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 Uncharted Waters

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Lora
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PostSubject: Uncharted Waters   Fri May 18, 2012 2:51 am

When I was a kid my father would take our family on camping trips. Or, should I say adventures? Just before one of these trips—most of which, were wrought with bumbling missteps, such as getting lost on bumpy, dusty, uncharted roads, narrow escapes from unforeseen death, and all manner of mechanical failures—I learned he was incapable of getting embarrassed. The most notable example was when my father proudly drove home in our army-green pickup truck with a very used, rosy-pink camper sitting ever so uprightly and blatantly on the back. He pulled into the driveway, in beaming excitement, and laid on the horn for all the neighbors to hear. He was so pleased; he could hardly wait for us to see his new, prized possession. The family came out in perplexity and crimson embarrassment along with every giggling neighbor within a half-mile radius.

Now that I am married with three boys, I love to drag the family off to camping misadventures of my own. One day I had a bright idea. I said to my husband, Jeff, “Why don’t we get a small boat to go camping with? It would save us money renting a U-Haul for our camping gear. We can pack our things in it.” As an afterthought I added, “And we can take it on lakes, too.” I admit I can be pretty industrious when I want to be, but he wasn't so sure about the idea. However, Jeff’s the epitome of a long-suffering, loving husband and eventually agreed to the plan. I found a decent fifteen-foot, aluminum boat, decked out for fishing. It also had an antiquated Johnson DT 1938 motor, which my un-mechanically inclined husband looked at in horror. I was elated with having my own boat, but I spared the family the humiliation of blaring, Ahoy!, on the horn after bringing it home.

We set a date for our camping trip and headed off to a campground in the mountains of Southern California, which, by the way, did not have a lake. Jeff recruited our three boys and their two friends to pack our new boat, promising to take their friends along with us. In no time, Jeff and I, with five boys covertly clad in hoodies, clambered aboard like stowaways into the SUV, and were on the highway with a very small boat packed well over capacity. A mound of supplies, crammed to over three-feet above the boat railing, covered with an aquamarine tarp and vaguely held down by twine, were angrily flapping and waving in the wind. All the while, pillows, jackets, and sleeping bags were holding on for dear life, peaking sinisterly out at the innocent drivers behind, and threatening to launch an all out assault.

Miraculously, everything made it to our tranquil destination without incident. Inquisitive, scurrying squirrels and twittering, sharp-eyed birds (who I could swear eyed our extraordinary haul with suspicion) greeted us after the long months of snowy winter finally wore itself out and now spring was beginning to wake up summer. The boys were unimpressed by the wizened, forest trees surrounding them, as they flopped down in mutiny to what they knew was inevitable. After a long trip of drinking, snacking, and idle DVD watching, they were suddenly too tired and hungry to contribute to camp setup. After some arm-twisting tents were erected, the fire was blazing, and hotdogs and marshmallows were roasting just as the sun began to doze behind the mountains.

The next morning we decided to take the boys on a hike to explore the beautiful nature surrounding us. The boys, on the other hand, were not so much interested in nature but the mysterious treasures they might discover. What was more mysterious, the boys no longer needed their hoodies, but were dressed in shorts and t-shirts and almost looked excited. Armed with a map of the nearby trails, Jeff’s good sense of direction, and plenty of bottled water, we set off for a three-mile hike. The forest was liberating, as we crunched and swished our way through a sea of pine needles and dead leaves, side-stepped trees, and thoughtfully placed our footing as we navigated down an embankment into a shallow, dried up ravine. Periodic signposts faithfully led the way to the path.

Pinecones were discovered the size of footballs, which had dropped from trees that touched the summits of blue sky. Skittish lizards narrowly made their escapes from grasping fingers. But, soon the pine cones became missiles launched from bands of marauding pirates up on the embankments, and broken twigs and sticks transformed themselves into muskets and cutlasses. In no time, the battle was quickly becoming all out war. When we happened upon a sign indicating the path would go straight on for three miles, it was time to persuade the buccaneers to drop their missiles, holster their guns, and sheath their swords.

Jeff said, “We don’t want to go up three miles and turn back the same way we came, do we? Why don’t we cut across here and circle back to camp?”

The boys were onboard with the new adventure. As for me? Not so much. It was an unmarked path and we had no compass. Not that I would know how to use one if we had. But, that was beside the point. It was an unmarked path.

“We could get lost!” I protested.

I was clearly outnumbered. In the face of five begging boys and an askance-faced husband I was no match. We began a trail of our own, leading to I didn’t know where, in the middle of a wood that seemed to eerily dim as the foliage and trees thickened around us. I forced the uneasiness back down into my stomach and tramped along behind our crew while Jeff took the lead. Smiles continued to occupy every face except mine, as Capt’n Jeff made the executive decision to turn up a slow rising hill, while making the announcement, “the camp should be just over this hill.” Like a trooper, I huffed and puffed my way up the hill in hopeful expectation. It certainly felt like the right way to me, on the other hand, I’m notoriously terrible with direction. At the top, there was no sign of habitation anywhere just an ocean of rolling hills.

“We should back track. I don’t like this,” I pleaded.

But Jeff was confident, “A little way down this gully and we should see our camp.”

I agreed to go but cautiously studied our surroundings to keep in mind the way we came. I tried to reassure myself of Jeff’s navigational skills. After a long trek, the gully came to a dead end. Up we went over several more hills, and my memory for the way back faded with every step.

Exhaustion and thirst moved in as the day heated up. We broke for lunch on top of one of the numerous hills. The boys hungrily devoured their sandwiches and sucked down the last of their water. I stowed away a bottle and a half of the water we had left, along with the empties, with plans to start rationing. I noticed the confidence was slowly fading from Jeff’s face. When the laziness of full stomachs began to set in, and Jeff rallied the platoon to continue, the boys began complaining, “How much longer?”

With a few steps more, we were greeted by a deserted, log cabin, which sat concealed in the dense forest, like an island in the midst of a vast sea, with a singular dirt road leading away from it through the trees. A covered car sat hiding in the driveway, and a flock of birds flitted away as we approached. The tiny sign of civilization lifted our spirits. I told the squadron to hurry and search for a water spigot. The boys pretended to search for one as they explored the entire grounds of the alluring cabin. The temptation was too much to bear. I promptly found one on the far side of the cabin and made myself at home filling up all our bottles. After dragging the boys away from their fascinating discovery, we were off again following the little dirt road. More and more cabins began to dot our path (none of which were occupied) in a still very desolate forest. Jeff spotted a particularly high, dusty hill in the near distance and decided it would be smart to get to the top and see where we were.

Once again, I struggled my way up the steep hill, in even more eager anticipation than before. We hurried to the cliff side of the hill—the direction we thought the camp ground was—and all stood in single file squinting out over an endless ocean of varying hues of green. When a breeze would pick up, the tops of trees would wave in unison, ‘good day,’ and continue on with their business. The sun bitterly beat down on our heads. I sat down in defeat, and began some of my own grumbling.

“You should have listened to me. We’re lost!”

“Don’t worry. Just trust me.”

“I trusted you, and now look where we are? We’re going to die of thirst before we ever find our way back.”

“We’re close. I can feel it.”

As far as I was concerned our time had come. Our lives cut short. We would never be able to tell our parents how much we appreciated them. I could see the headlines, ‘Stupid Parents Lead Five Boys to Their Deaths.’ While sitting there in self-pity, I took my shoes off and let the warm, pink sand wash over my aching toes and looked out over the swaying green forest. My weary husband and bored, fatigued boys came and sat near me to rehydrate flashing worried glances at each other. A troubled hush filled the air. Eventually, the squad left me sitting there and wandered over to the other side of the hill where Jeff hollered, “Lora!”

“What!” I snarled. I really didn’t want to hear it.

“There’s a gravel road down there!”

I’d seen a multitude of dirt roads leading to nowhere in the past several hours. A graveled one was no different, but I reluctantly picked myself up to investigate. Yep, there was a graveled road, but it meant nothing to me.

“How do we know which way to go on it?” I said snidely.

“That way,” Jeff said pointing to the right.

I had enough of his directions for one day, and it felt the wrong way to me, “That doesn’t feel right. We need to go the other way.”

Jeff finally persuaded me to go his way. I nearly said, “You go. Come back and get me if you find anything.” But, I worried we would get separated. So, I slowly plucked each foot up (they ached so bad) and trudged down the road. Shortly, there was a bend in the road, and Jeff sent the two oldest kids running ahead to see what was around the way. They picked up a weak jog (just enough to avoid getting yelled at) and disappeared around the corner. They came running back shouting. My heart made double-time in my chest. Was there a bear? A mountain lion? What now?

“There’s people! There’s people!” I thought I heard them say.

We picked up the pace, including me and my unwilling, blistered feet. And, sure enough, there were people...and our camp! Jeff was right, camp was right over the next hill. As painful as the last few yards were for my aching body and sore feet, we were never happier to see civilization. Compared to where we had been for the past several miles, it was civilization. It was like accidentally stumbling upon Los Angeles. For the rest of the day, we ventured no further than the bathrooms and relieved the little boat of a sizable portion of the food and drinks it had faithfully, yet fitfully, hauled all the way up there.

I sat at the campsite picnic bench wolfing down my favorite peanut butter cookies, watching the family, and thanking the good Lord for our safe return back. I smiled slightly thinking about my childhood with my father and his Pink Elephant (a loving nickname given to his pink camper and army-green pickup) shaking, jerking, and clanging down a long, primitive, dirt road the time we got lost on our way to a camping site.

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Last edited by Lora on Thu May 23, 2013 11:00 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Uncharted Waters   Mon May 28, 2012 11:50 pm


Great story telling, Lora, keep on camping
this is a great picture

All the while, pillows, jackets, and sleeping bags were holding on for dear life, peaking sinisterly out at the innocent drivers behind, and threatening to launch an all out assault.


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Lora
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PostSubject: Re: Uncharted Waters   Tue May 29, 2012 1:49 am

Awe, thank you Joe. I had a lot of fun writing that one. I originally meant to submit it to a camping magazine, but I got a little carried away with it and it turned out to be too long to qualify.

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PostSubject: Re: Uncharted Waters   Wed Jul 23, 2014 9:46 pm

@Lora wrote:
Awe, thank you Joe. I had a lot of fun writing that one. I originally meant to submit it to a camping magazine, but I got a little carried away with it and it turned out to be too long to qualify.

You gave the same joy to your boys your father gave you. Thank you for that camping trip...I loved it. You didn't see me, but I was there.
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