And, as I got into writing the story of being lost in Thatcher Park with my younger sister’s Girl Scout troop, I realized I was telling that story as if it was the first time I’d been lost in the woods … only to have a memory of an earlier experience of being lost. And so …
First memory of being lost in the woods: When I was 12, I was at summer camp in the Adirondacks. It was my sixth and final summer at camp. It was, in fact, my last night at camp. And a boy I liked who liked me asked me to skip that evening’s farewell event and sneak off with him to climb a rocky, wooded, giant hill we called a mountain. The mountain was on the edge of camp property, blooming up behind the ceramics studio.
It was crazy that anyone would ask me to sneak off and do anything. I was a painfully good girl at 12, and breaking the rules so dramatically should have been an impossibility for me. Should have been. But it was the last night of my last summer. There was no possible punishment anyone could hand down. And, even with the risk of punishment, I really liked The Boy. And I’d never see him after camp. That hike in the woods would be the only time we’d ever be alone together. I made a strong show of agonizing over his invitation — talked a girl friend, talked to a guy friend — and then I said yes. I mean, of course. Because that was always going to be my answer.
The mountain we were set to climb was the first serious hike many campers went on. It seemed kind of like a baby climb, but it was trickily steep in places and the trail was awkward. It was a small mountain, however, a baby one, and it seemed reasonable to think that, if we slipped away after dinner, The Boy and I could climb it and get back to camp before lights out. The Boy had arranged to borrow a friend’s watch so we could chart the progress of our evening against the timing we imagined for the big event happening in the Quonset hut.
And so, after dinner that night, The Boy and I — circling from different directions, naturally — met up near the big kilns, joined hands and headed into the trees.
It was nice. We talked, we made jokes, we wondered if anyone might have noticed our absence. I wondered if maybe, just maybe, I might be moments from my first kiss.
We stopped holding hands when the trail narrowed and we needed to walk singe file. And we stopped chatting when the climb got steeper and we needed our breath. And then we reached a small rock face and looked at each other and acknowledged that we’d never seen it on any of our times up the mountain in the past. We sat on a benchlike outcropping in the rock and determined — quite calmly, as I remember — that we’d gone off course and hadn’t been following the right trail … or any trail at all, perhaps, given how rough the path had been.
We sat for a while to look at the pretty view — trees, trees and more trees — and then decided to keep climbing. Yes, despite knowing we were lost, we chose to go back into the woods and wander around some more. Don’t try to make it make sense.
Unsurprisingly, this turned out to be a bad idea. We didn’t find the top of the mountain, and we didn’t find the trail. And, when we finally decided we should head back, we didn’t find anything we’d seen on the way up, including the rock face where we’d sat.
It bears noting that I wasn’t scared. As I said in the last story, I wasn’t afraid of wilderness when I was a kid. Being in the forest with no idea of how to get out and the sun setting … probably it should have frightened me. I even knew that bears lived in those woods. I’d seen bears more than once in my time at camp. I surely should have been scared, but no. I was fine. I was annoyed to be lost because putting energy into finding our way seemed sure to mean no first kiss. I was annoyed, but not scared.
As luck would have it, The Boy and I wandered around in a kind of perfect way. When we finally stumbled enough out of the trees to see civilization, we were right near The Boy’s tent. Who knows how we’d managed to walk horizontally across the side of the mountain when we’d thought we’d been walking down the mountain, but there we were.
And, upon checking the cleverly-borrowed watch, it turned out that we weren’t lost for as long as it had felt while we were lost. We had time, in fact, to sit in The Boy’s bunk and talk about how much we liked each other and would miss one another … and — HALLELUJAH! — share the all-important first kiss! All that before running down to the Quonset hut and slipping into the audience (from different entrances, of course) without anyone noticing we’d been missing.
And that was my first lost-in-the-woods story. A few firsts that night: breaking the rules in a big, kind of technicolor way, getting lost in the woods, kissing a boy. Quite the trifecta for meek-and-mild me.
It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!