Thursday, June 22, 2006

I Say Float, You Say Where (pt 3)

I didn’t waste any time with long goodbyes, eager as I was to make my way out of the swirling water and onto the riverbank.

Once there I pulled myself up the incline by grasping various branches and trees above me, pushing my feet between the rocky bits and the moderately sturdy clumps of mud. Don’t let this image fool you, however; I am by no means an athletic individual. The image you should have is of a sweaty, red-faced white girl scrambling up an embankment by any means necessary and if those ‘any means’ happened to involve flashing the entire cast of “Dazed and Confused- Gone Campin’!” then so be it. Getting the hell out of that river was incentive enough.

At the top of the embankment was an overgrown rail-road track, the kind where a few years of small weeds turned into saplings turned into giant attack trees insisted on impeding my every step. Back at the drop-off point I again had to demonstrate my mad climbing skills, this time butt-first and with a little less climbing and a little more ungraceful sliding. Also known as tumbling but really, who’s judging me at this point.

The gentlemen at the base of the hill, not so cleverly concealing their amusement at seeing me again, pointed me in the direction of the White Oak bus. Or rather, from what direction the White Oak bus would be coming, you know, in the next hour or so. Rather than let the bandana-ed hippies see my tears of frustration and residual gut-clenching panic, I walked calmly over to the base of a nearby tree and gingerly sat down upon a scratchy root, wishing for a nice cold martini in a nice frosty glass in a nice clean bar, preferably with hot bartenders and padded seats.

Thirty minutes later and I decide it’s time for action. I’ve seen two Shady Pines buses roll by and nary a sign of the one I actually need, so I walked up the gravel road, purposeful-like, to see what I could see. Mainly because staring at the algae floating in the river was about as amusing as watching NASCAR though not nearly as disturbing as watching The Ultimate Fighting Champion, so I guess I had something to be thankful for. That and the somewhat amusing display of watching a man with a 48-inch waist in 32-inch denim shorts cram himself inside a plastic kayak. Fat Man in a Little Coat has nothing on Fat Man in a Little Kayak.

At the end of the gravel road was some pavement masquerading as a highway. Being in the middle of nowhere as we were, the only passerby I laid my eyes upon were a bunch of ants and one lone rusty truck, complete with toothless hillbilly and the soundtrack to Deliverance playing in stereo inside my head. Thankfully I didn’t have much longer to wait as I saw an unmarked bus ambling down the highway, blinker flashing. I flagged down the driver who brought the monstrosity to a screeching halt at the entrance to the gravel road.

“What campground are you headed to?” I ask.
“The one named after them there trees.” he says, pointing to a clump of trees that stopped being a clump about 200 years ago and turned into a forest, complete with underbrush and toothy woodland creatures.
“The oak trees?” I say, attempting to conceal my annoyance and not getting a straight answer.
“Yep, I reckon.”

So I jump inside after I get the go-ahead nod from Mr. Busdriver and take a seat on the empty bus about four slots down from the driver seat. Because while I appreciate the ride I don’t appreciate the ride enough to sit close enough to make conversation.

We waited about fifteen minutes for any individuals disembarking from their canoe trip but it was early yet and someone would have had to start paddling at dawn to have made it back by 11:30am. So after a brief conversation between the river guides and Mr. Busdriver, we were pulling out onto the highway and roaring back towards camp. Top speed: 45mph. At that point I couldn’t have cared less; I was fifteen minutes away from my vehicle and the Air Conditioned Splendor it was going to provide me, not to mention the Sonic run I was already anticipating. So I rested my head against the window pane, feigning an exhausted sleep to keep from having to answer the random questions concerning my marital status and the color of my bathing suit.

Sleeping in a pool of sweat the night before must have actually exhausted me because I kind of dozed off at some point, awakening to the crunch and bump of rough gravel beneath the bus wheels. I could see a collection of brightly colored tents in the distance and I was inordinately excited about some melted Little Debbie snacks and hot Gatorade because the runny eggs from that morning were definitely not holding up their end of the bargain, though I was certainly grateful for their continued occupation of my stomach and not the sudden occupation of a grassy knoll.

As the bus rounded the corner I saw the roof of a brightly painted log cabin and had a moment of utter confusion. My campsite didn’t have a log cabin. My campsite had a silver metal building and cinderblock restrooms. My campsite didn’t have brightly colored flags hanging about the parking lot or handily placed Coke machines.

Then it dawned on me: This was not my campsite and I was eight miles away from my tent in 110 degree heat with no money and a bus driver who only shook his head and said “Oh, thought you meant this one” when I pointed out that this campsite, the one he drove me to, was not named after oak trees it was NAMED AFTER PINE TREES and then told me I had to leave the bus because he was going on lunch.

For the second time in two days I had a mental image of someone coming across my dried-up lifeless body, this time after I attempted to hike eight miles on a dusty gravel road and fell victim to vicious toothy woodland creatures or maybe just a total lack of water. So I turned around and marched my still sweaty body towards the log cabin, hoping to utilize whatever feminine wiles I had left after sleeping in sweat, ingesting runny eggs, having a panic attack in a flimsy metal canoe, scrambling up an embankment, tumbling down an embankment and now being dropped off in the hot dusty parking lot of a campsite that was most definitely not my own.

1 comment:

Carl from L.A. said...

I hope you find your way home. :)