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Backwoods Adventure: search and rescue!

Okay, in the Boonies we/they have this thing called “Floating”. It’s basically when you take whatever floats on the water and you stick it in the back of your truck. (usually) By stick it in there, you basically throw it in the bed of the truck with maybe a child to hold it down or you just wing it and let the fates decide if it makes it to your water hole of choice. You bring drinks and snacks and music maybe… maybe you use a cheap phone and put it in a zip lock bag to keep it dry… (you know for emergencies)

“Floatables” include but are not limited to: An inflatable raft, a kayak, a canoe, a large inner tube, pool floaties, a pool lounger (preferably with cup holder) a Styrofoam raft or floatie, pool noodles, life jacket, a pile of lifejackets tied together, styrofoam from amazon boxes, air mattresses, inflatable girlfriend/boyfriend, old plastic bottles tied together, milk jugs tied together, styrofoam coolers, plastic barrel, you know… basically anything that floats that can be “improvisationally engineered” into a flat(ish) surface. I mean… you could use a NON floating item fastened to a bunch of floating items… really no one cares as long as it floats.

So once you have your “floatable” of choice it’s time to find a body of water to float on. Now, if you like to have a planned event, where you know everything that is going to happen and where you’ll end up and all that, you might want to rethink this activity. Water does what it wants, when it wants and you kind of just have to be willing to literally go with the flow.

You MIGHT run into any moonshiners or mountain folks that might not like you floatin’ in their waters… or that might think you’d make a fine genetic addition to the mountain folk clan. You might find out that there are waterfalls, shallows that aren’t good for floating. You MIGHT run into a bear or a snake or some other bitey wildlife. You might find out that paint dries faster than your waterway of choice flows.

The usual choice is a sedate but steady flowing stream or creek maybe a small river. You CAN do it on a pond or a lake, but it’s not much of a trip. Anywho… So ideally, you want to familiarize yourself with the waterway of choice. You want to know it’s splits and bends and where it ends so you can find a nice shallow spot to pull up and get out of the water to end your trip.

You want to bring 2 cars… one down stream where you anticipate ending your float and one at the beginning. You MIGHT want to bring a map and LOOK at it before your put into the water… You MIGHT want to start in the morning and end before it gets too hot and you get sunburned, or you might want to start in the afternoon after the sun is a little lower and be out of the water before dark.

So… my cousin did NONE of these things. She and her daughter and 2 friends set off around 7 pm. That’s okay, for a short float, it gets dark around 9 pm. but still not really a great idea.

Around midnight, I get a call from my aunt. She’s camping out near one of the cars the kids had taken and where they were expected to arrive. Search and rescue crews are out looking for them. Other family members arrived as well to be there IF the worst news came. We hung out beeping the horn and calling out for them just in case they were nearby but lost in the dark. We heard gunshots and coyotes… and found a great spot for watching meteor showers in the future but we did not find our errant “floaters”.

1am: helicopters with nightvision cameras arrive.
2 am: lightning moved into the area. Thankfully it was mainly sheet lightning and not storms. You don’t want to be on the water in an electrical storm.
3 am a garbled message from someone about the rescue, they want to suspend the search.
3:30 am: They are found only a short distance from where they launched their floats. They are apparently safe but the rescue teams are unable to get to them. The boy had hurt his ankle, and they all had bumps and bruises from rocks in the water.
By the time we arrive at the rescue, everyone is out of the water and getting warmed up and dried off by their car.
4 am: We thank everyone for coming out, hugs and such are doled out.

A homeless couple found them and took them up to the rescue site. Apparently they’d managed to build a fire and could hear and see the helicopter but could not signal it.

Be safe out there everybody, they make these mistakes so you don’t have to!

~Your amused,
Kaw

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