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CLOSING IN ON LISCOMB By 9AM the wind died down quite a bit. We slept in and relaxed thanking the Lord for his provisions thus far on the trip. Our campsite is only ten miles from the Liscomb Bone Bed. We departed by 10AM. The wind out of the north picked up again so we decided to tie all three of the rafts together like a train. All five of us got in the lead raft to paddle. We paddled about three miles and found a pretty good river current to carry us along. At 11:30, we stopped on a sand bar and took some pictures with the eerie foggy river in the background. By 1:00 we stopped and had lunch in a small inlet. Five miles off in the distance we could see a large bend in the river with the bluff in the background. This was where the Liscomb Bone Bed should be. It felt great to finally be able to see our destination.
Buddy and I walked back across the tundra the way that the five of us had come. Dan, George, and Mike walked back to the boats via a small stream channel. This channel probably carries a significant part of the Colville during the spring floods, but it had very little water in it now. We all met back at our inlet about an hour later. We could see the bluffs of the Liscomb Bone Bed about five miles down stream. We figured we would be there in about an hour and set up camp, right? Wrong. The next miles would be the toughest miles on the river to this point. The north wind was still blowing strong, and the water was swift and choppy.
In some places we were able to make good progress because of the current. But in others, the wind was so strong we had to pull our boats along the bluff. This was difficult, because there was just a narrow beach (really a ledge one or two feet wide) of loose material that had fallen from the bluff steeply slanting towards the river. I am sure the water was very deep. One slip and we would be in trouble. We kept our life jackets on not only for extra warmth, but because we easily could have fallen into the swift, cold current. The north wind was strong and was creating one foot waves that were moving upstream. It was like riding a roller coaster. It almost seemed as though our small boats were being buffeted by ocean waves. But we were determined to get to our destination. At 6:00, we arrived at the south end of a two mile sand and gravel bar. The Liscomb Bone Bed was just past the north end of the bar. Although there were some good camp sites on the south end, I made the decision to move on and to try to set up camp closer to the bone bed. I wish I had made a different decision.
It took nearly an hour to pull our boats to the far end of the bar. The wind was probably gusting to forty miles an hour. Spray began blowing off the river and we could see fog rolling in from the north. The temperature was probably 45 or 50 degrees (F), but I can’t even imagine what the wind chill factor must have been. It was impossible to paddle the boats because the wind kept blowing us to shore in the shallow water along the edge of the bar. Even though I had on my knee high rubber boots and rain pants, water was still able to slosh over the tops of my boots. They were soon full and I took them off. Even though my legs and feet were wet, I found out the advantage of wool. My wool, Korean issue, army surplus pants that I had just bought the week before for ten bucks, were soaked, but they still kept my legs warm. Wool socks and Gortex in my shoes kept my feet warm.
Dan was walking along the beach checking for a campsite. Mike was following him close behind. Buddy, George and I were paddling the boats across a very shallow mucky bay. The water was only six to twelve inches deep and we had to take the boats out further in the river. [The bottoms of the boats would drag in the mud, especially the boat with the eighty pound dinosaur jaw wrapped in a life jacket and a plastic tarp in the bottom of Buddy and Dan’s boat.]
Suddenly, Dan sank up to his knees in quicksand and couldn’t get out!
NEXT PAGE—trapped in quicksand