by L. H. Hall
Ridges and Ravines
did not think it fair that we declared another week holiday,
beginning November 12, the week of my birthday; but I, like Jamie,
decided to do some exploring. I had determined on Sarah's birthday,
way back in July, that when it came time for me to be the Most
Important Person, we would explore the ridges south of Goat Field,
and wind up on the beach somewhere west of the mountain, north of
the cove. It looked like rugged country without trails from the
sea. I believed the wild dogs' lair was somewhere in that area.
We made a
slight change in our preparations, partly because I anticipated an
encounter with wild dogs, and partly because of the heavy brush. I
expected the traveling to be slow. Debbie and Julie were each given
their own machete, with instructions to be very careful.
The pups as
we still called them, were hardly pups anymore. They were at least
a year old, and nearly as big as their mother. They could be as
vicious, if necessary. We had seen some demonstrations.
Furthermore, each of them would gladly have died to keep any one of
us from getting a scratch, and we all knew it. Sheba was still in
charge of the expedition, and she knew it. The moment she saw us
headed for unfamiliar territory she took the lead.
out early Monday morning across the upper end of Goat Field toward
the mountain top. After crossing the first ridge, we turned left
down the hill between the first two ridges. As in other areas, the
jungle was a myriad of color, The millions of flowers of every
imaginable size, shape and color, filled our eyes and nostrils.
There was plenty of underbrush to cut a trail through, but it was
waiting for Jamie and me to cut the trail, worked some flowering
vines into leis to adorn their necks and wrists. Others they
braided into their long hair.
the bottom of the ravine, as we were, it was not surprising that we
soon found a stream sliding down the hill before us. We could not
have been more than an hour from the cave, when we found ourselves
standing at the top of a steep grade over which another water slide
flowed. None of us wanted to slide down this one. It twisted and
turned. Rock islands and roots stuck out of the stream to bruise or
rip the unfortunate thing that might get caught in it. Some thirty
feet below and fifty feet in front of us was a transparent pool,
fifteen feet or so across, and twenty-five to thirty feet long. A
flat grassy area lay between the pool and the cliffs on the left,
but on the right a steep embankment stopped at the water's edge.
Below that, the water seemed to slip gradually on down the hill.
for a way to safely descend, but saw none. Sheba barked, and turned
back up the trail a few yards and disappeared into one of those dog
size trails. She barked again, and waited for us. We cut through
thick underbrush until we came to the ridge where we could see the
back of the cave. Visibility of Goat Field was good from our
vantage point, and we could distinguish a trail a couple hundred
yards to the Southeast. Sheba led us down the ridge to that trail.
We followed it into the ravine below the little lake.
upstream to get a better look at the pool. It did not look deep,
but looks were deceiving because the water was so clear. It looked
too shallow for swimming, but we found it to be well over our heads
in places. In others, it was no deeper than the stream on the
patio. The big problem was its size. It was too small. By the
time we got five kids and eight dogs who loved to swim into it, the
pool seemed rather crowded, as evidenced by the claw marks on our
bodies when we got out.
In the cliff
next to the grassy area was what might be called a cave, but it was
more like a large indentation in the cliff. It was large enough,
and deep enough to make a good camp, should we decide to return here
to camp out sometime. The area was well shaded, but it might be
possible to light a fire at different times during the day. If we
knew we were coming, it would be better to bring coals from the
cave. By taking the lower trail across Goat Field, it would not
take over a half hour to get here. We talked about the feasibility
of camping here for the day, but agreed that it was too early in the
down the stream. It was not too hard to follow. In places we had
to get out or swim, but mostly there was an easy trail, probably, a
dog trail, along each bank. After another hour we found ourselves
in the eerie twilight of another dense jungle canopy. As we
continued, the ravine flattened out into a narrow valley maybe
seventy-five feet across. The stream grew shallow and wide, and
finally, split. The larger branch flowed to the left and both
disappeared into the underbrush. "If we cut through that
underbrush, we'll be looking down on Lake One." I pointed at the
place where the larger stream disappeared. "Right through there is
the big waterfall, and over to the right is the little one." No one
argued. We all knew where we were. Even so, we slashed our way
through to look down onto our beautiful lakes.
and lunched at the wye in the stream, before we started south over
the next ridge, which was not very high at this point. As we
started up the next ravine, Sheba led the way to the left, toward
the top of the third ridge. I wanted to stay in the bottom where
another creek flowed. When I tried to call her down, she barked for
us to follow, and continued slowly on her chosen path. We had no
choice but to follow, or go off on our own. We were not that
stupid. We had learned our lesson on our last expedition. If Sheba
did not want to go somewhere, we did not go.
out of the valley about half the way to the ridge, then turned
toward the mountain. As the ravine narrowed, we saw why Sheba had
not followed the stream. The trail was easy to follow after we left
the canopy. We were walking on the edge of a deep gorge. It looked
as though, at some time, the ridge had split, leaving a creek to
flow between two cliffs. From the vantage points of the several
places we looked down, we could see no place where we could have
walked except in the water. We could not even guess how deep it
was. I suppose, it could have been a foot deep in some places, and
hundreds of feet deep in others.
toward the mountain along this rim for, possibly an hour, before we
came to the abrupt end of the gorge. The ravine became a small,
high valley. The floor of which was at a slightly lower elevation
than the rim of the gorge we had been following. The water from the
stream in the valley must have dropped two hundred feet straight
down, spraying over several outcroppings to the floor of the gorge.
It was, without a doubt, the most beautiful waterfall I had ever
Once we were
above the end of the gorge, Sheba led us through the valley along
another well marked trail, across the water that would soon plunge
into the gorge below. At the stream, I turned to follow it up the
mountain, but Sheba barked for us to follow her. She led us up and
over the second ridge down into the first valley to the lake we had
found earlier in the day. There, Sheba lay down in the cave;
telling us this was the place to spend the night.
It was still
early. We could have gone back to the cave and enjoyed the beds we
were accustomed to, but we chose to stay in the valley. Since there
was little chance of starting a fire at the camp, Debbie and I went
out onto the slopes of Goat Field to capture the hot rays of the
late afternoon sun to build a fire. An hour later I carried a
canteen cup full of coals to the little cave by the pool and started
the night's fire. Our dinner was waiting to be cooked. Sarah and
Jamie had dressed it, and Sheba had eaten hers.
I was up
the next morning, revived the fire, and had the breakfast cooking,
before Sarah stirred and awoke the others.
I was like
Debbie. I did not want to worry about getting a licking all day.
When they finished their morning baths, I bent over, my hands on my
knees. "Okay, lets get it over with. If you don't lick me now, I
won't letcha later." I took it like a man. I stood there and
let'em spank away. They laid it on pretty hard too, all except
Debbie. She remembered her birthday, and how easy I had been on
her. Sarah also remembered Debbie's birthday, or the night before,
the tickling session at the lake, and other times I had teased her
or made her mad. She remembered each one aloud as she laid the
swats on, and wanted a few more. She made up for the easy licking I
got from Debbie. I thought I would need my pillow from the cave
before I could sit down to eat breakfast. I ordered Sarah to go get
it, but she refused. By the time the meat and breadfruit were
cooked, I could sit all right.
things about ready to go by the time breakfast was over. Sheba led
us back over the path to the stream in the second valley, and turned
upstream toward the mountain. She led us all the way to the trail we
had taken from the cave to the mountain top, before she started over
the third ridge and into the next valley, There was nothing
spectacular about this valley. It was more of a ravine than a
valley. However, there were many more trails. It was quite
apparent this was wild dog headquarters. Their tracks were every
where. We saw several little caves, but the dogs were either gone
or hiding; I did not know which. This made me uneasy. Sheba seemed
perfectly at ease and at home.
When we were
deep in the ravine, she ran up to a hole at the base of a rock
ledge, barked, and waited--then, barked again. This time, after a
couple minutes several puppies about two months old came out of the
Julie started to run to them, but Sarah stopped her.
wild dog puppies," I warned. "Their mother may be here somewhere."
Sarah pointed at one of the puppies. "That one is a little Sheba.
She has exactly the same markings."
surely love to have her." I eased closer to them. "Little Sheba
nosing the puppies. Our other dogs stood at attention surrounding
us. If there was any trouble, we would be in the middle of one big
dogfight. Sheba was nosing Sheba junior and another with similar
markings toward us, like she wanted us to pay attention to them. I
wanted Sheba Junior badly, but I was afraid to go near her. I
looked around, and seeing no strange dogs, I moved a little closer.
When I was about to pick her up, I heard a growl on the hill above
me, and looked up to see another Sheba with sagging bags. Sheba
snapped growling angrily at the dog on the hill, who put her tail
between her legs and disappeared. The other dogs around us
relaxed. I picked up the Little Sheba, and Sarah picked up the
other one Sheba seemed so fond of. Sheba barked, looking at me like
she was trying to tell us something. "I think she wants us to have
"She must be
the grandma, and these are her favorites." Sarah caressed her
puppy. "Do we dare take them?"
that mother dog took off with her tail between her legs, I would say
that Sheba is the boss, and what she says goes. Did you see the way
our pups relaxed after the mother left?"
children started to get one, but Sheba stood in the way and barked
twice. The other puppies scurried back into the den.
her tail, barked and trotted off down the valley. Neither we, nor
the other dogs moved until Sheba barked again, telling us to come
I started to
put little Sheba Junior down, but Sheba barked again, and continued
to bark until I stood up with the pup still in my arms, and followed
her. We saw the mother several times that day as we made our way
down the third ravine and back up the fourth, but she never came
were having lunch under the canopy above Lake Four, the mother came
into the canopy and lay down about a hundred feet from us. Sheba
went to her. The mother came to meet Sheba with her head down.
They nosed around a few minutes and then lay down together. A half
hour later the younger dog trotted back up into the canyon. We did
not see her again until later in the afternoon when we were near the
upper end of the last canyon. It was another canyon of no
consequence, a short steep canyon with no place to camp. Its small
stream emptied into Lake Six just above the undergrowth.
It was still
early afternoon when we got to the top of the last canyon. I was
ready to try to find a path down to the beach, but Sheba wanted to
go the other direction, and led us back down the trail we had come
up in the second valley and back over the hill to the cave by the
pool. Again, I had to go out to slopes of Goat Field to start a
hesitant to leave the next morning. She would much rather have gone
back to the cave, but without too much coaxing; she led the way to
the top of the fifth ridge. Again, she acted like she did not want
to proceed, but soon led the way down the precipitous west bank of
the island. It was slow going. The brush was not bad. We had to do
some cutting, but in a place or two, the trail disappeared and we
had to jump a few feet across a chasm. The jumps were hardly more
than long steps, but for kids, even stepping over a chasm is scary.
We were on a path no more than a foot wide and could almost reach
out and touch the tops of the tall trees beside us. I would hop
across first and reach back and take the hands of the others before
they jumped. As each person jumped, he or she would have to squeeze
by me on the narrow ledge, so I could help the next one; then, we
would hope for a wide place in the path where I could move to the
front again. It was almost noon when we slid the last fifteen or
twenty feet on our bottoms to the beach.
learned another lesson to trust the wisdom of Sheba. Fortunately,
we had left all of our baggage, except for one canteen and the
puppies, at the camp. We had decided the night before, it would be
easier to come back after it than to carry it all the way around.
We were surely glad we had.
almost to the cove when we got to the beach, looking forward to a
free ride home, but the dolphins were not in sight. It was strange
because we could usually find them swimming somewhere along this
coast. We were a little concerned that they might have gone to
parts unknown, but we did not really believe it. We could not
expect them to be there waiting for us all the time.
getting pretty hungry when we started up the trail below the cave.
When we were about a third of the way up the mountain, we heard our
sea-friends chattering at us, calling us back to the beach, but we
continued to climb. Our stomachs were nagging, and we were tired,
scratched and dirty. When the dolphins had not been visible, we had
decided not to go into the sea, because the salt would sting our
It was good
to be home. The nannies, heavy with milk, were calling us to be
relieved, but we let them wait a little longer until we had eaten
and taken a short refreshing swim.
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.