots and started walking down the stone staircase along a big, grassy hill to where the water was. a river runs through the park, winding around the canyon and moving pretty quickly. at one point, the rocks become very tall and the water becomes very deep and it turns into an ideal place for cliff jumping, which many people were doing. there are other big rocks around the shoreline and that's where sports boy and i started -- hiking around and watching people jump haphazardly into the water: head-first, feet-first, somersaulting and backflipping. it was almost scary to watch some of them. we wondered if they were starting too far from the edge, but luckily no one died (while we were there) and that was a relief.

from there, we took to the trails. sports boy knew his way (as he always seems to) and we weaved around the overgrown weeds and other giant rocks. some steps we took along the way were bigger than others because of strategically placed stones (and obviously his legs are just a bit longer than mine -- he's about 6'4" and i may be 5'2" on my tiptoes -- and more easily able to traverse the gaps. thank goodness for his gentlemanlike nature...helping me get across some of the bigger ones). the path splits off in a number of places but we stayed as close to the river as we could, looking for a chance to get across in a way that didn't involve a bridge or getting our shoes wet. there were a lot of rocks dotting the river but many were slippery, not a promising path if you're looking to get across safely. the water was shallower at this point, but you could tell there were spots where it would just drop off and you couldn't see sand at the bottom.

we passed a cave where sports boy told me a bear almost definitely lived which kind of scary but surely (hopefully) he was kidding. a bear could have made a home in there though and we took a closer look just for fun. after walking about a mile along the rocky path, we made it to a real footbridge and walked to the top and across the water. the river had a lot of twists and turns, so by this point, we couldn't even see the cliff-jumpers anymore.

on the other side of the river was a completely different scene. gone were the jagged rocks -- replaced by tall pine trees and mulchy trails. there were more gradual hills there as well (instead of the rocky drop-offs) and a lot of shade. it smelled like trees. the branches were low and sports boy had to duck a few times to keep from getting smacked in the face. we followed the river to the other side of the cliff-divers and went beyond them a ways. about a mile in the other direction was a "waterfall." actually, i'm pretty sure it was a dam someone made and then called a "waterfall." yes...the water falls. but only because you told it to. it was still pretty neat, giving the water some momentum before getting down to where the cliff-jumpers are.

farther beyond that is a campground with a little beach and some sand. there were some people playing there, random barbecues set up and a couple of outdoor showers and changing rooms for those who dared to brave the brownish-tinged water. no bathing suits for us so we rounded the path and headed back to the cliffs.

a new group was showing off their tricks and many others were floating along in the water. we got closer to the river and realized it was one of those bipolar types...inches deep along some areas and then a bottomless pit just a foot away. we stripped off our shoes and socks and dipped our feet into the water, cool enough to be refreshing on a hot day but not too cold that it was uncomfortable. we waded around a bit and felt the slippery moss on the rocks just below the surface with our toes. feeling adventurous, we ventured farther, crossing some of the bigger crevices along the river. sports boy would forage ahead, turning around every so often to see me looking timidly at a too-big jump, reach out his arms and hold most of me as i jumped across while trying not to topple both of us over. the water was moving fairly quickly at some points and a guy was fishing in the river right next to us. we were surprised when he caught two fish, but i reasoned it may have been the same fish twice, so it didn't seem quite so impressive. it was still pretty big...much bigger than i thought we would find in the river and made me wonder whether more of those fish were somewhere close underneath my feet.

after sliding around along the river for a while, we trekked to some of the craggier rocks and decided to climb to the top. this required more upper-body strength than anything else (and maybe a bit of dumb luck to find good rocks that weren't going to go crumbling to the ground when we tried to step on them). the way up was not so bad and soon we found ourselves on the same level as the cliff-divers...only we didn't want to jump into the water. then we started the much-more-difficult task of getting down the giant rock a different way. the path around the cliff got very narrow at some parts, completely dropping off at one point. sports boy reached above his head to find a handhold and was able to take a giant step to where the path continued, practically hugging the rock and with little room for error.

at this point, we both decided my arms were not quite so long as his and were not sure what to do. i couldn't go back the other way so there was no other choice. i'd have to get across. i looked down (toward my doom) at the water rushing a good twenty or so feet below me, pointy rocks poking up through the water and laughing at me and my fear. sports boy steadied his feet and reached out his hands. i closed my eyes and hugged that giant rock like my life depended on it, inching my way toward sports boy's outstretched arms with cautious steps. i wonder if he thought i might fall. i knew it was probably a possibility...not quite far enough to die on impact but definitely a drop that would leave me with many broken bones. my heart started pounding super-fast, unsure of where my next step would be, not sure whether my legs would reach as far as they needed to. but (by some miracle) they did and sports boy scooped me up and into the safety of the path. we took a minute there and were just glad to be alive. then we kept going.

we got back down to river-level and waded around some more, above our knees at some parts, ankle deep in others and some stretches where sports boy would try to touch the bottom with his toes, but couldn't (this is saying something because he is super-tall). after we had our share of thrills and near-wipe-outs, we headed back for our shoes and carried them back up the grassy hill to the car, past the aspiring fisherman and the group of people with multiple cases of water bottles (how long were they planning to stay out there that they would ever drink that much water??).

sports boy found a rusty-looking pump at the top of the hill and magically was able to get water to come out of it. it tasted a little like metal, but not in a bad way, so i'm not sure what that says of my preferences for potentially dangerous drinks. by this point, we were exhausted by our adventures under the sun and headed back to the city, leaving our once-impending doom in the rearview mirror. maybe we'll be back again someday and bring a camera along for the ride.


Natalie Marie said...

not gonna lie, I nearly expected a proposal at the end of this story ;)

Ruth Dowling said...

Um you are braver than I will ever be. Ps you know this is a love story right??

Sarah Elizabeth Kron said...

okay...agreed and agreed to both of the two previous comments. hahahah. slash WHAT A SUSPENSE THRILLER! clearly this proves why you are being paid to be a professional storyteller/reporter on a daily basis...i was literally on the edge of my seat at some parts ("not quite far enough to die on impact"...!??! okay seriously dying there!!).

i'm glad you're alive.

Sarah Elizabeth Kron said...