I went to Girl Scout camp for two weeks of every summer in my late elementary/early teen years. I loved it. One summer my unit left camp and went on a 10 day backpacking trip on the Bruce Peninsula in Canada. Tobermory to Owen Sound. It was glorious.
One of my best memories is dipping my cup into the crystal clear, n0-need-to-filter water and re-hydrating whilst gazing upon pristine beauty. I remarked to one of my co-hikers that I would be happy to sit there for the rest of my life looking out over the sparkling water and drinking in the pure bliss.
I was a skinny kid with strong legs and a pitifully weak upper body. Hiking up the house-sized boulders required taking off our packs and hoisting them up. Definitely a challenge for me.
My ankles were a bit weak, too, which made hiking along the shores of the Georgian Bay a bit tricky at times – walking whilst balancing on varying sizes of wobbly, teetering rocks.
It wasn’t the wobbly rocks that took me out, though, it was a root. It was while we were hiking through the woods, along an escarpment, with the water far below us coming into view between the trees, that I stumbled over a tree root and twisted my ankle.
My counselors – Sunshine and Sparrow – cracked open an instant cold pack, placed it on my ankle and determined that it needed to be evaluated. So Sunshine and I left the rest of the group and hiked/hobbled to the nearest road. It was just getting dark as we reached it. An Ontario Provincial Police car pulled up and gave us a ride – a rather long ride – to a clinic. It was now quite dark.
An x-ray revealed no break – just a bad sprain. I wouldn’t be able to continue the hike.
Phone calls and a plan were made. Earlier that evening another group from the camp had been dropped off about an hour or so away to canoe the Rankin and Sauble Rivers. I would join them and be a passenger in one of the canoes. The bus driver – who was on his way home – was called to come back and transport Sunshine back to the hikers and then me, my backpack and a pair of crutches on to the paddlers.
That’s when the real adventure began.
The bus driver – who thought he was off duty – had already had a beer or two or three or more. Sunshine must have smelled the alcohol because I sure did. But for some insane reason she got out of the bus at the hikers’ campsite and sent me on my way. With a big, burly, inebriated bus driver.
He hadn’t dared drink as long as the counselor was still on the bus, but as soon as we were on our way again he reached into the cooler beside his seat and cracked open another one.
Lord have mercy. PLEASE have mercy. Riding through the dark, deserted woods with a drunk bus driver at the wheel was the hardest, scariest part of the entire wilderness adventure. Harder and scarier than trusting my boots as we leapt the gaps between huge boulders. Harder and scarier than shooting the rapids (after a couple of days my canoe mates let me take a turn at the paddle), harder and scarier than portaging on crutches.
But I made it there safely, un-raped and un-crashed.
At the end of the course the Sauble River dumps into Lake Huron. We canoed along the shore a bit to a campground, where we waited for the outfitters to pick us up. As we relaxed on the beach, our canoes in sight, people kept asking whether we had canoed across Lake Huron.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Early Years.”