To a ten-year-old boy, camping is like steaking out on enemy lines, sleeping under the stars in the old west, or soaring to another planet. Around this time in my life my grandfather took Dad and I on a camping trip. Though it seemed like a dream, because of what would occur, this adventure was anything but make believe.
I can still remember sitting in the car and counting down the seconds until we arrived at the trail. Being a very outdoorsy person, Grandpa had decided on what he thought would be the best place. Naturally, this was far away on a dirt road. It didn’t matter though. It was camping. Once we had finally arrived, setting up our backpacks began. Though it probably took only a few minutes, time passed like a caterpillar treading through melted butter. Everything had to be condensed, pushed, and crammed into the three packs we were carrying. Soon though, hiking began. At the direct head of the trail, was a sign. It was put there to notify any campers not to stay at a specific lake. The sign showed a bird's eye picture which depicted the lake as somewhat horseshoe shaped, and green. It would be an awful mistake to camp at such a lake.
The first step on the trail was like stepping on a cloud. All the rest were like stepping on rocks. I suppose that really is what I was doing, but I had not anticipated the work. After just twenty minutes, I was demanding a break. Because I have never been the tallest boy ever to walk the earth, I could barely see Grandpa up ahead in the trees. Soon, however we were resting against a trunk slurping water, but all too soon my feet were walking along, practically without me. We went on walking for another hour or so, with marvelous sites passing by every minute. Though tired I was, the experience was becoming fun. The time had come for lunch. We sat on rocks looking over the water, resting in the shade. It was noon and the sun loomed high over our heads. Everyone ate lunch and viewed the scenery before moving on. Well, Grandpa and I did. The first step Dad took, his left hiking boot, that he’d trusted with his life before, lost it’s sole. All of it. It would take another five minutes to “tape” it up with our bandage wrap. Once again, we were on the road, until Dad’s other sole fell off. I still remember how he mourned over those beautiful shoes. They got a burial next to a tree where I assume they still sit. As for my dad, he would have to walk in Keens sandals the rest of the way.
Finally, we arrived at the camp site. Joyous day! No more hiking! Relaxing by the lake! Exploring the woods! Climbing the trees! It was time for fun. But first, the camp site would need to be set up. We all worked together. This is, of course, a generous term for watching the adults do work while I stood by kicking rocks. Once the tent was up Grandpa started a fire for dinner. I hurried over to my bag to snatch a pack of Grandma’s mac-n-cheese. I have always loved mac-n-cheese, and have never since tasted it the way it was cooked over a fire. I would do the trip again if only for that. By the time we had finished dinner the sun had begun to set. It was time to go down to the nearby lake and watch the fish jump. We would be fishing, but the poles broke during packing. It was amazing to see fish, sea creatures, fly out of the water grabbing bugs and mosquitoes before swan diving back in. I don’t know how long I stayed there, captivated by the flying fish. It was late before I was dragged to bed, though I wouldn’t sleep soundly. It was fascinating how my sleeping bag was placed strategically on every rock. It was going to be a long night. Suddenly, out past the campsite, I heard a rustle in the bushes. Bear! Wolves! Darth Vader! Spider! My eyes bulged. Dad rustled. My grandpa turned over. We were doomed. I wondered if I’d ever see my family and friends again. Dad told me to go back to sleep. It didn’t happen.
In the morning I wasn’t quite as sure I wanted to be in the wilderness anymore. Still, no boy can resist exploring. It took us no more than three minutes to find an alcove of fallen tree branches scattered atop one another. It was like God’s personal game of pick up sticks. Continuing on Grandpa found a discarded trail that would lead to the most fantastic waterfall I have ever seen. Next came a settled rockslide looking over the same lake. Here we learned that the lake was not circular like we had imagined, but curved and fairly skinny. After the rockslide sat another waterfall feeding the lake. While not as grand as the previous one, it seemed to be dripping directly out of the clouds. By this time we were ready to return to camp. Turning in the opposite direction, we marched ahead to take one more look at the sites we had just viewed. Suddenly, I heard a rustle across the lake. It turned, and there it was. A bear. It had to have been! It was standing on its hind legs raising its arms. Though Dad later said I hadn’t seen a bear, it petrified me thoroughly.
By the time we had returned back to camp everyone was tired and ready to go to bed. It was another sleepless night. Nothing I could do would stop the very real sounds outside the tent. Grandpa assured me I couldn’t have heard walking. I wasn’t sure. In the morning we packed up our things and left. Each one of us was thankful that walking downhill was easier than walking up. Before I knew it, we could see the car. All of a sudden, something clicked. I saw the poster of the lake and thought back to looking at ours from the rocks. The curve it had. The green water too. We had unintentionally camped at a lake with poisonous green algae. I thanked the Lord that no one had drunk the water. Everyone put their bags in the back of our car and got in. A few days later Dad got a newspaper. After reading for a few minutes he jumped in surprise. The county we just camped in had experienced its largest drug bust ever during our trip.
Of course neither my dad, grandpa, nor I had done much to help catch this then illegal operation, but I am convinced that it is why we heard constant rustling in the woods and footsteps at night. Then I felt like a hero; now I feel lucky. It was truly a great trip nonetheless. Grandpa had picked an amazing spot, looking back the trail really wasn’t that bad, and I can still remember that waterfall, the pick up stick trees, the flying fish, and the dead shoes as if it were yesterday.