Try­ing to raft in vol­canic ash

Popular Science - - TALES FIELD -

KATIE NICOLATO, U.S. FOR­EST SER­VICE, FOR­MERLY STA­TIONED AT KATMAI NA­TIONAL PARK

We’re trained to save peo­ple, but some­times we have to save each other. That hap­pened to three of us one sum­mer when we rafted a re­mote river through a vol­canic-ash field in Katmai. A pilot dropped us off, and we drifted for a day un­der clear skies. Then the next evening, 40-mileper-hour winds whipped the ash into a haze. The river thick­ened into mud, so we slogged through it on foot—ash pelt­ing our faces the whole way—un­til we found a shel­tered bay. Our sched­uled boat pickup never showed, so we were stranded with a dead ra­dio and a dwin­dling oat­meal sup­ply. Af­ter two days of see­ing boat mi­rages on the white­capped lake, we fi­nally heard an en­gine: A fel­low ranger had flown in to save us. He landed and took off on the tini­est stretch of gravel, in fierce winds. I still don’t know how he man­aged to get us out of there.

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