It is early evening and my good friend Jim and I have been exploring the woods and ravine for most of the day. Having packed a lunch (standard peanut butter/jam sandwiches with cheese whiz and crackers) we returned home only for a quick supper and then continued our foray back into the wilderness.
We carefully select our route down the steep slope gripping overhanging branches to keep our footing. The Devil’s Club offers a tempting stem to hold, but I learned that really hurts. My pack keeps snagging on the salmonberries and we occasionally fall on our butts and slide down the slope on the loose, damp soil. Reaching the creek, we take off our runners and socks and wade across the stream and then proceed in similar fashion up the opposite bank returning to a spot we had selected earlier in the day. Draping a small tarp over the bent canopy of vine maples and with a mat on the ground beneath, we have an instant tent. Light is fading fast in the woods so we spread our sleeping bags and wait for the approaching darkness. No campfire as we got into trouble for doing that last time.
With darkness comes a very different and heightened awareness of sounds in the woods. I have my hatchet and trusty “original Bowie knife”, but we are both kind of scared but don’t admit it. A local squirrel protests our presence and an owl calls from a nearby tree. There are no bears or cougars although we do get warnings from time to time. It is possible that a raccoon or a skunk may happen by. That would be a calamity in the middle of the night. We talk well into the night as the chill sets in around us and eventually we fall asleep. We awake to the light of the early dawn filtering through the trees. A cool mist hangs in the damp, morning air. Today we will build our fort on this spot, but first a quick return trip home for breakfast and check-in with our mothers.
That was a different era. I was 12 years old.