Outdoors

Splash and Dash

Salvation at Cougar Lick Falls

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

There were 10 of us trying to finish up some time-sensitive rock-work in an exposed talus field high on a south-facing mountainside when the sun hit that morning.

Although we managed to maintain a productive pace through increasingly sweltering conditions much longer than I expected,  people inevitably started wilting in the heat.

“My brain feels like a poached egg,” panted my second-in-command as he chucked his hard hat into the rocks and crawled onto the nearest available snow patch to douse his dome in the slush.       

Meanwhile, as I foolishly ignored my own heatstroke-like symptoms, three more fatigued crew members migrated to the snow patch and promptly refrigerated themselves.

“What a bunch of wimps,” growled my sweat-soaked partner as we doggedly attempted to lever a block of granite off the trail with tandem eight-foot rock bars.

“Anyone on this crew is free to self-medicate whenever they feel so inclined,” I countered, feeling increasingly fatigued as we manipulated the combined force of our fulcrum weight against the monstrous half-ton boulder.

Suddenly, just as we finally managed to nudge the boulder forward an inch, gobs of sweat came streaming into my eyes and the entire mountainside started to spin.

Jerking violently backward, I felt the spring-loaded weight of the rock bar fling me like a sack of concrete onto the hard surface of the tread we’d just restored. Then I blacked out.

A cold splash of water woke me. As my boulder-moving partner repeatedly doused me, I sprang back into action with a renewed but altered sense of purpose.

“That’s a wrap for today!” I bellowed. “Let’s cache our tools and beat a hasty retreat to the nearest ice-cold stream.”

So that’s precisely what we did. 

The watercourse we gravitated to came galloping down the mountainside through a deeply timbered ravine about half a mile away. Three commodious cobble-lined pools offered a plentitude of restorative soaking opportunities while the broad, well-shaded banks provided an array of reclining options.    

After indulging ourselves with an extended bout of bathing, bottle-re-filling and generalized bonhomie my sun-beleaguered crew settled in for a well-deserved afternoon nap.

But there was something indelibly mysterious about those gushing uproarious waters that beckoned me upward into unseen reaches.  The urge to explore roused me into action and I embarked upon a riparian ascent.  

The top of the upper waterfall came into view first—a dark, frothy spout pouring resplendently through a mantled crown of thimbleberry and ferns.

But despite my urge to take a long shower in there, I never reached it.
Scaling the greasy, moss-coated ledges into the mouth of a roaring box canyon, I caught sight of a cougar and her juvenile cub luxuriating half-asleep in the misting spray.

Freezing reflexively, I dropped out of view and slithered back to the bathing pools as stealthily as my blundering human frame allowed.

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