It was 3:30 pm and we had another three hours of daylight. Our first hour of hiking was straight up, sweat was pouring off of us, while our legs and shoulders burning from exertion. We were maybe above the cliff walls. Unfortunately we were actually traversing slightly upstream since there was no apparent way to keep moving downstream yet. Chris suggested that we begin moving downstream. I was quite thirsty and it became apparent that water could become an issue if we don’t get to the river soon. Chris, Danny, and Jessie all still had some water on them. Every ten feet of was an effort. The vegetation was so thick that no way seemed like a good one. Then I discovered a trail! It was a small footpath. Small enough that you had to really pay attention or you would lose it. A periodic footprint here or there, a broken branch, sometimes even a mark made in a tree could be found. One thing for sure was that every trail goes somewhere. At this point we figured that this was made by kayakers to get around the canyon and back to the river. I wanted to follow it but it was going up more than downstream. Chris didn’t want to go too high and get cliffed out. We climbed the trail, which was no easy going, but at least our kayaks weren’t getting tangled up in the jungle plants every couple of minutes. Jessie was getting behind and could hold the pace. We had our first discussion about the fact that we only had two more hours of light left. Two hours seemed like more than enough to walk a quarter of a mile downstream and get into the water and paddle out. We all decided that the trail was the way to go as long as it was heading down stream. It seemed that we were about 1,000 feet above the river. We couldn’t see the river but could see the other side of the river through the periodic holes in the jungle canopy. The scary thing was that the other side of the river was so close and we were so high. Certainly the only way that was possible was for a cliff to be below, a big one. At 4:30 pm we crossed a little creek. We all cooled off in it. The thought of drinking it was there but we didn’t have filters and nobody wanted to get sick. So we kept on going. At 5pm the trail turned to straight up the mountainside. At this point we were no longer working our way downstream. Chris decided that we should break from the trail and go for the river before it got dark. All of us were tired and super thirsty. Everyone with water was smart enough to ration it. Jessie was practically drinking nothing just in case. We decided to take a 5-minute break after 2 hours of slow agonizing climbing. I climbed ahead on the trail to see if it would perhaps get on a ridge and then go straight downstream. It did break back downstream but was definitely going more up than anything. When I returned, everyone definitely had second thoughts about heading back down the mountain. It was so much work to get where we were. We decided that we would go down and downstream as well, looking for a ravine that we could get down to the river with. It only took us about 45 minutes of downhill climbing to discover a ravine. We only had to follow that for 10 minutes before it ended in a 500-foot cliff. The river was directly below us. I climbed out on a fallen tree to see if I could get a look down river for a possible way in. About ½ of a mile downstream I could make out another much larger ravine that would certainly have a creek in it. It looked like there was a rock beach at the base of it so perhaps there wouldn’t be any cliffs to prevent us from getting down the ravine into the river. Chris also scaled out on the tree, which was a sketchy exercise at best, at 1000+ feet over the whitewater below, to make his judgment. We decided that it was our best bet. It was now 5:30pm. We had one more hour of daylight. It was at that point that it hit us. We would have to get used to the idea of spending the night in the jungle. I said this out loud and Jessie was already thinking along those lines. Danny had no comment. Now we looked back up the mountain. We had gone for broke on our last quest to get to the river and brought our boats back down the mountain. We would have to go back up with them. We were all exhausted and dehydrated. I couldn’t spit and was getting quite dizzy at times. None of us were the least bit hungry. Not even Danny who eats more than any human being I have ever seen. Danny normally has serious blood sugar problems, along with being allergic to any kind of grain, except corn and rice. He was doing as well as the rest of us with no food, to the point that I told him his blood sugar problem was obviously psycho somatic, he didn’t really want to get into that discussion, and dismissed my comment.
Given that we had only one hour to do anything, I put up three options for a vote. Stay where we were and rest until dark, then sleep until morning, or head for the ravine and stop when it gets dark, or lastly retreat back to the creek we found that was probably about an hour back so we would have water for the night. Everyone decided to push forward and hope we found water ahead. Within 30 minutes we found the trail we were previously on. It was depressing to be struggling up the same steep section of trail we were on an hour and a half ago, but comforting to have found the trail again. I was making trips back to help Jessie carry her boat much more regularly now and my strength and condition was going down fast. Chris hit the wall and wasn’t going anywhere. He needed to rest and decided that that was what he was going to do. We dropped our boats against trees on a 45-degree slope (the flattest section we could find). Daylight waned and then dark came so fast that we suddenly couldn’t see the trail. I climbed ahead to see if there was a flatter section, instead it turned vertical again, some serious climbing, and it was dark. We were in the best spot we would find tonight. Chris and Jessie set their boats up together to make a chair I found another spot for my kayak but Danny couldn’t find a good place. It was nearly black out as Danny and I rushed to find a way to position our boats to make a semi-comfortable place to rest. We got out all rations of water, and food. There was about 1 cup of water available as well as two cans of tuna fish in oil, some chocolate, and a half of a bag of Doritos. It was totally black out within five minutes. I have major hearing loss and didn’t have my hearing aids with me, so I read lips. You can pretty much say that I don’t hear in the dark. We all decided to have one sip of water now, and then one more before we went to sleep. This was one group of people who, no matter how bad it got, would never need to worry about somebody taking more than their fair share. That was a comfortable feeling, amid feeling quite uncomfortable. That one sip of water wet the inside of my mouth and throat as I gargled it and swished it around before swallowing. I have never been this thirsty in my life. It was far from refreshing though and within a couple of minutes my mouth was dry again. Somebody opened a can of tuna and nobody had any luck eating it. I tried some but it just sat in my mouth and I couldn’t swallow it. I kept it under my gums like chewing tobacco just in case I suddenly felt hungry. Danny then offered me a Doritos. I must have been out of my mind to accept it. I chewed the cheesy salty chip for five minutes, never getting it wet enough to swallow it or rinse my mouth out. I spit it out in a powder, the cheese barely wet. The only thing that was wet was all of our clothes from sweating. We were soaked from head to foot in sweat and mud. Within 30 minutes we were all cold.