Tamolich Pool shines azure blue in the dark green of the McKenzie River forest. A couple of years ago we hiked here with Maverick and two of his friends. They were goofing around, as teenage boys are apt to do, crossing the river on a log, when we heard a shout. One of the boys had slipped and fallen in the river and was clinging to the log. We rushed to fish him out. Luckily no harm was done, and he quickly became the source of ribbing from his friends. He changed into dry clothes and we continued on our hike.
This area is a popular spot in Oregon, visited by many of people and their dogs. The trail itself is a stunning amble through beautiful mountain forest along the McKenzie River, through lava fields which rise above the river, providing a bird’s eye view in places that double as precarious photo spots. At one point, Mr. A eased out onto one such spot to take a wide angle shot, while my stomach did somersaults as I willed him to be safe. After a couple of miles of easy trail, we reached the pool. The place where the water used to tumble down is now a bare high shelf. Though the river has since diverted and gone underground, it still arrives via what was once the base of the falls, creating a stunning and shockingly cold pool. The water seems still, but it is constantly moving, pushing water downhill as the continuation of the beautifully turbulent McKenzie River. Cliffs surround the pool, and getting down to the water requires some agility. On this unseasonably warm April day, people dotted the high walls as they took photos or rested and ate lunch.
The boys continued to play around, climbing over rocks and scaling the wall down to the water’s edge. I took a picture of Maverick’s friend looking like he was clinging to the sheer cliff for dear life. He wasn’t, and after the picture he continued to scramble down the steep side with mountain goat prowess. His agility failed him at the water’s edge, however, as he stumbled and splashed into the icy water, soaking himself before the two mile hike back to the car.
We took some photos, ate, and left, nodding at and greeting people all along the trail on our way back. So many people that day. So many dogs.
When we arrived home, I found out that there had been a fatality at Tamolich Pool that same day, a man about my age who, like many others, was taking pictures at the top of the pool. We may have passed him on the trail. We may have nodded our greeting to a fellow traveler. News reports offered no reason for his fall. It’s likely that one misstep resulted in what was reported as a 45 foot tumble into a shallow part of the pool and a fatal blow to the head. Lava rock is treacherously uneven.
I can’t help but think, there but for the grace of God go I. We can never know what may befall us in this life, what missteps could change the course of history for us and our loved ones. One minute we may be enjoying the wonders of the world around us and in the next our world could be forever altered. I, too, have stumbled when taking pictures, fortunately landing on level ground, but not without injury. My husband loves to perch on the bird’s eye spots to get a great photo of the land. Two boys fell in the water on this day. Any one of us could have easily suffered the same fate as this man.
Life is not safe or guaranteed. Every day is a gift. Hug your children. Practice patience. Don’t hold grudges. Appreciate the beauty that surrounds you in the knowledge that one day it could be gone.
Tamolich Pool will forever hold a different meaning for me and serve as a reminder of the beauty and fragility of life.
In response to The Daily Post’s prompt: Misstep