August 11th I attended my first church activity for single adults which took place at a park called Turner Falls. I had an AWESOME time hiking, exploring a small cave and lounging in the warm water of the river. Most of us who decided to hike the trails were from the Dallas/Fort Worth area and so I found myself with strangers who quickly became friends. In addition to having a great time I had several experiences that are unique to someone playing around in the great outdoors while being almost totally blind. I will share one of these.
There is an area of the park where the slow-moving river widens and deepens, creating an ideal location for swimming or floating. One side of this area has two slides built on top of a rocky hill that can only be accessed by those who swim to the ladders built into the rock. A few of us decided to swim across the river to go sliding.
Wearing my swimsuit, bandana, sunglasses, hiking boots and carrying my white cane, I joined my companions but quickly lagged behind and soon had no idea where they were. Keep in mind I am swimming with water-logged hiking boots and limited to using one arm since I needed to grasp my cane. One of the group members who remained behind, saw I was lost and began yelling directions amid the tumult of noise created by scores of people around me. After a few minutes I stopped, listened and headed towards the sound made by swimmers hitting the water as they flew off the slides. Somehow I avoided being smashed by those coming off the slide and made it to the ladder. Even though I am in good physical condition, this one-armed swimming with hiking boos was beginning to wear on me and amid the commotion nobody would have noticed me going under water.
I stood in line and soon it was my turn. I sat down, gripped my cane horizontally between both hands and began my descent. Mid way, I realized the impact would remove my sunglasses and bandana. I accelerated and hit the water faster than I anticipated and momentum pushed me under. I felt my bandana and sunglasses coming off and somehow managed to grab my sunglasses. After surfacing I swam out of the way to avoid collision. (Later I was told I narrowly missed being smashed.) And then it happened. My cane slipped from my grasp. Did you know that fiberglass canes do not float? Special thanks to John who made four dives trying to retrieve my cane. With the use of both hands, swimming became easier but I had no idea where to go. After a short time one of the group members swam to me and guided me to the shore. But without my cane, I was forced to hold onto the arms of the ladies in my group.
Upon my retrun, I was informed that almost everyone in the area stopped to watch me. At first I wondered why but then realized it is probably unusual to see some crazy blind guy climbing up a ladder, while holding a cane, and then letting gravity hurl him into the river, all the time wearing a bandana, sunglasses and hiking boots. Next time I will bring two canes, just like I did at scout camp!