“Şerefe!” We raised our cans and took a swig of refreshingly lukewarm beer, as we stood around in a wooded parking lot, clad only in our underwear.
How did four of America’s best and brightest end up in the middle of a Pacific Northwest rainforest in only our skivvies, you might ask?
It all started when J.S. put out the call to the Fulbrighters of the PNW for an end-of-season camping trip. Being the adventurous sort, and the sort who likes seeing each other, we obviously agreed.
But the conclusion (or opening, if you will) of this story really began with W.G.’s hiking suggestion. In not-true-to-form fashion, I alighted on his suggestions for adventure without really looking into his suggestion. Mostly because I trust my friends, but also because there were too many words on the website W.G. sent out to our intrepid team.
As I was dressing for our hike that morning, I vaguely remembered reading something about having to cross a river bed at some point in the hike, so I donned my Chacos and prepared myself to tromp through some ankle-to-mid-calf-deep water.
We arrived to our designated start point and were immediately greeted by a small, but rushing river. The flag marking the trailhead was waving in the distance, across the river. So, first things first, we had to unyoke our oxen, remove the wheels from our covered wagons, and ford the river to reach the
Oregon Territory trailhead. So, in we went.
The water was pleasantly cool, and while deeper than I anticipated, it only came up to just above my knees. The real trouble was when we hit mid-stream; the river came tumbling over the rocks and the strength of the current paralyzed me. It was either stand immovable like the many stones around me, or move my feet and risk overbalancing, slipping on a rock, and submerging myself — putting not only my beautiful camera in danger, but all of my warm, dry clothes. I weighed my options, taking into account my tenuous grasp of physics, and decided to move my feet.
It was a risk that did not pay off. I tumbled forward and threw out my hands in an effort to catch myself. For the sake of a good story, I wish I had faceplanted and was swept downriver. But that would be a lie. W.G., the consummate mountain-man, was at my side and he grabbed my backpack, saving me from a fate worse than the submerging of one arm up to my elbow that I suffered.
When all four of us had safely crossed and I got rid of my adrenaline, we set off for our hike. The trek was absolutely gorgeous and serenely peaceful. We traipsed through an old-growth forest, which, with all its overgrown ferns and heaps of moss, felt like a scene out of “The Land Before Time.” Though, while we didn’t see any signs of Little Foot or his mother, we did gorge on perfectly ripe wild blackberries and ate lunch in the shadow of the world’s largest recorded Douglas fir tree.
After several delightful hours, we reemerged from the woods on the river bank, with our car waiting on the opposite shore.
This time, we decided to head upstream in an attempt to avoid some of the rapids with which we had to contend earlier. The part of the river we chose was calmer, but the current was still flowing quite strongly and the water was deep — almost up to my waist. I struggled across, trying to maintain my balance while simultaneously keeping my bag out of the water. I was doing quite well until W.G., who was waiting for the rest of us on the opposite bank began chattering away in an affected Spanish accent.
It was too much for all of us — J.S. tipped forward with laughter, drenching her whole front side; J.A. accidentally sent his boots for a quick dip in the river; and, again, I couldn’t move, but this time my gales of laughter were rooting me in place.
Eventually, we all made it across. We were wet and a little worse for the wear, but happy as four reunited clams could be. With underwear too wet to consider putting our pants back on, we raised our Efeses-of-the-PNW in victory, and only half our clothes.
After a month and a half of new people and places, it was sheer joy to slip into the comfort of good, well-established friends. It is also wonderful to know that this spin-off, “Fulbright Does America,” can heavily feature recurring guest stars from the original series. Şerefe, indeed.
N.B. I was trying to go for “beers in our underpants,” as in “drinking beer in our underpants” for this title. But what I came up with translates literally to “the beers inside our underpants.” So, I decided to keep it.