I was up front in the line of my family members, with my aunt holding onto me, cousins holding onto her, and my grandparents somewhere toward the rear. In the space of a few minutes sloshing across the slick mud, with cars coming every so often and the guide not doing much of use, we were all blind as bats– blinder, in fact, because bats have echolocation to find their way in the dark and we had nothing but a park ranger who wasn’t any help at all. I learned about echolocation on my own, later. The guide didn’t teach us about bats, or anything else.
Then we started slipping and tripping. The guide was unhelpful; he didn’t tell us anything about the path ahead. Everyone tripped on roots and would’ve gone flying if they didn’t have a domino chain of people to cushion their fall. Everyone took a turn sliding on the mud and nearly going off the embankment. At one point, my cousin did lose her balance and slid right off, a few feet, into the lake, which was thankfully a shallow pond at this point in the journey. The people in front of and behind her lost their balance.
We helped her up, but the guide didn’t help us.
I started to panic and sob.
That first leg of the trail took well over an hour, during which I cried, my aunt and uncle tripped multiple times, the guide taught us nothing of woodcraft or the local fauna, or anything else of value. One of my cousins switched on his flashlight, but the guide angrily made him turn it off so we could all use our night vision, and after he turned it off we were in a far worse state than we had been.Finally, we came to a point where the woods opened up into a grassy meadow, across which was the swimming pool and the cabin one of my aunts had rented. This wasn’t the aunt who had volunteered to take us on an educational and structured hike with a knowing guide. This was a wise aunt, who had elected to stay home and put her little children to bed.
I could see the porch light of that cabin casting a warm yellow halo across the meadow.
“We’re leaving now,” I informed the guide, and I bolted. My family followed me– aunt, uncle, cousins and grandparents bolted. We left the guide with his bag of too many rocks and the handful of tourists we didn’t know. I don’t know how they got back, but they were gone by morning so they must have. We didn’t stop until we got to my aunt’s cabin, where we woke all the children with our loud description of the night’s structured educational activities.
“That was more than a misadventure,” my grandfather said in shock. “That was a DISadventure. That was a disadventure.”
After awhile we stopped complaining and laughed. Each of us did our own impression of the tour guide serenading the Great horned owl with “Ah-HOO-hoo-hoo-hoo-HOO!”
The next day, we went back to playing with fire, frogs and mud daubers. It was far less dangerous than organized activity– and in the end, more educational.
(image via pixabay)