Campfire Story: The Light in the Lantern

“Come on guys.  It’s this way,” as I lead our first hikers over to our newly made trailhead.  “You’re not going to believe what we found up in these pinnacles.  There’s gardens, with waterfalls, amidst huge Douglass fir and pine trees, all surrounded and protected by deep granite precipices.  We’ll camp there tonight, and rock climb all day tomorrow.  We cut this trail last week, so watch your step.  Many of the rocks are still loose, and there’s yuccas everywhere along the way.  Lets leave our bikes here, since the rest of the trail it too steep for ’em.”

Robert laughed, “I hope you guys like climbing big rocks!”

The other boys from the Beaver Patrol also laughed, and joked around for a minute.  This was way better than our normal Troop 42 Boy Scout meetings.  No adults to hold us back, and now we get to show the younger scouts some real survival skills.  Everyone thinks we’re out riding our bikes somewhere, and spending the night at someone else’s house, which in a way was true.  We rode our bikes to our unmapped trailhead, with enough camping gear to hike our new unmapped trail and spend the night. That’s when we found ourselves stashing our bikes in the bushes, in theory, for when we all came out together, to then ride our bikes home, where one of our friends was to spend the night.  We only added a detour, and some extreme camping to our plans.  No big deal, right?

“So who else have you guys shown this to?” asked Ryan.

“Nobody yet.  We were the first ones that tried getting up to those pinnacles, and to the crags beyond, so we made our own trail,” pointing at Robert whom had just put on his knife, and was readjusting his belt buckle.

“It took us every day for two weeks to cut through the chaparral, and we made it to the topmost pinnacle.  We got lost twice in the bushes, and never came out with any water left in our canteens.  We didn’t expect to find anything except brush, and a Mecca for rock climbers,” I told them.

The boys laughed again, “That’s why were here!”

“Well, we found way more than that.  There’s a bunch of waterfalls up there.  Huge cliffs, hidden gardens, all of them tended for, and protected by Mother Nature.  You guys are the first ones we’ve told, otherwise our families would never let us come out here again.  It’s wild up there–I’m not even kidding,” I told them further.

The boys giddiness turned a little more serious, as the great news kept getting better.  For them it was their first real adventure, a rite of passage, going into the wilderness without anyone knowing where we were, without any knowledge of the tremendously complex labyrinth of high altitude pinnacles.  Together we vowed to one-another that we would not come out until we either ran out of food, or water, whichever happened first.

We were going to be testing our nerves, and our survival skills.  We knew there’d be water at the falls, and we knew we could forage for food at the gardens, so we were confident that we would just stay afield as long as we could.  Worrying our families too much seemed to be the only constraint.  It was summer break, so we expected we could easily get away with two or three nights out, leave our equipment in the field, ride our bikes back home, check in with our folks, then come back out the next day, and do that all summer long.  Since we loved rock climbing, this was the environment we all wanted to master living in.

Robert and I already had two weeks experience up there, but had only found the waterfalls once by bushwhacking.  We were really hoping we could figure out how to get there again.  We had a general idea which canyon we needed to find.  We just had to show our fellow scouts, but this night would be the first time any of us would stay past sundown.  So we accounted for that, and brought extra provisions, trail tools, and in theory, we thought we were prepared.  The goal was to make it to the falls before sundown, then cook our dinner.  We had extra guys this time to help cut the trail to The Gardens, so it seemed perfect.

I then explained to our patrol, “Robert and I connected a bunch of old animal trails; widened them a little bit, and cut a new trail to get to the sweet climbing spots, going up to the main summit.  There’s rattlesnakes and cougars up there.  They’re big and healthy too, protecting something special, so you guys better not show anyone else where we’re going.  Today you guys are going to help us start a secret trail to The Gardens, which is why we brought extra tools.  We already have some tools stashed up there, and we’ll grab them on our way.  The Gardens are past the summit, so its going to be a quick downhill trail cut.  We’re going to show you guys a secret place, ok?  We don’t want anyone else to go there and thrash it, but we trust you guys in the Beaver Patrol.  Let’s keep it pristine.”

“Ok.  We won’t show anyone,” they all agreed, then gave everyone present the secret Beaver Patrol handshake, and laughed again.

“Great.  You beaver-shaked on it, so I’m going to hold you to it.  This trail only goes to the top anyhow, and the only way to get to The Gardens is to bushwhack around the backside of the main peak, then drop into a gnarly canyon.  Nobody in their right mind is going to try to get into The Gardens, especially if they’ve never heard about them.  Just pretend you don’t know where they are, if anyone ever asks. I don’t think anybody else will ever find them,”  Robert explained further.

“You guys ready?  Ok, before we start hikin’, let me read you something I wrote the other day.  It’s about where we’re going.  Bow your beaver-heads, and pay attention,” I told them.  I began to read aloud:

The Arrowhead Pinnacles await
Where water falls
Ol’ virgin stones
And cougars gnawing on bones

Where the crookedest crags
Cradle the twistedest trees
Our ancient station of stone

May the shadows hide tonight
From our single lantern light

Lets hope we make it home

Ryan smiles and laughs, then shouts “Amen,” and gives me another Beaver Patrol handshake.  The other boys followed suit, handshaking, and laughing.  They all knew what they were in for, and now it was time to make history.

…The Adventure Continues…

Please comment below, if you’d like to read the rest of this campfire story.  I’ve never written it down before, even though I’ve told it many times around the campfire.  If enough people would like to read the bulk and rest of this story, I’ll finish writing it.  This is a really wild story that actually happened to me and my buddies of Troop 42, the Beaver Patrol.  This is just a short sample of one of my campfire stories, based on my many first hand accounts, and long days on the trail.

~ Dreaming Owl

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