Summer Camping (Mis)Adventure, Part II: S’mores ‘n More
“I still don’t understand why we have to – Oh my gosh, that bug’s ENORMOUS!” Miriam shrieked, jumping back and using Rachel as a human shield.
Rachel’s face lit up, and she squatted down to get a closer look. “Ooh, you’re a little Hercules beetle, aren’t you?” she cooed. She picked the insect up by its hard carapace and put him (or her) on the shoulder of her pink shirt.
Tammy laughed as Miriam watched the beetle with horrified fascination. “You don’t seem like the type to be into bugs, Rachel,” the tall girl said. “I thought you’d hate this whole camping/hiking thing.”
“How can anyone not love them?” Rachel asked. “They’re pretty and intricate and tiny. Only God would put so much care into making something most people never see.”
“That thing’s twice the size of a quarter,” Miriam muttered. “I’d hardly call that tiny.”
“Found another pet, sis?” Leah asked, catching up to them on the trail.
Rachel plucked the beetle from her shirt and proudly displayed it, looking like she was ten years younger than she actually was. “An Eastern Hercules,” she said. “I’ll have to take a picture when we get back to the campsite – I don’t have one of those yet.”
Dinah peered around from behind Leah’s back and giggled as the beetle rotated its spiky legs and Miriam squeaked, jumping to hide behind Tammy.
Sara stopped at the bend in the trail ahead and looked back, rolling her eyes. “Are you guys coming, or am I going to have to hike by myself?”
“Coming,” Leah answered for them. She started after the purple-haired girl, with Dinah following close behind her. Apparently the small girl had decided that Leah, the quietest member of the group, was the safest person to stick to. Rachel came next, hardly watching where she was going as she scanned the trail and the nearby trees for more interesting insects, the beetle once again stuck to her shoulder. Tammy came next, with Miriam still using the tall Asian girl as a shield to protect herself from any unwanted nature.
The hike was beautiful, the packed-earth trail winding through the trees uphill, skirting ravines with creeks bubbling through rocks, as well as deeper valleys filled with giant trees that had stood for decades. They were almost even with the tops of these behemoths from their position on the trail along the valleys’ edges. Everything was cast in a cool green light from the sun filtering down through the dense foliage. It was silent, with the exception of birdsong and the sound of running water. They were far enough into the forest that they couldn’t even hear the roar of traffic.
An hour into the hike, Rachel’s search for bugs was abandoned in favor of chatting up the young, attractive park ranger they’d stumbled across.
Leah rolled her eyes. She was continually amazed by her little sister’s ability to find men to flirt with, even in the middle of the woods. It was probably a super power. She would be the first to admit that her sister was attractive, but she couldn’t understand why Rachel felt like she constantly had to be the center of attention. She was pretty and smart. Why couldn’t she see her value for herself, instead of looking for it in other people’s reactions?
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of sliding earth and rocks and a soft scream.
Leah spun around, expecting to see Miriam backing away from a butterfly or something, but instead she saw nothing. Older sister instincts kicking in, she did a quick headcount. Rachel was to the right of the trail, deep in conversation with the ranger, with Miriam looking on, one eyebrow raised. Sara and Tammy were both staring up into an old oak tree, apparently fascinated by some kind of wildlife perched in its branches. Dinah…
Where was Dinah?
Leah raced towards where she’d last seen the small girl, leaning to one side of the trail, watching something in the valley below. Apprehension twisted in her gut when what she saw only confirmed her fears: the leaf-covered gravel at the side of the path had been ripped away, leaving only dark earth.
“Dinah?” she called, creeping forward carefully to look down over the edge, dreading what she might see. Something in her voice, some of her fear or worry, caught Rachel’s attention, making her jerk her head out of her flirting and hurry over. The other girls, terrified understanding dawning on their faces as they grasped what was happening, followed.
Dinah hadn’t fallen all the way to the valley floor, thank God. She was huddled on a ledge about ten feet down, looking so tiny in her green sweater. She looked up at the sound of Leah’s voice. “I’m okay,” she said weakly. But when she tried to stand, she grimaced and collapsed back against a tree trunk. She sank back down to the ground, cradling her ankle.
Sara was the first to slide down the slope, catching herself on tree trunks on the steep decline. She squatted down next to Dinah and eased the girl’s sock and shoe off of her injured ankle, then lightly explored the joint with her fingers. Tammy was the next one down the slope, followed by the ranger.
“It’s swollen, but not purple,” Sara said, looking up at them. “I’d guess a light sprain.” She quickly looked over the rest of Dinah’s body, checking for other injuries, but all she saw were a few scrapes. “You okay, other than the ankle?” she asked.
The other girl nodded and swallowed hard. “I don’t think I can walk, though,” she whispered.
“Let’s get you up, then,” the ranger said, reaching for her.
But Dinah shrank back from him. “Don’t touch me!” she snapped.
Everyone froze. Quiet, shy, gentle Dinah was yelling at someone?
Then Tammy stepped forward and knelt beside the injured girl. “Is it alright if I carry you?” she asked quietly.
Dinah nodded, avoiding everyone’s gaze as she clambered onto Tammy’s back, wrapping her arms around the taller girl’s shoulders. With Sara and the ranger’s help, Tammy was able to get Dinah back up to the trail, and then back to camp.
Rebekah stood up from her crouch beside the campfire. “Hi, girls, how was the – Dinah! Are you okay?”
“She twisted her ankle,” Miriam said, hovering as Rebekah helped ease Dinah off of Tammy’s back and into a camp chair. Dinah’s face was flushed and she was avoiding eye contact, clearly uncomfortable at being the center of attention. Sara dragged another camp chair over and carefully settled Dinah’s injured foot over the arm, elevating it.
Rebekah’s eyes darted around the campsite, at the tent they’d worked so hard to set up, then to the burgers she had roasting over a painstakingly-made campfire. “It might take us a minute to pack up – “ she started, but was interrupted by Dinah pulling on her arm.
“I don’t want to go back yet,” she said softly, but with a stubborn set to her chin.
Sara stepped up to the smaller girl’s defense. “It’s just a light sprain. She’ll be fine if we keep it iced and elevated and watch for any major discoloration.”
Now everyone gawked at Sara, and she blushed. “My dad’s a paramedic, okay?” she growled. “I’m not totally useless.”
Rebekah glanced back at the ranger, who nodded. “I’m working on my emergency medicine certification, and I’d say that she’s absolutely right. If it takes a turn for the worse, just let us know down at the office.” He nodded at them one last time, then took his leave.
Rebekah looked everyone over, biting her lip in indecision. Everyone was wearing the same stubborn expression. As much as they’d complained about the trip at the beginning, none of them wanted to abandon it now. She sighed, then smiled tightly. “I hope you managed to work up an appetite on the hike, because we’ve got burgers and then more s’mores than you would believe!”
When they finally piled into the van the next day, they were worn-out, dirty, and still sticky with marshmallow grum. But each girl was wearing a proud smile, and no ipods, cell phones, books, or video games made an appearance. Instead, the girls decided to find out more about their new sisters. Rebekah, watching in the rear-view mirror, had to fight back tears.
“So, Rebekah,” Miriam asked, pushing her curly hair behind her ear. “What’s your family like?”
The older girl smiled. “Well…”