Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Most Awesome Hiker

It was about one o'clock in the afternoon, and the breeze whispered though the trees. A sixth grade me continued to trudge over the vague dirt trail. I carried nothing but a bottle full of green water I'd filled at the halfway point and a gigantic white T-shirt with "Bullfrog Pond" screenprinted across the front.

There were people with me at first. My sixth grade science camp group was with me, the girls in my cabin. But they were practically running up the hill, and I didn't want to do that. So I joined the slower people. Little by little, the slower group dissolved. Once we reached the destination it became just me. And I did the simple, logical thing any sixth grader hiking alone would do: go back the way we came and look for the short cut I'd used before.

Well, apparently, the short cut I found was a long cut. Hiking alone, I didn't really care. There was nobody here to make fun of me except the trees. I started to sing such classics like "I've Been Working On the Railroad" and "Old MacDonald." There loomed a seemingly limitless freedom at an age when social pressure demanded restraint.

I ceased my howling of random children's songs when I realized someone was following me. Eventually, as I kept moving forward, I realized it was Mr. LaRash, one of the teachers. Why was he following me? Was I actually the slowest kid in the hike?

No, apparently I was the lost kid in the hike. I didn't even realize until we reached some place--some completely random place that was nothing like where we started from--and all the people there, my peers, their parents, the teachers and bus drivers, started clapping for me. Why? I didn't know. I didn't even know I'd been missing.

Really, they didn't need to send out a search party. I would have hitch-hiked my way home anyway.

The next morning they gave out awards. I got the "Most Awesome Hiker" award, which made no sense to me. It felt more like the "Clueless Person Whom Nobody Tells That They're Going On The Way Back From The Extremely Long Hike" Award, but maybe that wouldn't have fit on the paper. I could not process the teachers' attempts at irony at this stage of my mentality.

Two years later, they took the ten-mile hike out of the science camp itinerary. What a shame. :)


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