Today after church I was talking to a few friends, when I noticed that I hadn’t seen anyone in my immediate family for several minutes. I thought they must be waiting in the car, so I went downstairs to the lower lot and looked – no one there. Back inside to look around – no one in my family there either. Back upstairs, and still no one! So I went out the front door and saw a fire truck, ambulance, and a police car in the road right in front of the church’s driveway. One of our church members had been in an accident. (No one was seriously injured.)

Beth had seen it as she was on the new climbing dome when it happened. Va was putting things in the car, and she heard it. David was outside at the time too, so he heard it. They were the first on the scene.

The member in the accident was one of our refugees from Africa, and she had her four daughters in the car (two of whom are in my Pathfinder Club). By the time I found out what was going on, they were loading the mother and oldest daughter into an ambulance. Va was carrying the youngest one back into the church, and two other church members were escorting the other girls inside. Their father was called, and he caught a ride with a neighbor post haste. Anyhow, there was lots of confusion and excitement, and they were released from the hospital later in the afternoon.

My plan for today was to take Beth and David on a little paddle trip down the Merrimack. I figured that with just the three of us, it would go much more smoothly than the raft trip did last week. But instead, it did not go smoothly at all! Jonathan took us to the put in, and he agreed to come and get us at the take-out when I called him later.

The first problem was that I forgot my hat. I bought my hat so that I wouldn’t get a sunburn on the top of my otherwise sparsely-covered pate. I hate to put sunscreen up there, but if I don’t, I pay dearly. I had some sunscreen in the car, so I slathered it on.

Then we put the boats in the water (one canoe, one kayak) and off we went. The hatlessness lead to the next problem, and that was that sweat started rolling down into my eyes, carrying the sunscreen into the right one. Man… it burns.

Pretty soon I found it almost impossible to see. It was incredibly painful – far more painful in fact, than any sunburn I have ever experiences (and I’ve had some doozies). Shortly after that, David experienced the same thing. And then we came to some very minor class I rapids. We got down them OK, but I was worried about shooting the rapids while nearly blind.

We shot a second set and again came out OK. But the eyes were just getting worse. David had pulled over to the shore, so I did too. We could hear traffic from route 3, so I decided to see how wide the shoulder was there (it was about a hundred yards away).

I didn’t like what I saw. The riverbank was very steep up, and then the roadway was very steep down, and I couldn’t find any sort of trail. The thought of hauling a canoe and a kayak through that was just unthinkable. So we crossed the river and looked into the situation on the other side. It was much better.

I went back to the boats and grabbed the GPS so I could tell Jonathan where we were. I tried to call, but the signal was dropped. I had zero bars. So I walked a short distance until I had one and tried again. I got his voicemail. So I called Va – dropped the call before I could say “boo.” I tried again and got her voicemail. So I called the house. Jonathan answered, and I was somehow able to tell him where we were, though the signal was so bad, that it was pretty iffy.

Then I went back to the river and David and I hauled the kayak up the bank and out to the road. I left him and Beth there with it while I went after the canoe and paddles.

Jonathan showed up a lot quicker than I thought he would. We loaded the boats up, and he drove us home, eyes still burning.

It has been over three hours since we got home and my eyes are still torturing me! I expect they’ll be OK by morning. I think next time, I’ll bring my hat!

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