Hilary VanVleet is the Noxon High FSPW Scholarship winner.

Posted on Friday, July 14th, 2017 by »

Hilary was awarded $300 for writing the best essay from Noxon High School for the 2017 FSPW scholarship competition.

The Froggy Float.

 By Hilary VanVleet, Noxon High School Class of 2017

Nature plays a massive role in the lives of those who are surrounded by it. From recreation to income, this area depends on the wilderness. There are countless great stories to tell about memorable experiences in the wilderness, but for me, one, in particular, comes to mind.

It was the fourth of July and the whole family had gathered. After a full morning of fishing, all of the kids were ready for a change of pace. A few weeks earlier our moms had given us a new idea. “Go down to the creek, take one of the old rafts, and float down until you can see the road, then climb back up and walk back. It should take you about an hour. We used to do that all the time when we were kids.”

After a short period of hustling around the property trying to find anything to be used as a flotation device and get everybody organized to leave, we were ready to go. I led the way, followed by my three cousins. Stepping a Keen-clad foot into the icy waters, I leapt a couple of feet into the rushing current, skipping over a mushy muddy area and into the clear, rocky middle. I turned around and helped the other three into the water, and we tied our rafts together to create a “train.”

After only a few yards, we were at the little dam, which had been built when we were younger to keep us from floating too far away from our mothers, and had to cross into uncharted territory. I helped the younger kids across and lifted their rafts high above my head to make sure they didn’t pop or get damaged. This process continued for a while. We would carry our rafts whenever the creek was too shallow, and grab a long stick to push away from the banks when it was deep enough to float.

We came to a spot where everybody had to climb out and carry their rafts across a miniature peninsula and crossed this gigantic muddy hole. All of the younger kids were nervous to cross it, for some reason I couldn’t figure out. I showed them the way across a balanced log that had fallen over, but about halfway across I looked down and saw the biggest creek frog I had ever encountered. It was massive! Close to the size of a bullfrog, and looking up at the four of us with baleful eyes.

I stopped mid stride and motioned to the others to be quiet. I started to crouch to try to get a better look at it, or maybe even catch it, but the second I moved, it was gone. I started to follow it and found more of its kind. After about my fifth try, I managed to catch one. I motioned to my cousins to come look, but they were all too scared. I kept the frog in my hand, making sure not to squish it, and showed it off to the kids, who were extremely unimpressed. I let my captive go, and continued on to floating.

I don’t know if I got lost during my frog chase, or if the area had really changed much since our parents were kids, but the area implied to us where we could climb up to the road never appeared. After what seemed like a long time, our path was blocked by a big tree that had fallen over and made continuing impossible. There was no way to get to the road, or out of the creek, so we had to walk upstream back to the cabin. I dragged the kids in their train most of the way, but I made sure to stop and look for frogs again.

This may seem like a mostly pointless story, and I suppose it is. That being said, I loved it. It’s a story of family bonding, fun summer activities, and adventures gone slightly wrong, which is why wilderness is so important to so many people. Without the wilderness, none of this would have happened. My cousins would never have floated down the creek, we wouldn’t have discovered new places, and I wouldn’t have been able to show the kids a little skill like catching frogs. Nature is such a big part of life around here, and little experiences like this make me grateful for where we live.

About The Author:

Sandy Compton is the program coordinator for Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness. He grew up on a small farm/woodlot at the south end of the proposed wilderness and lives there still.

He is a storyteller and author of both fiction and non-fiction books, and the publisher at bluecreekpress.com.

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