The Bridge

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

Off on a routine hike to get plant samples, this scientist gets far more, than he ever thought he would.

 

 

 
 

This is going to seem to most people, like an impossible experience, because just the timing of it all seems too far-fetched, if not beyond coincidental. But think about car accidents for instance, two cars out in the country, very little traffic, both going from point A to point B for whatever reason, and yet both of them have a date with destiny, one coming from the far west, another coming from the south, just happen to meet, at the exact time, creating the worst-case scenario, which happens all the time, car crashes. But looking back, it seems so random, “at the wrong place at the wrong time” I have heard people say, but is it really? Or does everything happen for a reason? I'll tell you what, after reading about what happened to me, you decide, but before you judge, put yourself in my shoes, what would you have done?

  

So here we go, my name is Andres, Spanish for Andrew, Andy...whatever. I was born in Santiago, Chili, became a U.S. citizen 18 years ago and had just got my masters in Biology, to be specific, botany, because I love plants. I remember as a kid, always getting teased, because no matter what my friends were doing, I was looking at leaves. Playing soccer or video games, I was studying plants, chasing girls, smoking, drinking, I was reading about plants. I guess you could say that I knew what I was going to do with my life, you guessed it, study plants.  

 

Some of the most diverse flora, meaning plant life, in the United States, thrives in the northwest, northern California, Oregon and Washington state. I was working on my second book, collecting data, taking pictures and had spent the summer traveling here and there, by car, well my Jeep, and collecting as much data as I could before the rainy season came. My next stop was in Oregon, northeast to be exact, there are some huge specimens of Mahonia aquifolium, or in English, the Oregon grape plant, also known as the holly-leaved berry bush. Even though this plant grows throughout the northwest, it is most prominent in northeast Oregon, so that was my next stop.  

 

Depending on the location, I may stay in a motel, a bed and breakfast and I have even stayed in my tent, which is always with me, because I never know what situation I may encounter. Well, this time, I needed my tent, the place I was slotted to visit, was very far from mostly everything. I mean the closest gas station and little grocery store was 60 miles away and when I finally arrived, I found out just how remote this location was, meaning there was zero cell phone reception. This was the type of outing that I wish I had another person, if not two along with me, but I was solo, trust me, few people in the world are this passionate about plants.  

 

I did however, let a few friends and colleagues know where I was going, I had a GPS heading, and had done a little bit of research on the area, terrain and what not. This area is not flat to say the least, a lot of small mountains, deep valleys, plenty of streams, a lot of wild life, small to large mammals and lots and lots of plants. I had to park my Jeep off the road, I did have a parking pass, plus was told to leave all my info, friends and family's info, for anyone to find, IF they needed it. I thought it was a bit over kill, but hey, all for the better, I guess right? 

 

When I parked my Jeep, it was about 10:30 a.m., and I had a good three hours hike to my first location. Not much research had been done in that area of the state, which made it that much more thrilling to me, ya I know, scientists are weird. I was able to fit most of my gear in a large backpack, all beside a monopod, but that doubled as a walking stick, plus I had extra water that I carried, besides the water in my pack. It was a brisk September morning, and even though the elevation was only about 6,500 feet, I knew this would be one of my tougher treks, boy, that was an understatement.  

Like I had said, this area was filled with peaks and valleys, valleys and peaks and even though there were some trails that cut through, there was still a lot of climbing to do. Not straight up mountain climbing, but, well, let's call it ‘extreme vertical hiking’ anyway. I started to see the plant I was here to document, but they were small, and I wanted to get some pictures of the huge specimens I had heard about, I just needed to keep on going. I found a nice section of some flat rocks, which over looked the valley I was just in, the view was amazing, a great spot for a break and a snack. I found myself taking a lot of pictures of the scenery, because I was sure this would be the only time I would be here, so I thought I would take advantage.

  

Speaking of ‘taking advantage’ the sun was soon to peak and then my hours of daylight would be numbered, so I packed up and set off again. I was constantly looking for plants, constantly looking at my GPS and my notes and I was reminded of someone telling me back in town, about a long, very high up, rope bridge, in fact, it was somewhat of a marker, meaning if I found it, I was on the right path. As I continued on my way, the Oregon grape plants were getting really big, almost as big as the one’s you see in books and I was as happy as a kid in a candy store. I broke out my lab kit, to take samples, root, branch, stem, leaf, and even some soil from around the base, it all has great meaning. I took countless pics and all the samples I needed, yet I wanted to see if I could some giant specimens. As I packed up my test kits and things, I happen to glance to my right, through some dense trees and low and behold, there was the bridge, I mean it was unmistakable.

  

A sense of great pride came over me, a sense of accomplishment I can't describe, so with joy and zero hesitation, I made my way toward it. It was very dense out there, like the guy at the diner told me, “Not too many people make it up that way anymore”, thinking back I wished I would have asked him, what he meant by ‘anymore’? As I got closer, the true size of the bridge truly opened up, the canyon that the bridge stretched across must have been about 150 ft. deep and 300 ft. wide. It was hard to see the true bottom of the canyon, because of all the dense vegetation. After studying the layout, the bridge, ropes and the wooden planks that lined the bridge, I knew it was safe to cross and I couldn’t wait, knowing there were huge plants waiting for me to take endless photographs of.  

 

I started out on the bridge, it was sturdier than it looked, I remember thinking, and I was in no hurry to get across and was busy taking in all the sites, the elevation was scary enough and like I had said, the length of the bridge was about that of a football field. I was about a third of the way across, when I heard this god-awful sound, like a roar, mixed with a scream, mixed with a howl, which made me stop in my tracks. Just then, off to my far left, I heard almost the same sounds, but I could tell it was very far off, but on this side of the canyon. Then in front of me, I heard, what I thought to be a bear, make those sounds again and it was even louder, like it was closer. I kept walking, yet a bit slower and just then I saw it. A very large animal breached the dense trees and stood at the opening of the bridge at the other side. Of course, I froze. This creature, from what I could tell, walked upright like a man, was covered in hair, had broad shoulders, long arms and seemed to stare directly at me. I wasn’t even half way, not to the middle yet, so I figured I was a good 200 feet from this creature and I remember thinking, that is not far enough. 

 

Just then, it started walking onto the bridge, it was at this point I realized how massive this thing really was. The entire bridge started shaking back and forth and up and down, it had to have been close to 500 lbs. I just recall it never took its eyes off of me and didn’t hesitate either, it kept walking. I instinctively turned around, telling myself not to panic, but my feet had other plans, because before I knew it, I was running, as fast as I could with a 30 lb. pack on my back. I am not a very athletic person, like I had said, when other kids were playing sports, I was reading books and studying plants, and at that very moment, I regretted it deeply. I don’t know at what point this came to me, but my mind told my body that I wasn’t running fast enough, so my body told my mind, to tell my body to drop the backpack and make some serious time! 

 

What I remember most, was how hard it was to run, on a bridge made of rope, with a 500 lb. animal making it bounce up and down and side to side, but after I dropped that pack, I was like the wind! I never, ever remember running that fast, especially as an adult. Luckily, my cell phone with GPS, my wallet, car keys, money and a few other valuables were on me, either in my pants or jacket. I never even looked back, only once when I got back to my Jeep, to catch my breath and then I was in it and gone within seconds. Luckily, my $5,000 camera, that I had mounted on my walking stick made it back with me, which was funny because I don’t even remember carrying it! I sped off and didn’t stop until I reached that same diner, the one I had coffee at that morning. Oddly enough, when I went inside, that same gentleman was sitting there, in the same spot he was earlier and when the door closed, we met eyes. I know now, that he recognized the look on my face and he said, “Now you know why not too many people make it up that way anymore,” I mean it was straight out of a Steven King movie or something, but I will never forget that creature or the bridge. 

 

 


Submitted: June 03, 2021

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