The Little River Trail outside of Port Angeles is a gorgeous trail that crosses over the river quite a few times on log bridges like the one below, this particular one being about three miles from the trailhead. I was standing in the middle of this bridge looking upstream admiring the gorgeous surroundings and the roaring water when my Garmin eTrex 20 GPS, which had been clipped to my pack's waist belt, picked the worst possible time to detach itself and plunged into the river. I watched it fall -- right into the deepest, bubbliest spot. Expletive deleted.
With no "undo" key in sight, I peered into the river hoping to see it get washed a bit downstream where the water was shallower and visibility better. No luck. But the GPS was waterproof and still in perfect condition (current location notwithstanding) so I really wanted to try and retrieve it. I resolved to return the next day with the necessary equipment to find it.
I knew the water temperature was going to be... uhhh, cold. Really, really cold. Fortunately Sue Erzen and her husband Bob loaned me a drysuit, neoprene gloves, a scuba mask, hip waders, and most importantly, a long pole with a net on the end of it.
Suitably equipped and aided by my trusty and ever-faithful sidekick/spouse Sandra we set off with our heavily laden backpacks on Sunday morning to fetch the lost GPS!
I was confident that this net was going to be just the ticket for poking around underwater and retrieving the GPS in just a few minutes, not even requiring me to suit up and enter the frigid waters. A man can dream, can't he?
Okay, so remaining out of the water, warm and dry, turned out to be not a realistic option. The bridge was rather high above the water and the water so deep that I could only just barely scrape the bottom in a few places while perched on the bridge. Time for Boy Blunder to suit up!
Judging from their weight, the hip waders appeared to be made mostly of depleted uranium. Not very backpack friendly. But they had soles on them that Bob said would stick to greased snot and seemed like a good choice for walking around in a freezing, rushing river full of slippery rocks. Sandra still insisted that she tie a rope to me in case I slipped and fell and couldn't get back up with my boots full of water.
The boots did indeed offer great traction. However the rubber on them was old and they both had cracks in them so as soon as I stepped into the water they immediately started filling with frigid water. Nobody said this was going to be fun!
Ho-ho-holy crap was that water cold! I stomped around quite a bit poking around in the deep water with my net, unable to see the bottom but hoping to snag a GPS. I brought up a lot of rocks but nothing battery-powered. With my feet growing increasingly numb with cold I decided there wasn't any alternative left, I was going to have to stick my face underwater so I could locate the unit visually. I donned the scuba mask and resumed my search. The mask helped but there were so many bubbles in the raging water that visibility was still poor. Hold my breath, stick my head into the water and wait for moments when the current would change subtly and allow brief glimpses with fewer bubbles obscuring the view. Rinse and repeat.
At this point I'd like to say that just as I was about to give up with feet too cold to continue any longer I found it. Yes, I would like to say that. Unfortunately, I can't because I didn't. I had searched as thoroughly as I could manage and I couldn't ignore my frozen feet any longer. All I got out of my search was this story and the satisfaction of knowing I'd given it the old college try.
I'm very grateful to Sue and Bob for the loan of their equipment and to George and Eftin who also offered to help equip me for the search. And of course to Sandra, my able assistant and photographer.