Miraculous Death-Defying Adventure

McCall Travel Blog

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Sunrise at Payette Lake, McCall, Idaho

I am genuinely grateful I am alive to give you greetings,

             This is a somewhat different update, but an update nonetheless.

  I almost died on Tuesday May 8 of 2007 due to a rather stupid kayaking adventure, and it was only by God’s grace, power, and desire for my life to continue that I am here writing to you today.  I am a witness to the truth our Lord still performs in the miraculous.

            It began as any other crazy day I awake to:  I open my eyes, step out into the warmth and effulgence of the sun, and choose from a large variety of outdoor activities to have fun with for that day.  I decide to paddle a while in my 12-foot lake kayak on Payette Lake.  After a bit of sunscreen, I paddle for about an hour, take a glorious hour nap on a displaced dock floating in the middle of the lake, and paddle to the city beach for another hour of kayaking.  My local youth pastor and friend Chris Thurman happens to be there.  We talk a while until we decide to paddle down a local calm river together, and you’re asking how this turned into a near death experience?

            Well, the calm river unexpectedly turned into white water rapids.

Whitewater we hit
  We drive along the river with both lake kayaks on my roof rack constantly looking at the condition of the river.  It all looks fast, but do-able, except for that mile section not viewable from the road.  We put in up river and begin our expected enjoyable journey down the meandering river.  Five minutes didn’t pass before I see a bit of white caps up ahead.  It looks FAST but still achievable in my wild mind.  I give the thumbs up to Chris behind me, as he is wisely holding to some overhanging branches.  He lets go and we dart into the first choppiness and around the bend in the river…to see the fast river turn into a much faster raging river of death.  Gigantic boulders are scattered in all directions as the water funnels into a tight canyon dropping elevation FAST.  Not only that, but less than a hundred feet away lies a bulky, ominous, death-implying, fallen tree lying across the canyon blocking the way entirely.

            Our lake kayaks were no match for even the beginning white caps as they quickly fill with water and capsize.  The initial shock of the 34-degree snowmelt water is short lived at first sight of the fallen tree.  There we are popping in and out of white water getting closer and closer to an obvious head-to-tree collision.  Smack!  My body comes to an instant stop as my body hit a full-size boulder about forty feet from the tree.

Tree of what's supposed to be death
  The force of the water has me pinned, but I am able, by God’s strength, to push off and forcefully swim to shore along the canyon wall.

            Just as I get my bearings, I see Chris right in the middle of the rushing current heading straight for the tree!  My eyes are intently watching his vulnerable body close 20, 15, 10, 5 feet away from the tree… and as I search my memory now, the very next thing I see is Chris standing atop the  fallen tree with the white water pounding it and swooping under.  Standing.  Not grabbing on with his hands, not pulling himself out of the impossible water forces, not swinging his legs onto the tree, but STANDING.  He also believes, no, he knows, God pulled him out of that water and stood him up on that tree.

            Yes, God still performs in the miraculous.  We prayed for protection before we began our journey, and He answered with His grace, power, will, and angelic assistance.  We both look back on our death-defying escapade that Tuesday afternoon with great thanksgiving to God for sparing our lives so we can live out His perfect and world-changing will for our lives on this earth.  Because of His undying love even when we humans do something rather stupid, Chris will pastor and change lives in a growing youth ministry in the tri-cities, and I will continue to serve the Lord here in McCall and most likely travel the world fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission. 

Still an alive and jubilant servant of my God and Savior (both spiritually and physically),

Zach Hooley


P.S.  Going into all the world means taking my exploratory outdoor thrills along with me to reach others who are hungry for adventure.  Please pray for continued protection of my crazy and passionate life as well as wisdom in finding my missing and most-likely damaged kayak and paddles.  We rescued my parent’s damaged kayak about a mile down river, but mine is still pinned at the bottom of the furious river somewhere.  Possibly pray I would more readily see precarious situations and exercise safety more often when I take people along on my thrilling and extreme excursions.  Thank you.  www.myspace.com/hooley4christ
dashforcover says:
Were you on the Payette River? I've canoed up the river that comes into the lake at North Shore, but it was flat and calm. But the river that comes out of the lake is an 'Oh my goodness' river. I used to have nightmares about falling off the road into that river. I'm glad you made it through.
Posted on: Feb 21, 2008
karulm says:
I don't know you, but I'm very happy to know that you're safe and sound. Thank for that riveting blog. You write very well.
Posted on: May 22, 2007
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Sunrise at Payette Lake, McCall, I…
Sunrise at Payette Lake, McCall, …
Whitewater we hit
Whitewater we hit
Tree of whats supposed to be death
Tree of what's supposed to be death
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