The sound of rushing water became apparent long before they saw the river. Nick stopped under a tree near its bank.
“Go on and take off your packs. We’ll rest here for a moment.”
Nick took a swig from the canteen at his side while the three of them removed their packs and set them against the tree. Reaching into his courier bag Nick pulled out scout rations, and handed them out as they passed around his canteen.
Michael pondered the packs for a moment before picking each one up. His brow furrowed as he looked to Nick. “I’m repacking.”
“Good choice.” Nick smiled before turning his attention to the river.
Sarah finished her ration before stepping over to help unload the bags. It was quickly apparent that they weren’t even packed with the same stuff and Sarah said so
“There is three scouts worth of standard issue gear between them,” Nick stated not turning to them.
“Three ropes in this one.” Michael pulled them out of Sarah’s pack.
“And three mess kits in this one.” Sarah laughed, “No wonder you were off balance Michael.”
They continued pulling out items from the packs and sorting them. Once empty and the gear sorted they began to repack them. Sarah was done first having helped pack a few while she was with Phoenix troop. Rising she went to where Nick was still studying the river.
Judging by his expression the water was higher than he had expected. It was certainly a torrent of rapid water, churning and bubbling over rocks. Sarah could see where the stones were that would have provided a natural way across, had the water been lower. Now they were at least a foot under the surface thanks to all the rain. Sarah found a long stick and crouched down to test the current. It was pulled from her grasp at about an arm’s length out.
“Nice trick,” Nick remarked as she stood up. They stood side by side watching the stick as it bounced and spun as the water rushed it down stream.
“How long it the rope in those packs?” Sarah asked thoughtfully.
“Standard issue,” Nick replied. “You have a plan?”
“Is it long enough to reach from that tree,” Sarah indicated the one where London and Bennett were, “to that one?” Sarah pointed to a sturdy tree across the river. The two lined up almost perfectly with the stepping stones.
“They should be.”
Sarah could feel Nick’s eyes on her as she thought. She didn’t speak until Michael and London had joined them.
“Alright,” she turned from the river. “Here’s my idea. We tie one end of rope to that tree and send someone across to tie the other end to that tree.” She indicated each tree by pointing. “We’ll pull it taught and can use it as a guideline to make sure we don’t lose anyone to the water.”
“So who’s going over first?” London asked as she pulled a rope from her pack.
“I will,” Sarah stated. She knew her skill set better than anyone else’s and she wasn’t about to make one of the others take the fall if her idea was crap.
Michael tied one end of the rope to the tree and Sarah tied the other end around her waist. She handed the coil of rope to London.
“Let out the slack slowly,” she told him as she removed her boots and socks. She tied the laces together and then hung them around her shoulders. “What?” she asked as she stood, realizing they were all looking at her oddly. “This way I can feel the stones with my toes for better footing.”
Sarah nearly regretted taking off the boot when her toes touched the cold water. Pack on her back she carefully leapt out to the first stepping stone. Though now heavier, the pack helped her balance as she made her way from rock to rock. Tugging at her calves the water struggled to pull her under. Thankfully the stones were flat and not slippery at all. If this is the river crossing they always use, Sarah thought, it’s not much of a challenge.
Taking one last leap, Sarah landed on the opposite shore. She set her pack down and untied the rope from her waist. Looking over the stones Sarah lined up the rope as best she could before tying it to the tree.
“Stick to the stepping stones and you’ll do fine,” she called across to the others.
Michael went first, with only one slip. He immediately caught the rope and was fine. London came next. He too only slipped once but the rope kept him upright. Nick, however; un-tied the rope from his side before venturing across. Sarah and the others kept the rope almost taught as he made his way from stone to stone. He seemed a little less stable than they had been, not having a pack to help weigh him down.
At the last stone he slipped and began to fall back. Sarah gave the rope a quick jerk as she jumped forward to grab his out stretched arm. As soon as she had a hold of him she shifted her weight back, London and Michael quickly came to her aid. Nick stumbled onto the bank as everyone else tumbled back.
“Well that was interesting,” he chuckled as he undid the rope from his waist.
Sarah heard a wolf howl as she removed the other end from the tree. It sounded remarkablely like one of the howls Jason had taught her. She cocked her head for listening as she put her socks and shoes back on.
“I don't suppose we could have left the rope up for the next group could we?” she asked. London had tucked the coiled rope back into her pack, which she now hefted onto her back.
“Not everyone crosses here,” Nick remarked as he set off. “Those groups that do need to find their own way.”