|Robert Turner will be 81 years old August 5th.
We started out the day at the Cottonwood Campground--Duane's Place. Our plan was to paddled from Elk Bend to the BLM Shoup Bridge Recreation Site. That's a very long paddle but we figured we were in shape and could it. By that time in our BLM Volunteerism two years ago, we were running our daily paddle trips like an old fashion railroad--you know, the one where the conductor looked at his pocket watch and announced the next whistle stop in a minute and--BAM--the train would pull up to the station right on time. Well, we were running railroad-style paddle trips. I told Susun we would be at Shoup at 4 pm sharp.
But a funny thing happened as we drove down river that day--VOI began yelling--DON'T GO TO SHOUP--STOP AT ELEVEN MILE! Well, you know how the right brain argues with the left brain and all of that. The right brains was fixated on going to Shoup. Thus the argument began. However, in this case, the VOI was yelling really loud like it hardly ever does. So, we pulled over our two vehicles and had a conference. I told Susun what was happening and she agreed. She said she had been having the same feelings. So we both agreed to end our daily trip at Eleven Mile and not go to Shoup, even though it meant we would leave a lot of river miles on the table and have to make them up yet another day. We knew we would be "wasting" a few hours when we could have been paddling. But we both agreed that our VOI's had the high card in the daily hand we had been dealt.
Thus, we did our duty and paddled to Eleven Mile and went back home to Cottonwood. As we drove out of Eleven Mile we noticed some odd, very dark clouds in our rear view mirrors.
It was only the next day when we learned what had happened. At 3:55 pm, the weather at Shoup was perfectly calm. At precisely 4 pm, all heck broke loose there and trees just basically exploded and left the place looking like a tornado had gone through. One giant cottonwood tree snapped off near it's 2+ foot trunk and crushed campground host Robert Turner into the earth. Anything that would have been parked at the Shoup Bridge River access would have been totally destroyed.
If we would have paddled to Shoup, we would have arrived at precisely the same time the incredible microburst showed up. Our truck would without doubt have been destroyed and it is entirely possibly we would have suffered grave bodily harm or perhaps even death.
I remember reading about poor campground host Turner and thinking, "But for VOI, that could have been me or Susun." I remember we talked at length about the whole thing and it really spooked us. We gave copious thanks for the blessings of our VOI and moved on with our lives.
Well, fast forward to the near the Summer Solstice. Josh and I were doing the Shoup Bridge to Morgan Bar run and we encountered this crusty old coot at the ramp. Something clicked and I realized it had to be the guy crushed by the tree. Sure enough, he pulled out the photos to prove it. I even had Josh take my photo with him and then he took a picture of me and Josh.
Well, fast forward to the past two nights when I have been camped at Shoup Bridge. Yep, the guy crushed by the tree is the campground host-Robert Turner. Tomorrow is the two year anniversary of the day he was crushed into the earth. It's the two year anniversary of the day we both listened to our VOI. It's the day we both dodged an enormous bullet disguised as cottonwood trees going ballistic.
Robert Turner agree to do an interview this morning and I have just finished a lengthy article on his ordeal and return to being a campground host. You can read all about it here:
Turner's whole experience is truly remarkable and inspirational and truly harks to the heart of that adage of our Mommies and Daddies, "When Life knocks you down, you just gotta get back up and keep on a going."
Many Cheers! jp