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by L. H. Hall

Chapter 31 - Ridges and Ravines


by L. H. Hall

Chapter 31

Ridges and Ravines

The girls 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.

We started 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 not bad.

The girls, 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.

Traveling in 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.

We looked 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.

We turned 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 day.

We continued 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.

We rested 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.

We climbed 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.

We continued 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 seen.

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.

We had 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 hole.

"Oh look." Julie started to run to them, but Sarah stopped her.

"Those are wild dog puppies," I warned. "Their mother may be here somewhere."

"Look." Sarah pointed at one of the puppies. "That one is a little Sheba. She has exactly the same markings."

"Yeah, I'd surely love to have her." I eased closer to them. "Little Sheba Junior."

Sheba stood 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 these."

"She must be the grandma, and these are her favorites." Sarah caressed her puppy. "Do we dare take them?"

"The way 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?"

The other children started to get one, but Sheba stood in the way and barked twice. The other puppies scurried back into the den.

Sheba wagged her tail, barked and trotted off down the valley. Neither we, nor the other dogs moved until Sheba barked again, telling us to come on.

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 near us.

While we 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 fire.

Sheba seemed 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.

We had 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.

We were 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.

We were 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 scratches.

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.

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Copyright 1995
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.

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