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The Great Alaskan Dinosaur Adventure
The Great Alaskan Dinosaur Adventure
Wednesday, July 20

Most of us were up by 5:30 this morning. Slight drizzle, with a wind from the south (exactly what we had been praying for to make our travel easier.) It was probably the warmest morning of our trip at 62 degrees (F). The sky was clearing, and it looked like it was going to be another beautiful day.

We were in the river before 7:30 and two hours later we were situated seven or eight miles from last night’s campsite! However, by the time we got to Ocean Point, the wind increased, and began to blow us into the beach. They must call this area “Ocean Point” because of the waves here. They are the biggest we have seen on the Colville. They are about two feet high and often break against our small rafts, soaking us with water. It certainly seemed like we were rafting on the ocean!

In the raft After a short break, we continued down river, having a tough time against the wind and waves. The river was getting wider, the wind was getting stronger, the waves were getting higher, and the temperature was getting colder. We paddled through several giant dust storms making it occasionally difficult to see. A cold front began to move in on us and it began to drizzle. We had to walk our boats along the shore for most of the time. It was impossible to make any gains down river by paddling—and even by pulling the boats, we made little progress. We began to doubt. We couldn’t make it to Nuiqsut today. If the weather continued like this, we may not make it before our pick up time on Friday.

By 3:00, we beached and waited for a break in the wind. The wind had shifted to the west, and was blowing us into the eastern side of the river. We had something to eat and waited four hours for the wind to die down. During this time, we observed a large cloud bank roll in from the southwest, the weather was deteriorating rapidly. I didn’t take the temperature, but it must have been close to 40 degrees (F). The boats had taken on quite a bit of water because of the large waves. Our duffels were soaked on outside and lying in the water in the bottoms of our boats. It looked like it was going to be a miserable night for camping.

The only way to stay warm was to get back into the rafts and paddle. We tied all three of the rafts together like a train and the five of us got in the lead raft and began to paddle with all of our might. By 9:30PM all of us were wet, tired, shivering and hungry. We were exhausted and could go no further. We had only covered seventeen of the thirty-five miles towards Nuiqsut. We began to worry. If we had weather this bad for the next two days, we would not make it to our pick up point by Friday afternoon. We were experiencing the lowest point on our trip, all of us in danger of hypothermia. We could do nothing else, but stop and start to set up camp on a wet, soggy sand bar. The sand was so wet, that after walking across it, puddles of water marked our footprints. [Looking back over our circumstances, I have to say that as a group leader I was certainly impressed. Even though our morale was at an all time low, I never heard a single word of complaint. I sure was blessed as a leader. I couldn’t have been with a better group of men. Somehow we knew the Lord was with us and he would provide in our difficult circumstances. We tried to keep a positive attitude, but it was hard.]

Towing the Rafts to Nuiqsut

The rescuers

Then it happened. Mike spotted two Eskimo speed boats heading down river towards Nuiqsut! They had been hunting and fishing up river and were the same boats we had seen several days earlier. Mike was the only one to see them and he was able to get their attention and one of them stopped! Mike was desperate, he told us later he was reaching into his pocket to get the flares out if they had failed to see us. After offering them $50, they agreed to tow us the rest of the way to Nuiqsut that night.

It was almost as if they were angels sent from God.

It was a long cold boat ride. We were within five miles of Nuiqsut and our lead raft began to take on massive amount of water. Not willing to stop, we managed to get it under control with a temporary patch. After a two hour ride, we saw our first glimpse of real civilization since we left Umiat. We arrived in Nuiqsut at 11:30 PM. We gave Jimmy $80 instead of $50. The ride was well worth it. We may never have made it otherwise. There was a grassy area near the boat ramp where we began to set up camp. The peace officer came down to see what we were doing. He introduced himself and said they were about ready to come looking for us. Apparently O.J. had gotten his days mixed up and thought we were going to be in Nuiqsut several days ago. They became worried that something had happened to us. Even though it was late, there was a dozen or more people around the boat ramps. The first boat we had seen, told everyone in the town, via C.B. radio, that we were due to arrive soon. The officer left. We wanted to get our tents up as soon as possible. We were exhausted.

A night in jail

Water drained out of our duffels when we lifted them. It would be a cold miserable night, but somehow we felt better knowing we were in civilization again. As we were unpacking our soggy tents and sleeping bags, the peace officer came back and asked if we would like to stay in a garage for the night. [Apparently he had left to see if it would be O.K. with his superior officer.] Would we like to stay in a garage for the night? Of course!! He had a big double cab Ford four wheel drive pick up. We loaded all of our stuff into the truck for the short drive to the police station. When we got there, he said we had a choice—we could spend the night in the garage, or the jail cells. Without any hesitation, we choose the jail cells! What an end to an amazing day. Who would have ever thought just two hours ago, while setting up our tents on wet, cold sand that we would be spending the night in a warm, dry, mosquito free jail! The Lord sure does have a sense of humor! What an amazing provider He is. When we were at our lowest point, the Lord provided for us. I wonder what my wife Jamie will say when I make my one phone call from the jail cell and tell her I need a lawyer and some bail money?

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