Disclaimer: If you are just discovering my blog, you may want to read the entire Survival saga:I’m Lucky to be Alive; It Made a Murderer Out of Me; Move Over Cow, I’m Thirsty; What the Hell is a Water?; and It’s a Party. That way, you can understand why the final day of Survival was just as frustrating as the first – but by that time, perhaps I should have expected it.
Our solo experience was over – and not many of us had gained the spiritual enlightenment that the counselors had hoped we would attain. It turns out that spiritual enlightenment is hard to come by when one is busy sneaking around to visit forbidden neighbors and attending fully catered wilderness parties. After breaking down our shelters and packing up, we all assembled in the counselor’s camp for the instructions for the final hike to the final camping spot. We were split into four groups and the counselors explained the route each one would take for the final hike. Two groups (mine included) had members who had frequently gotten lost on previous hikes. We were told to head back down the trail together, and then each group would take a separate fork. Ours would take us past the “party venue” and continue up and over the mountain, leading us to Strawberry Reservoir – our final destination. We were assured that our hikes were the easiest and shortest, as they did not want us to get lost again – I should have known not to trust them.
Things started off well enough – but about an hour into the hike, our trail became fainter and harder to follow, until finally it totally disappeared. After a short discussion, we decided to head back, thinking that perhaps we could catch the counselors before they left their camp. However, when we arrived, nothing was in their camping spot – except for a prominently displayed map sitting on the ground, anchored by a rock. It seemed clear that our counselors had expected us to return and our “short and easy hike” was just a ruse. After much arm waving and throwing of a few things in frustration, we huddled around the map and finally determined that the best thing to do was to just take the road to Strawberry Reservoir. It would make for a much longer hike – but at least it would eventually lead us to our destination.
We struck out along the road, telling each other stories about episodes of recently watched television shows to help pass the time. We covered a LOT of television shows – because we had a LOT of time to kill as we trudged along the miles. If you ever want to know anything about The Bionic Woman, Six Million Dollar Man, Happy Days, Welcome Back Kotter, or Love Boat – just let me know. I’ll even sing or hum the theme song to make it even more exciting!
Damn, now that Love Boat song is stuck in my head!
We finally came to a crossroads and consulted the map once more to determine which way to turn – and we started to head up a mountain. Now, it was already late afternoon and we were dead tired, hungry, and thirsty, but it appeared that we just had to make it over the mountain and dinner would certainly be waiting. The map made it seem like we just had a few more miles to go – but that map was a damn liar! It didn’t show the dozens and dozens of switchbacks the road made on its meandering journey. The story-telling slowed as our breathing became more labored. Our mouths were dry and we finally stopped talking altogether to try to conserve our spit. Finally, we found a small stream by the side of the road and we stopped to quench our thirst and rest in the shade for a bit. When they noticed a truck parked nearby at a trailhead, half of the group wanted to wait for the driver to see if we could get a lift. The others, including me, wanted to keep on going ahead – deep down I was still a good girl and I didn’t want to get kicked out of Survival on my last night for accepting a ride. After a spirited argument, we split up and my, now smaller bunch, trudged up the road again.
Darkness fell…along with our spirits. I wondered if we would ever make it over the mountain and, even if we did, if the road split again, how could we tell which way to go? It was too dark to read the map! As a car came up behind us, we moved to the side to let it pass – but instead it slowed and we were greeted with joyous shouts from the rebels we had left behind. The truck’s owner had returned and agreed to transport them to the reservoir. He seemed concerned about leaving us alone on the road in the dark and that, along with the encouragement of the others, was enough for me to finally give in and crawl into the bed of the truck with the others. As we drove mile after mile, I quickly lost any remaining sense of guilt about accepting help.
When we finally got to Strawberry Reservoir, the driver, who had been briefed on the situation, was nice enough to drive us nearly to the entrance of the campground – but around a bend so that anyone lurking there would not see us exit the vehicle. As we entered camp, the counselors hurried to intercept us, expressing worry and relief as they asked us what had happened. It’s not so much that we lied our asses off – most of what we said was the truth: we got lost AGAIN, we found a map, and we walked for miles and miles and were now starving and exhausted. We just left out the part about the friendly truck driver and our illicit transportation.
It turned out that we weren’t the only group who had gone missing – the gang who had taken the other “easy” route had not yet appeared. There was an animated discussion amongst the counselors as we ate dinner and they tried to come to an agreement on what to do about the missing. Finally some of the counselors drove out in search of the lost survivalists, just about the time I crawled into my sleeping bag and immediately conked out.
The missing youths were in camp in the morning and over breakfast they explained what had happened. Their trail had also disappeared and they had also gone back to the counselor’s c amp. Unfortunately for them, we had already taken off with the only map – so they had to guess on the direction to go and had taken some wrong turns. About midnight, they had finally found someone to give them a ride, and by the time they were delivered to camp, the frantic counselors were more than willing to overlook the rule breech. About this time, we all accused the counselors of knowingly sending us on the wrong paths – which they vehemently denied. However, I still find it fishy that a map just HAPPENED to be left in the clearing – don’t you?
So that’s the story of Survival – an expensive week in the wilderness that taught me just one lesson in surviving: DON’T GET LOST!