As we stare 2009 in the face, I realize that I don't think I told you about my near-death experience in 2008. Not that it was *really* near-death ... that's for dramatic purposes, of course. Except that ... well ... it was actually near death.
And all because I'm a klutz.
It happened on the trip to Alaska I took with my mother in September. We took the same cruise, with the same port stops, as Blaine and I had taken the year before. Since he and I had such a wonderful, magnificent, and I mean, "Holy Cow, can you believe the scenery?!?!?" experience during our float plane excursion in Ketchikan, I booked the same trip for my mom and me this year. Same pilot, same plane, same brief moment of air-sicknesses when she dipped right over that last mountain pass heading back into the cruise ship area .... but I digress.
This excursion includes a float plane trip over the Misty Fjords and around the mountains near Ketchikan, viewing glaciers, waterfalls, sea lions, eagles, and even two bears' butts last year! (Hey, what can I say? Apparently our plane scared them and they were running for the woods.) Then, the pilot lands on a lake (which is really the ocean inside the mountains but I don't understand all that geography crap) and you get to get out and walk around for about half an hour, marveling at the scenery and taking photos.
Last year we stopped at a lake in the mountains and it was breathtaking. When I mentioned to the pilot this year that I had taken the same excursion with her last year, she asked me to describe the lake as best I could so she would be sure to stop somewhere different this time. The lake we stopped at this year was smaller, with not as much "shoreline" to walk on. There was a small waterfall running right down the side of the mountain near us, feeding into the ocean at our feet, and much of the "bank" was slippery, uneven rock. Plus, for whatever reason, the mosquitoes were freaking ginormous and some kind of mutant vampire mosquitoes (yes, still thinking about Edward) because they were relentless ... constantly swarming our faces near the water. Gah!
Up where the waterfall came down to the bottom of the mountain there was a small ice-cave-sort-of-thing that I wandered over to explore. Michele, the pilot, my mom and the other passengers were standing near the water. One passenger had dropped his glasses in the lake and the pilot was digging them out with a net, then she brought out a topographical map of the area (yawn) PLUS the mosquitoes were vicious ... so I moseyed over to look at this neat ice structure.
It was really cool looking, no pun intended, and quite a bit bigger than it appears in this photo. I decided to get a little bit closer and really see it for myself.
Then I decided to get a LOT of bit closer. It was very neat to watch the waterfall inside, plus, even better, the mosquitoes wouldn't come that far because the temperature was so much lower inside the cave-part. I stood and watched the water for a few moments, then decided to get as close as I could.
This was the "point" at the front of the cave. Inside, it was probably fifteen or twenty feet high .... definitely neat to explore, but I'm the world's biggest weenie and I got cold, so I headed back down to the lake to see what my mom and the others were doing.
As I walked over to the group, I was treading lightly over the rocks near the water, balancing myself very, very, very, very carefully.
Um .......... apparently not carefully enough, because sure enough, I slipped and fell right on my ass. Just like one of those banana peel moments in a cartoon. My arms pinwheeled to the sides, and my feet flew out in front of me and I landed -- hard -- on a rock with my butt. To add insult to injury, like I wasn't embarrassed enough, my camera, which was slung around my neck, flew up and hit me right on the nose -- hard.
So I jumped up quickly because a) how embarrassing! and b) omg my new camera! and everyone looked over at me with exclamations of concern. I was trying to laugh it off because ha-ha! What a klutz I am! and of course I'm ok!
When not ten seconds later, the ice cave I had JUST BEEN STANDING INSIDE collapsed.
The crack was like gunfire, the ground under our feet shook, and everyone in our group jumped, even the pilot. The rumbling lasted for several seconds afterwards, reminding me of what an earthquake must feel like. Granted, a teeny-tiny-mini earthquake, but still .... pretty cool. Michele, a 20-year bush pilot in Alaska, immediately started telling our group how rare it was to experience something like that close up, and that our timing was incredibly lucky. I blurt out with, "As long as you all understand that was NOT my fault for falling on the ground right before hand --- I didn't CAUSE that collapse with the force of my rear hitting the ground!"
And everyone laughed, and oh, aren't we having a grand time in Alaska .....
Then my mom, visibly shaken, said something along the lines of how I was *just* in there and how lucky it was I had walked away. At which point the pilot sort of freaks out and says, "You went UP IN THERE??? Are you KIDDING??? Don't you know how DANGEROUS that is???" and then talked about how terrible she felt that she didn't see me walk away while she was digging that guy's glasses out of the lake or she would NEVER have let me walk that far up there, and oh my GOSH, I could have been KILLED, and blah blah.
And I laughed and assured everyone that I was fine ..... but it wasn't until later, when I really thought about what had happened, that I was forced to admit that it was damn lucky I wasn't standing under all that ice when it fell.
While I would like nothing more than to think the pilot and other passengers in the plane would have rushed heroically to dig me out of the pile ..... well, it *was* a little scary to think about, nonetheless.
This is the view as our plane was taking off again:
Yeah ......... should have taken my chances with the mutant mosquitoes.
And here's wishing you and yours a very safe 2009 ---- just one tip ---- don't go exploring in any ice caves in Ketchikan, Alaska.