Stories from my past: What are you doing here?

forest stream photo
forest stream photo

As a kid, I had the opportunity to attend church camp. It was something that I went to for a couple of summers in the mountains. Basically, it was like camping but you attended church, had church-related activities and generally got poor food. There were some ups and downs in attending, but I wanted to share one of the exciting adventures from camp.

One of the activities that the camp counselors loved to do is to take us for long hikes. Exercising isn’t my favorite activity, but of course, everyone had to go. Oh, you could stay in camp, but you would be helping by washing dishes and digging a new latrine. They knew how to motivate us.

I remember that day very well. It was a warm and sunny day with occasional overcast clouds. I liked the clouds because a bit of them was nice and cool. We were hiking up steep mountains and everyone was making good time. Sometimes the group would come across a rock or log and the counselors would look and then let us push the rock down the side of the hill. That was great and lots of fun to see it destroy the other trees and foliage.

So as we are walking up the hill I realized that my shoelace had become untied and I bent over to tie them up. I wasn’t too good with shoelaces at that young tender age so it took me some time. When I finished tieing it I got up and didn’t see anyone. I thought that maybe my friends were hiding and playing a trick on me. So I called out “Hey I’m here!” at the top of my voice. I didn’t hear anything. I tried it a few more times and when I heard silence I started to panic. I was in the middle of a forest on the side of the mountain with no equipment and no idea where the camp was.

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I sat down on a nearby log and thought for a minute. It was the middle of the day so the sun wasn’t any help for a general direction. We had been traveling for 15 minutes at least taking several turns and the underbrush was thick so I couldn’t backtrack. I didn’t have anything that was going to help me in this situation. Then suddenly it hit me. Something that I read someplace but didn’t remember. “If you ever get lost follow a stream and eventually it will run into civilization.” I looked around. There wasn’t a stream anywhere, and we didn’t cross any streams on the way to where we were. There was a stream near the church camp base camp, but that was the only one I had seen.

So I started looking around for anything that looked like it might have been a stream at one time. It seemed to me that if I followed one of the dry weed-filled rock-strewn areas it means that was once a stream. So I started to walk in the middle of this weed-filled path with rocks on the bottom.

I did that for several hours. I had to stop and take breaks because my hands were sore from fighting the weeds. The path took several sharp turns and I wondered if I should have just stayed still and hoped that someone would backtrack and find me. I started to worry when it started to become darker. Then out of nowhere, a stream appeared. It was small, but I started to walk down it and other streams started to join it. As I kept walking it got larger and larger so I started to have more hope. I turned the corner of a hill and I about fainted. I had come from the upstream source of the stream where the church camp was parked at.

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I went into the camp and it was abandoned. I thought to myself “What a day!” I get lost and then everyone disappears. I didn’t see any new cars parked so it must have been a major disaster. “I better get to the bottom of this.” I thought. Where is the most information going to be? At the leader’s tent. So I went directly to her tent. I pulled the door back and I heard this shriek.

“What are you doing here?” Karen the camp director stammered.

“Well, I stopped to tie my shoes and everyone left,” I explained. “I followed a dead stream bed to another stream and it connected to this one. So where is everyone?”

“Everyone is out looking for you. (The camp had at least 500 people)” she said. “When John realized you had disappeared he called me and let me know. (At the time they had walkie-talkies) Since then everyone has looked for you. We were about ready to let the authorities know.”

“Well, I’m here,” I said. “Do you want me to go and tell them I’m here?” I helpfully asked.

“Oh no, just stay in the camp and I’ll take care of everything. I’m really glad you’re safe!” she said as she was hugging me.

I told my friends and the counselors what happened. After that, I was never allowed to take any more hiking trips. Well, that was ok with me because I could read comic books instead.