This is to acknowledge the amazing, generous help of Monty and Marlene, residents of Sequim.
I wish I knew their last name, but hopefully someone will read this and let them know how much their help and kindness was appreciated.
Several weeks ago, my friends and I decided to go camping in the Hoh rain forest. We enjoyed the drive to the western entrance and found a beautiful campsite along an old service road near the river.
Youth and folly do seem to go hand in hand, as we proved to ourselves. Two of us decided – foolishly, with the spirit of adventure – to cross the Hoh River.
We succeeded, with the aid of a few sturdy sticks, and explored the southern shore. During our explorations, we tried to cross the river back several times – but it was too powerful. A single misstep, in that river, could lead to being swept away.
There’s no real way to describe the intensity, the power of that water, to someone who wasn’t standing chest deep in it, hoping their friend would also manage to stay upright, no real way to describe what it was like seeing the shore we needed to get to, knowing we’d never make it there.
We tried repeatedly to cross, each time thinking we’d found a route of shallower stones. Milky water and rushing currents can be deceptive. When we realized we were getting exhausted enough that to continue trying would be an even higher-stakes gamble, we hiked back to our original point and tried to cross there – but the weariness was too much for our muscles, and we realized it was time to find help, if we could.
It seemed we may have waited too long; there weren’t too many hours of full sunlight left.
We found a road on our side of the river, after hiking through beautiful, lush, and prickly underbrush (in our swimsuits). Following the road led us to the tranquil riverside home of Monty and Marlene. They were outside doing some woodworking, and they kindly said they would help us, with no hesitation at all.
Monty offered to find a way across the river, and while he did so, Marlene gave us cool bottles of water, which we were grateful for. The water and their gentle, staid confidence was a true relief.
However, we weren’t the only ones to come to them for help. While we were resting, a couple drove up on their ATV. The husband had been stung by a bee and was allergic. They willingly gave the man Monty’s own EpiPen and encouraged him to seek out medical attention.
Ultimately, Monty led us across the river safely. A loop of rope around our waists, we went one at a time, following the zig-zagging path of shallows he had discovered. He was patient and strong, never pushing us to go too fast in areas that were deep, always warning where the boulders were hidden.
Once we were safely on the other side of the river – which was split into three branches there – he didn’t just write us off. He hiked back through the woods with us until we found our campsite and our napping friend. I was amazed by the generosity of spirit that those two demonstrated.
When I learned that Monty is a Vietnam vet, I understood: he may have seemed like a very quiet man, but he clearly has a brave soul and an amazing heart.
I think that there are two lessons we concretely learned from this.
First, clearly, never cross a river unless you are absolutely sure you know what you’re doing. We didn’t, and it could have ended in disaster, if not for luck being on our side. So if you’re thinking about playing in the Hoh, be careful! Don’t mess around on that river.
The second lesson, and maybe the more important one: Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t close off your heart.
Monty and Marlene are heroes by their actions and also in their very humanity. They could have said no, could have turned away, not wanting to get involved, but they didn’t. They didn’t hesitate to help strangers, and for that, I will always be thankful.
I am sure they are blessed.