First Time Falling Down A Cliff While Being Chased By Wasps.

Actually, the only time. So far, anyhow. But with a title like that, how can I not blog it?

I think it was the summer I was fifteen. Dad and Scott and I were at Wilderness Camp on Kootenay Lake, the same place I got my first period, and had to use moss wrapped in toilet paper as a pad. But I already blogged that. So.

We kids were always encouraged to explore. We had freedom to go wherever we wanted and do whatever we wanted, as long as we were back for dinner when the sun was two fingers above the mountain. So we visited the Quakers in Johnson’s Landing, went looking for old prospectors’ cabins, built tripod swings and docks on the lake, built bridges over the creeks, played Risk, and generally filled our days with the kinds of things kids do when they have time and freedom.

One day, Sarah and Alseah and Colin and my brother and I decided we would go to Riondel, a town a little ways away. It was right there on the map. Why didn’t we? We totally should. It turned out it was farther than we thought. But we were doomed not to get there, however close it was.

We crossed the bridge onto the mainland and started walking north on the beach. Pretty soon, the beach gave way to mossy hills, and we climbed them so that we were walking along the top of these very steep hills down to the lake. It was an overcast day and we were cool enough, under the shade of skinny pines. We were about fifty feet up, and the moss was deep and thick. No one had been that way for a very long time.

It was slow going, because we were being careful. You’d put your foot down on the moss, but sometimes it was on top of a rotting log or something, so you didn’t want to trip or slip. Also, moss grows slowly, and we didn’t want to disturb it more than we needed to.

Colin was in the lead, a little ways before the pack of us. He stepped into the moss, sank a little more than he expected, and let out an unholy yell. “AUUUUGH! Bees!” He started running back towards us.

It took a second before the rest of us registered that he wasn’t joking. He could have been. Colin’s like that. But as he ran, wild-eyed and flapping, towards us, we became aware of the angry whine. And we registered the cloud around him. And we knew that Colin had stepped directly into an enormous wasp’s nest.

Further to that, he was leading several hundred (it looked like) angry insects directly to us.

Oh. Shit.

Fun Fact: Wasps are able to fly faster than young teenagers can lumber through deep moss. We learned that one. But here’s where the human brain triumphs. We knew we could escape the angry swarm if we went faster. How to go faster? Use gravity.

I don’t know if anyone yelled, “Get in the water!” or if our collective mammalian herd-brains got the idea at the same time, but we wheeled around and took off for the edge of the precipice.

It would have been easier if we had been able to simply plummet into the water, but the hill was at such an angle that we pretty much had to run/slide/tumble down, slowing our way by grabbing onto bushes and rocks.

About a third of the way down, I was aware of several points of intense pain on my body. Wasps had made their way under my big, baggy T-shirt. I did the only thing I could think of, still sliding down the mossy rocks and grass, and took off my T-shirt, swinging it around my head like a lariat.

We plunged into the lake, splashing and swatting at the dive-bombing wasps, screaming at the top of our lungs. We were now stationary targets, but we had the weapon of water. A lot of wasps died that day.

Eventually we calmed down enough to assess our situation. A faint, angry while told us not to climb back up. It was going to be a case of swimming for a long, long while.

Remembering swimming lessons, and noticing it is hard to swim in shoes and pants and (in everyone else’s cases) shirts, we shucked our clothes and stored them in little ledges along the cliff. It was probably about a half-a-mile or so to the beach. We started to swim.

Coming Tomorrow: The First Time I Saved Someone’s Life

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