I have talked about the litany against fear many times. It is from one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time Dune, a true masterpiece and one of the few books I have read that truly changed my perspective on life and how to interpret it and the people in it. The litany against fear is an important moral that we should all learn yet don’t. It discusses fear but not in the way you might think at first. There is a concept of No Fear, and it was even a popular slogan trademarked by a clothing company many years ago. The thing is, however, that a person without fear is dangerous. This is because they are outright ignoring their intuition, that feeling internally telling us there is severe risk ahead. It is foolish and often leads to actions with little regard to those around us. The litany against fear, however, talks about overcoming fear through acceptance. About allowing us to use the fear as a productive tool to move forward and build inner strength. I find too many people live their lives through fear for what ever reason. Fear of failure and fear of the unknown are two of the biggest things I see controlling people and their decisions. Instead of accepting these fears and moving forward and growing to many individuals choose stagnation rather than facing their fears. This mentality is one I hope people to over come through my teachings in Krav Maga or these blogs. So that they may walk in peace allowing their fears to pass over them and through them to be better, stronger and happier.
Today was suppose to be the day we got up to go on that mountain trek Terrance had kept telling us about. It was, after all, suppose to be the second part of the camp. For numerous reasons and set backs on all camps, it never quite happened. We ended up waking up late for what ever reason, I suppose people were all too comfortable letting go and relaxing. It wasn’t a bad thing. When I awoke, after coffee I immediately started to pack up my tent and gear because for me rushing is not something I like to do. Like a good soldier, I was ready to go at moments notice knowing the wind and lake conditions may affect departure as this was one of the reasons we held of leavening the day before. After another late breakfast, there was a discussion of whether we should go or not. The waves though not too bad were certainly not calm. The assessment of whether the risk was worth it was the real challenge. Several of us decided that we would try our luck and go out on the canoes to the second beach where the therapy had taken place before. If we could comfortably do it, then we would leave camp a little later. We made it no problem, and I ended up hearing some of the stories of the both Terrance of the others during their drug rehab and before. Perhaps we hung around for too long, but when made it back Terrance was cautious, and the others were unsure as to whether we should collectively leave or not. I voted to go now before it got too bad. For if you allow fear to overcome you and you keep putting things off then things will never get done. Again, I do not allow fear to control me when I consciously can. In the end, I was outvoted, and the decision was to stay for another day even though it took a long time. For me, there is nothing worse than indecision. For me, the longer it takes, the longer things may pass you by. This and having not been on medication (SSRI’s)for a few days made me irritable, and it reminded me why sometimes I just don’t like people.
Either way, we waited too long, and the waves picked up. My point about indecision was proven correct, though I didn’t say much about it. We could have left earlier if we had stuck to the plan yet didn’t. Now with the rest of the day free, it was decided that we would walk up the river and do the walking meditation that several of the group had yet to experience. Eventually, we found a log crossing that had been constructed previously, by settlers or campers, who knows? There was a more modern rope on one side indicating that someone had used this crossing more recently. Eventually, we found the abandoned cabin again.
I was surprised at how quick a walk it was considering it was in the bay over that we had previously canoed too. Another discovery at least to me is that at one time this cabin had numerous fruit trees, some of which were still producing fruit. We explored the cabin a bit more and then picked some apples. Terrance asked me to explain how the walking meditation works to everyone and again one by one people set out. This time I went second to last.
We admired the waterfall once again, this time with more pictures. Someone noticed another trail that went farther up the mountain, and we decided to go up to the second water fall higher up. This time it was less of a calm winding path and more of a steep hike. I was starting to understand why so many hikers take hiking polls. At least we didn’t have our backpacks which for me made it easy work as my Vibrams allowed me to stay low and nimble. The second waterfall was probably twice the size of the first and much farther back in the mountain. We could only watch from the cliff side as it would be impossible to safely access this pool with out serious climbing gear and experience. Again we noticed that there was another less obvious path going further up the mountain. Terrance had never seen the next waterfall and suggested we explore. So up we went.
This time it wasn’t just steep, and the path was not so clear. The mountain side, littered with loose shale and steep, uneven terrain proved tricky. We hug the cliff side. Shortly after much of the group got too nervous to continue as it was not such an easy climb. My self and another decided to push farther to explore and see if this was a viable path for future camps. We discovered that shortly after the trail died in what appeared to be the scorn of winters rath, an avalanche path covered with fallen trees. Perhaps at one time, there was a trail but not anymore. After climbing up and around to look down the cliff side, we decided that there was no point in continuing as it would most likely take hours to scale to the peak and we didn’t have the proper equipment, so we carefully went back down to the group. Some indicated that it was a dangerous decision, but to me, it was just a calculated risk as the weather conditions were good. Again, my relationship with fear seems to be vastly different than others. Back to camp, we went, this time we found a path that came through the fairy grove, which was easy to find as the purple towel was still there floating suspended on some twine.
Upon arriving it was noted that something was not quite right. 1, 2 and…wait… there was no 3. Apparently, the Tin canoe was nowhere to be found. It had been left sideways on the shoreline rather than pulled right up and the best we could figure it had been swept away by the wind and the waves. Terrance and several others were still making their way back. In my head I thought, if we don’t get it now there will just be more excuses tomorrow, and we will never be able to hike the mountain. As John Sambo was standing right next to me and as he had claimed he had been in rough canoeing conditions previously I asked if he wanted to come with me to find the canoe. He obliged, and just as we pushed off into the water, Terrance and company came out of the tree line just in time to see us pushing off the shore. Theirs was a look of worry. To me though, this was a mission no different than any challenge I had faced previously.
On the way to find the canoe, we were moving with the waves, which made things easier. We, of course, made sure to take lifejackets. I should note, that had we not had life jackets there is no way in hell I would have done this. I neglected to mention earlier, that I don’t like deep water, for you see I had a near drowning experience when I was younger and since then I prefer to keep my feet on the ground. Despite this fear, I was confident in my ability to face it and overcome it…with the life jacket on of course.
We stayed close to the coast so as not to be swept out into the centre of the lake where the waves were the larger. As we moved forward, we spotted what we thought might be a canoe. Nope, just a large boulder.
We kept going, and in the faint distance, we spotted something blue. The Tin Canoe had blue wooden structures on it which I believe was at one point meant for a person to treat it like a row boat. Too bad, they were not set up as such, it would have made things far easier. As we approached, I noted that not only was this beach a rocky, bouldery one making it hard to land, but the waves were crashing onto it every few seconds. It was lucky in reality that it was the Tin boat that had been taken as it was likely here for hours and any of the fibreglass canoes would have probably been smashed up by now. Never the less we had to attempt to return this boat, so we very carefully beached our fibreglass boat and pulled it up to the shore as far as we reasonably could.
We were pleasantly surprised to find, that not only were both the oars and life jackets were still in the canoe but also someone’s boxers who had made the ill fated decision to use the canoe as their drying rack.
The priority was pulling the canoe up the shore so that we could empty the water now gathered inside. Initially, we tried to bail the water out using an old empty plastic bottle we found and our hands. This proved far too tedious with the waves crashing in every few seconds. We decided to pull it up further as we then tipped this cumbersome boat on its side to allow most, but not all of the water to drain out.
The plan was to tie one boat to another using the paracord I had brought. Then one person would get in a boat push out a bit, then the second would jump in, and we would paddle out. This, however, failed. John sambo tried twice to launch in the tin boat but twice capsized. I assessed that it was too shallow, the boat and John were just too heavy to move out safely. Plan B. I would get in the tin boat get it off the shore and John would get in the fibre glass boat and together we would go out into the wildness of the lake. This too did not go exactly to plan. While I managed to get the lead boat out and John managed to get the second boat out it was a struggle. For you see, John had clearly exaggerated his ability to paddle and steer in rough waves. I found my self-being dragged back as John paddled his boat in circles. His inability to control the direction of his canoe kept causing my starboard to be facing the on coming waves. It was now becoming dangerous as we both now risked cap sizing. I attempted to give firm clear directions how to steer while trying to do this same. After a few minutes of this I said, ” I am sorry, but I have to cut the toe line”. I pulled out my Leatherman and while keeping the canoe as straight as I could I cut the line. While team work is preferred, sometimes it is just is not possible. The waves were too big, the wind was too aggressive, and I just did not have the strength to steer and pull both boats. Off I went. I righted the direction of the canoe and began what would be a longer journey than I had originally thought.
After watching John capsize previously at the shore, I assessed that the seats of the canoe were far too high allowing for a dangerously high centre of gravity. I decided I was going to sit on the floor at the bow of the boat. It turned out to be the correct decision as It kept my centre of gravity low and kept the weight in the front preventing the waves from flipping the boat. However, I knew this was the right decision I don’t know, but it just felt right at the time. Later I justified it by explaining that by weighting the front I could break the waves easier and paddle hard to keep the front from being over come with water. The truth is it was an instinctual decision, as having little to no previous experience in such conditions and in a canoe no less I really can’t tell you how I knew other than I just did.
I looked back and saw John still paddling in wide circles; I didn’t know what to do. I yelled at him to try to get to shore and wait while I went for help. I don’t think he heard as he kept going in circles. I had no choice but to move forward. I started to paddle hard when the waves came and continuously so that they wouldn’t push me back and the little progress I was making for nothing. After a while, I started to think about all the warriors of the past that would endure such situations. I thought of the Maori in New Zealand, the Polynesians in Hawaii and the Vikings. I too felt like a modern day warrior. It was not a great situation, but I felt great. For thousands of years, these kind of situations were common. Many had to prove themselves a warrior would have to complete such tasks alone with out help. It made this easier as I fought through it and kept paddling.
I looked back and saw John going in circles still and then trying to beach himself. He succeeded but then tried to make his way out to water again. It failed. It must have been 2 or three attempts in total but none worked. Since leaving camp, it must have been about 2 hours now. I must have been alone for more than an hour of it and was probably only halfway back to camp. The swells up until this point must have been between 3-4 feet, it what seems like a never ending battle with the gods of the lake. No, I don’t really believe that, but hey I was just trying to get into the Viking mentality.
Eventually, I saw the little dinghy in the distance. It so happened that the waves had calmed down and I used my paddle as a signal. They got close enough for me to yell, ” I am fine, go help John and I pointed in his direction.” as I gave a thumbs up. They received the message and continued passed me.
They too tried to help John the way I did, but even with the motor, the waves were just too much, poor John was really out of his element. They eventually gave up, beached the fibre glass canoe on the beach, and told John to walk. They then came out to me. It was Terrance and his helper Alex. They came around and pulled up alongside me. I wasn’t sure what their goal was. I assumed that they were going to toe me, which I was mildly relieved as it was still a long way to go, and the waves were only getting bigger. I was wrong. The dinghy and its motor were not designed for these rough conditions. Back to my warrior’s mindset. They tried to tell me I needed to bail the water out of my boat which I kept trying to tell them it was fine. In the time it took them to decided what to do the boats had turned sideways. I got impatient and recognized they were not helping but making things worse. I yelled, ” either one of you gets in this canoe to help me paddle or disengage.” Startled, Alex got in the canoe grabbed a paddle. Terrance disengaged and headed back to the beach disgruntled.
So Alex and I would finish the journey, while I am fully confident I would have made it on my own, I was glad I had help. The waves were now probably reaching 6 foot or more. It would have been an epic struggle like something out of an ancient Greek story had I been required to do it by myself, but it was still epic even with two people.
We started to go on what would be another hour paddling. At some point, Alex began to chant in a loud booming voice.
“NOW I AM THE VOICE.
I WILL LEAD NOT FOLLOW.
I WILL BELIEVE, NOT DOUBT.
I WILL CREATE, NOT DESTROY.
I AM A FORCE FOR GOOD.
I AM A FORCE FOR GOD.
I AM A LEADER.
DEFY THE ODDS.
SET A NEW STANDARD.
It was epic. It turns out it was a Tony Robbin’s mantra, while I am not a fan of his, an argument Alex and I would have later, at the time it truly was epic and very appropriate. It gave us both strength for a time and quite frankly makes this story even better.
Eventually, though, the mantra wore off, and the long hard grind was starting to wear on Alex. Despite the fact I was exhausted long ago, I had to dig deep and embrace the suck. I told him this, he had to embrace it and not give up. Slowly, one paddle at a time and with a little team work we made it closer to camp. The problem was that we couldn’t simply bee line it to shore. Because of the waves, we had to paddle past the camp and then turn around so that the waves would guide us to shore. If we turned too soon, the waves would push us past our beach. Imagine, the goal in sight after what was getting close to 3 hours, but unable to reach it for a time because rushing could mean imminent danger.
We paddled passed as our comrades look on from the shore. Eventually, we got to the point where we could turn around. Unfortunately, it took several attempts as the waves weirdly kept pointing us back in the same direction (rather than flipping us). Finally, we got coordinated enough to turn around.
Finally, we were back on dry land.
As we landed on the beach, there was what I imagined a collective sigh of relief from all parties. Ironically John had just beaten us to the camp not a few minutes earlier. Perhaps We should have beached earlier too, no I thought, as then we would have been down two boats and not one. I made the right decision.
I attempted to lift myself out of the canoe but couldn’t. The moment I stopped paddling my arms gave out. It took me several attempts, but I finally managed. Soaking wet and with a smile on my face I was back at camp. I think people thought I was crazy as is common in my life but I didn’t care, at least I had something interesting to write about.
It took me a second to settle in and then me and Alex high fived. Then, Finally, some luck, while we had been struggling they had made food. At least I got to eat to replenish some strength it was a good day after all.
I then took off my wet clothes and put on my some long johns and a thermal shirt. I knew all to well from the army how quickly hypothermia can set in. I told both Alex and John they should change to warm clothes so they could avoid it as well.
The day ended with me, John, and Terrance looking up at the stars once again. Discussing the universe and me attempting to explain what little I know of it from an astronomical point of view. Despite the hectic day, it ended in calm. Because I was tired and had previously packed up my gear, I decided that I was just going to sleep out in the open looking up at the stars. It was the right decision as I looked up at the milky way I smiled as I was at least for a brief moment happy. Then with heavy eyelids, I faded off to sleep.
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