I found myself moving out of an uncomfortable situation (which
I don’t care to discuss) into an apartment. Not in the best or
worst part of town, but in a low-rent area, where the folks were
mostly laboring class people and the rents were a lot cheaper.
I made friends, became known and got involved in the community
around me, and soon volunteered as an assistant at the neighborhood’s
annual campout. While there, I got to know most of the kids in the
neighborhood, and they began to get to know me, and began to trust me
with their thoughts and dreams.
Most adults aren’t very easy for kids to talk to because they
don’t listen. They forget that kids are people too, and have their
own problems and worries, and deserve to be treated the same
as you’d treat anyone else. No preaching or giving of unasked
for advice, just conversation and discussion.
During this time, I noted that one of the sharper kids, a
lovely little redhead named Monica, lived not too far from my
apartment building. She was an enthusiastic camper and declared
herself to be especially fond of backpacking, canoes and boating,
which gave us a lot in common right off.
At the campout, a group of us set out on a three-day canoe
trip on one of the rivers that flowed near our base camp. We were
all trucked up the river to our first camp, where we put our canoes
in the water and set off. We’d float down the river all day stopping
occasionally for meals and rests, camping at preselected campsites
for the nights.
On the second afternoon, though, things went wrong. Monica
happened to be riding in my canoe with me when a surprise thunder
storm hit. We were separated from everyone else and, during the
darkness, wind, rain and confusion, we took a wrong turn, entering
a different branch of the river.
We eventually realized that something had gone wrong and we
were nowhere near the rest of the party. After talking about it a
while and after studying the map we decided that we knew where we’d
gone wrong and would have to go back. It was getting dark by this
time though, so we decided to make camp and settle in for the night.
Unfortunately, we were carrying a large pack of food, and no
tent, so we had to improvise. Luckily the food was wrapped in tarps.
One of these we set up over our canoe for shelter then we spread out
our sleeping bags on another tarp beneath, consolidating all the
food under the third. Our personal gear, in our packs, luckily
including my backpackers stove and cookset. We cooked a quick meal,
sharing pan and utensils and then snuggled up in our makeshift
shelter to wait for morning.
As it happened, it got unseasonably cold that night and we
wound up pulling both bags over us and sleeping together for extra
warmth. At first a little shy, Monica was soon cuddled up as close
to me as she could get. During the night it warmed up, and by dawn
when we awoke we were more comfortable.
That morning when we awoke cuddled up together, it was
a bit of a surprise at first. After a moment it was a very pleasant
feeling. We lay there together for a long while talking quietly in
the morning stillness about many things. She pillowed her head on
my chest and I found that it felt good there.
We finally got up, had a quick breakfast, broke camp and headed
out, as we knew they’d be worried and probably planning on sending
out search parties. Sure enough, we hadn’t gotten very far past
where we’d missed the proper channel when we were met by a ranger