St. Lawrence River Surge
Cold. Very cold.
As in “can’t-breathe-cold.”
That’s how the St. Lawrence felt against my body.
It stopped raining when we reached the shore so I stripped naked and jumped in the river.
The result was a lot of unsexy screaming.
It was so cold I almost became a woman in that water. (Anatomically speaking)
Shivering and blue, I walked back to the girls. They were setting up camp. I got dressed, my blood thawed and I went to gather firewood.
By pure luck, I found a pile of dry birch wedges under a blue tarp. Maybe they belonged to someone, but I didn’t see anyone … so I took a few.
We used birch bark to start the flame and then added bigger pieces of wood. The fire roared and kept the bugs away as the moon, almost full, rose slowly over the river.
Genevieve made a pot of couscous with chick peas. We ate, smoked for dessert and watched the ambers glow.
The three of us, the fire, the moon, the river. It was perfect.
Perfect until the river started rising.
The water was at least 50 meters away from camp when we started the fire. By midnight it was only 20 meters away and climbing fast. It came in waves.
Claudia and Genevieve were sleeping. I was the only one up.
I pushed a stick into the ground at the water line and watched. Within ten minutes, the stick was submerged. I then remembered the tide surges at Cook Inlet near Anchorage, Alaska. A drunk at the bar once told me oyster fishers would walk out on the mud flats during low tide and die when the ocean waters rolled in. The water rose so fast in that area that people got stuck in the mud and drowned.
I considered our options.
There were big rocks around us. Maybe we’d have to climb them to stay dry. We definitely weren’t going back to the forest since the brook we crossed was now a raging river.
We were stuck.
I shook Claudia out of her stoned coma.
“I have some bad news,” I said.
“What is it?” she said in a sleepy grumble.
“The water’s rising really fast, look.”
The water was now 10 meters from camp.
“Huh? We’re fine, Genevieve said we’re fine here,” she said and rolled over.
“Are you sure? I’ve been watching it and it doesn’t look like it’s stopping anytime soon.”
“We’ll deal with it when it comes, I’m tired now, Diego.”
“Fucking pothead,” I mumbled.
The waves crashed on the rocks below us. I looked around. The fire was still going. I added a few logs and laid on my sleeping bag. Then I closed my eyes and went to sleep with a one comforting thought:
Claudia was closest to the water. She would be the first to know if our camp flooded. If anything went wrong, she’d wake up in that cold, cold water and scream.
Until then: Goodnight.
© Diego Cupolo 2011