Wilderness Expedition

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Sounds of anticipated children floods the white cargo van with interminable chatter. I know this trip will change my life, but will the results be dramatic? This trip I have been waiting so eagerly for will consist of three days filled with adventure. Beginning to have last minute thoughts, my mind chokes with questions about this expedition. Should I be here? Is this safe? Will I cross paths with the thing I fear most? The overwhelming heat causes perspiration to roll down my cheeks. The chitchat diminishes as the van rumbles down the narrow, rockbound road.

As the van reaches the foot of the road; oozing mud becomes visible. Perfectly situated at a sharp turn, the curdling mud seeps down the elevated cliff. John steers viciously beginning to make deep S.O.S. groans. Suddenly, we are headed for a cliff! The girls frantically scream as the boys utter their fright under their breath. Terror no longer is amiss as a loud clunk comes from the head of the van. The van has hit a tree! John barks orders at the boys, instructing them to help dislodge the van from the thick, hot mud. My job as a girl is to simply trudge the remainder of the way to our luxurious campsite. The task wasn’t as simple as expected.

Dark clouds loom overhead, and the cold, brutal rain beats down on me. I hastily gather supplies. The sky booms with thunder and lightning lights up the sky like a planned execution. I finally manage to pop my tent, and begin to gather my saturated belongings. While praying, that the sky will return to a submissive state, I notice the storm seems like it will not linger. Finally, the sky clears and I prepare for my hike to Eagle Falls.

The exquisite Falls thrashes the rocks as it pounds downward. I leap off a mossy boulder and plunge into the clear water of the swimming hole. Cold shudders sweep up my body as I surface. As I hastily scamper up the log leading towards the waterfall, water hits my limp body and tap dances upon my shoulders. It promptly urges me to ponder about the white water rafting trip tomorrow.

Papa Smurf, owner and operator of the rafting company, gazes up at me with his big eyes nearly hidden by a steel wool beard. Everyone towers above the elderly man, who is only waist high. Papa Smurf checks my personal flotation device like an over protective father. Having declared me ready, he sends me off to select a guide. I choose Chad, a hefty man with well-defined abs. I am assigned to be right lead paddler, and notice there are no handles to cling to in the lead paddler position, so I imagine I’ll get jostled around the most. Chad shouts commands as we approach the rapid named Pinball. Right! Left! Forward! Back! As my raft approaches the grassy peninsula at the end of my run, courage beckons me onward. I now have the faith to face anything. Little did I know I would be needing it!

It is now thirty minutes until I depart for a backpacking trip. My mind races, wondering what I should pack. Twenty-five minutes…twenty minutes…time is running out! Fifteen minutes…ten minutes…will I be able to do this? Five minutes…do I have everything? Time is up and I have to load my fifty-pound backpack into the van. I will be backpacking eleven long, challenging miles. My newest destination is Star Camp, which is said to have delightful, sparkling water. I hike nearly five miles only to discover that there are too many trees uprooted to continue. Discouraged, I retrace my steps until I am told to combat crawl under a rotten tree. I hesitate at first, but get on my scraped knees, lay on my stomach, and slither under the large, moist oak. Once that is accomplished, I stop for a brief lunch of warm jiffy peanut butter on stale bread. Holding my nose, I gulp down the revolting morsel. The next obstacle comes far too quickly. I am to cross a wooden bridge home to yellow jackets nesting under each plank. Gulping three times, I ask God to protect me, fearing I might be the predator’s prey. I yell for help from my comrades, who do not appear. I infer this will be a solo battle in which I will lose dreadfully. I was right. I lose--ten stings to zero. I hope nightfall will bring a better experience. Settling into my tent, I begin to relax--unaware of the unexpected night visitor.

The penny colored reptile glides among the leaves, leaving no trail or clue to its next victim. It coils in an upright position, guarding the door to a leader’s tent. The boys scream, explaining how they saw the shadow of a snake. John leaps out of his sheltering tent and mocks the boys, causing the girls to laugh. He begins to joke around, saying the snake is coming to feast on the boys. The thirteen-year-old boys burst into tears in fear for John’s life. Promptly after John mocks that he finds the snake, the venomous copperhead begins to advance toward John. I start having heart palpitations as I cross paths with the thing I fear most. John successfully captures the snake and relocates it far from the campsite. To my dismay, he reports seeing more viperous snakes in the region, and we are not to exit our tents during the night. I am looking forward to parting with the snakes tomorrow.

The smell of purified lake water that the boys are boiling awakens me. My first meal of the day is a mug of hot chocolate and instant oatmeal. The oatmeal tastes like wet cardboard because it is extremely bland. The oatmeal has an unsettling wet dog stench about it. Breakfast ends, and hiking back to the van begins. I hike eleven miles over rough terrain with no problems, whatsoever. I sprint the last mile, being greeted with the sweet aromas of fast food and civilization. I have not looked in a mirror in three days, and my hair resembles the tazmanian devil. My knees are all sliced up from the combat crawls, and I have two blisters on each toe. My face is scarred with scratches from branches, and I feel like a totally different person. There is a new level of perseverance I never had before. I have a healthy respect for nature, and have spiritually, mentally, and physically grown in these last few days.

I am proud to say this trip has dramatically changed my life. Now that I have conquered the wild, I am ready for anything thrown in my way. I know through personal experience that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (See Philippians 4:13).





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This article has 5 comments. Post your own now!

Writer_gal said...
Dec. 6, 2009 at 9:38 pm
Maria, great job on your writing! Your descriptive words help readers to feel they are right there, experiencing it with you. My personal favorites? The oatmeal smelling like wet dog; warm peanut butter on stale bread; and "ten stings to zero." (Did you really get stung 10 times?! Ouch!) Keep writing and polishing your craft; you never know what doors God might open up for you. I never dreamed I would be a nationally published author. Check out my blog: <www.ACupOfCoolWater.blogspo... (more »)
 
loonyluna said...
Aug. 2, 2009 at 10:36 pm
whoa!! awsome job maria! i never knew how good you were at writing!
ps. its kyndal from church camp!
 
Mimi said...
Feb. 12, 2009 at 9:56 pm
Wow! What an amazing account of your trip. You kept me wanting to read on! Keep writing because you have an AMAZING talent!!! I loved your poem Shooting Star!
Love,
Mimi
 
billboy said...
Feb. 13, 2009 at 11:24 pm
You have a real gift for writing! Keep it up!

Billboy
 
soccer dude #20 said...
Feb. 12, 2009 at 11:10 pm
Your story is totally awesome. LOVE IT!!! Keep writing :) You have a great talent. *Shooting Star is amazing, too*
 
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