The Drowning of the Drone

In August, Sarah (who lives a few miles down the road from us) was loaned a drone by her friend. She invited Brian who lives at Jan and Rochelle’s traditional camp and I to go with her to the Yellow Dog River with the drone, spend the night, and take some cool aerial footage of the head waters of the river. We wanted this footage for Rochelle to use in her story map project that celebrates the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. A few days before all of this we were test flying the drone and had some mishaps, like getting the drone stuck in trees or the drone almost running out of battery while still in the air. But Sarah eventually figured how to fly it.

The drone

The drone

The next day we drove to the trail head and began our 6-mile hike to the head waters. At the very beginning, we ran into a patch of chokecherries that probably slowed us down a lot because we could not stop eating them. At times the hike was hard. Part of the trail was flooded, our packs were heavy, and it was hot and humid. After 6 miles, we made it to Bulldog Lake, the head waters of the Yellow Dog River. When we got there, all we could think about was going swimming. Brian went right in. I had a little hesitation but I went in too. We then built our tarp shelter which was like a lean to. As we were building, we kept seeing pieces of bark falling out of this big pine tree. I went over to investigate. I think it was a porcupine but I actually never saw it. Later, I made a fishing pole from dental floss, a small tree, some wire we found, and beef jerky for bait. I never caught a fish, but it was fun.

Me fishing

Me fishing

Bull Dog Lake

Bull Dog Lake

Taking down our camp in the rain

Taking down our camp in the rain

In the evening, we flew the drone and got some cool videos, but while we were flying it back, the remote controller was telling us that the drone was almost out of battery. So, we tried to fly it back as fast as we could; however, as we were landing it, I asked Sarah to film me trying to catch it. This took too much time. Then the controller was telling us critical battery, but the drone was still 20 feet in the air and a little over the water. It was right in front of me, but it was still too far. Next, it was a foot above the water just hovering. We tried to bring it back, but it starting to dip in the water, so we put the drone at full speed and full altitude hoping it would make to shore. For a moment, it was like a jet ski skimming the water but then it suddenly stopped and sank. Brian and I were taking our shoes and socks off, but Sarah dove in with all her clothes on. She grabbed the drone by the propeller and trudged to shore. As quick as we could we removed the battery, hoping none of the footage was lost. Sarah was soaked, and she had no extra clothing, but luckily Brian had some spare rain pants.

 

 

That night around the fire all we could talk about was how we crashed the drone. Drones are expensive and we worried that we may have lost the film. At midnight, Sarah woke us up. There was a big storm coming with thunder and lightning, and our shelter was not equipped for it. So, we all got up and began adding dead limbs and balsam bows to the front and sides. We were so tired afterwards that we all just crashed. After we woke again, it was raining, and there were puddles of water in my shoes. The rain became harder and harder. We realized either we were going to have to stay another night or just head out and deal with being wet. We chose walking out. The hike out was much harder than the hike in. It started hailing on us. We got a mile or more off track, and our packs were even heavier because now they were wet.

 

When I first saw the car, I began running. I took my pack off and everything that was wet except for my long underwear. After 6 miles of hiking in constant rain, we were sopping. Getting in the warm car was the best feeling ever. Needless to say, we survived the adventure, but we’re still not sure about the drone or the film, and we still talk about the lessons we learned and what we would do differently next time.

Sun set over Bull Dog Lake

Sun set over Bull Dog Lake