The Flood….a day like any other
Saturday, 7 August, 2010, started out the same as many others. We had a couple of light rains that week so I got up early and set out for the woods to gather mushrooms. August is the best month to find porcini mushrooms and I thought the conditions were perfect that day. The forecast was for rain so I put on my rain gear and hat as I left home. The forest is beautiful when it rains. The mushrooms are fresh and clean. The moss that grows under the trees is moist and green. The air is filled with fragrance. The heavy canopy of branches overhead protects the floor of the forest from most downpours, but today was different. As I arrived at the forest edge the sky was covered with gray clouds but it hadn’t started raining. It was 5:30 in the morning, just light enough to see the path in front of me. I set out on the path jumping over a little brook that runs along the edge of the woods and climbed to the top of the ridge covered with young spruce trees. The dark skies were to my advantage because I was hunting with a flashlight that morning. When the beam of light hits a mushroom a long shadow is cast across the ground making it easy to spot the brown capped mushrooms that blend into its environment so well. I was right about the conditions. There were porcini mushrooms scattered everywhere across the forest floor. I thought it was going to be a great morning. Then the conditions suddenly changed. From over my head I saw a flash of light and I heard a loud clap of thunder then suddenly another. The ground shook under my feet then the sky opened up and a downpour began like nothing that I had ever experienced in the Czech Republic. The lightning continued to light up the sky followed by loud claps of thunder. I knew I had to get out of the forest as fast as I could. I ran down the path where I had entered the forest. Drenching rain poured out from above the trees. Water started running down the slopes of the hill making the trail slippery as I descended. I fell got up fell again. Finally I got to the edge of the forest where I had jumped over the little brook on my way in. I suddenly realized I was trapped. The stream of water that had been only ankle-deep when I walked into the woods had become a huge torrent of rushing white water, three meters (ten feet) in width. If I tried to cross here I could be swept away by the current. I had to find another way out. I climbed back up the hill. I knew the stream came from the top of the ridge. My plan was to go up-stream until I reached higher ground where there is a pond along the steam. I thought I could cross over the embankment around the pond, but when I arrived at the pond, water was pouring over the embankment like a waterfall. I continued up-stream further and further away from my car. I was completely wet at this point the rain was crashing down on my head like water poured from buckets. Above the pond I found a thicket of small willow trees growing across the stream. The trees were densely space about an arm’s length from one another. I decided to try crossing at this spot. I firmly grabbed unto the first tree with my left hand and stepped into the raging stream. The bank was steep, I slid down and lost my footing. I clasped the next tree with my right hand and stood up again. I was standing at the edge of the stream with the water already at my knees. It was deeper than I thought but I continued. I took my mobile out of my shirt pocket and held it between my teeth, then went on. I pulled myself from one tree to another. At the deepest part the water was up to my neck. I could have never imagined that the water would have risen so high in this normally tranquil little stream. Getting to the other side I found myself ankle-deep in mud at the edge of a corn field. The lighting continued to strike the ground near by. I could smell sulfur in the air. My car was parked 3 kilometers away, too far for me to reach it in these conditions. I had to find shelter. I felt that I needed to get off the ground and under some kind of protection before I got struck by lightning. I followed the stream again back to the pond. On this side of the pond I knew there was a little fishing camp with a small cabin. Although I had never been there before I had seen it through the trees. The cabin is small, made of wood with a covered semi-enclosed porch built on the front. I climbed up on the porch and tried the door. It was locked. There was a wooden bench against the cabin wall under the porch. I sat down and pulled my feet up under me on the bench. I was under shelter and off the ground. I took out my mobile phone, it was still functional. The time was 7:30, an hour had passed since I first started towards my car. I was now further away than when I started, my car was about 3 kilometers across the forest, with the storm still raging. I tried to call my husband to tell him I was OK, but I was out of range of a tower. There wasn’t a signal. All I could do was wait……..