hiking at camp
The second-to-last day at camp, I finally got to go on a hike. I was the caboose at the end of the 20 campers, beside the “shaping” (aerobics) instructor who, having been asked to walk behind all the campers, took her job very seriously and picked mushrooms the whole way, falling a good deal behind everyone else. Eventually Boy-who-ties-his-shoe-strings-too-often joined her, as did Small-child-with-pronounced-limp. I joined the next group up. I’ve got to give the kids a lot of credit: loaded down with cauldrons, boiled eggs, pre-cooked buckwheat, and vegetables, they kept up a clipping pace and made it up some really steep parts, all the way to our lunch scene. Our fearless leader smoked cigarettes the whole time and tossed them into the undergrowth. We ate berries– raspberries, sweet little mountain blueberries, currants – and then pine nuts. I ate more on that hike than I usually eat in a week of hiking. It was beautiful. The mountains were misty and jagged, and a falcon spent a long time flying just for fun, it looked like. You could see her tail rotate to catch the wind, then she’d let herself drop for a second and swoop off on some lower current.
We went down the mountain by a different route, in the rain. Smokes isn’t really a good leader – never stopped for head counts or anything and decided to take the fast way down the mountain: a natural slip and slide. I could hardly believe it when I saw it. He cut a path straight down, a path any beast of burden would balk at. From near the back of the line, I heard kids screaming the whole way down. The only real way to go was to squat and ski, grabbing at passing branches. I, who will never win any awards for Best Footing, think I should get something for Best Indiana Jones Move: grabbing an overhead branch just in time and swinging spectacularly over a deep black pit to the other side, where I landed and skidded down 10 feet before actually wiping out. No one saw this. I will also not win an award for Best Choice of Plant to Grasp. I now have mysterious dark scrapes and boils all over my arms and neck. I do confer upon myself a citizenship award for Following at a Safe Distance, Notices When Children Leave the Group, and Willing to Fish Campers’ Trash Out of Fresh Mountain Streams. There were two kids behind me, who were helping the shaping instructor gather mushrooms. One of them came down the mountain alternating screams with Tarzan howls and ran/fell past me and into the clot of kids who were trying to be cautious. I was really enjoying myself. We got to the bottom after more than 30 minutes of sliding down. We were impressed with the steepness and the height, quite proud of ourselves, and walked the hour back to camp on noodle legs.