“Don’t forget the ribbons,” Kaitzer warned.
“Kaitzer, we’re going backpacking; why do we need ribbons?”
She stared as though I had no clue. I had been backpacking for fifty-two years and I couldn’t comprehend the utility of ribbons. I was more concerned with a backup water filter.
“The girls want to tie ribbons on their backpacks,” she said.
You gotta’ be kidding; how am I supposed to know all the idiosyncrasies of girls? Ribbons! Go figure!
I’m the leader of Girl Scout Troop 889. I went from commanding Marine warriors to leading girl scouts. It was easier in the Marines; my Sergeants executed my will. On the other hand the girls don’t listen to a damn thing I say.
The Scouts were making their fourth backpack trip. This time we would push the envelope and experience the high country in Yosemite National Park. The world is much different at 10,000 feet.
I hoped the girls would realize that some of our classrooms aren’t classrooms. There’d be much to learn about the world and themselves on this adventure. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find an inner strength that endures throughout life. The order of the universe abounds in symbolism and structure. The migration of birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, and the evolution of the sun brings a consistency that is infinitely healing.
We need wild country even if we never do anything more than drive to its edge and look in. It’s a means of reassuring ourselves, and preserving our sanity. It’s part of the geography of hope.
The week prior to our departure, the girls were in a tizzy. I explained that a successful experience requires exacting logistics, the ability to endure discomfort and fatigue, stamina, a good attitude, a tolerance for dirt, and a trust in the equipment. The anticipation of this adventure fueled the possibility into reality.
We gassed up our trucks and left. En-route the girls sang until we reached the trailhead. I learned every word of Taylor Swift’s, “Today was a Fairy Tale.”
The next morning the Scouts were up at zero dark-hundred, packed their gear, and hit the trail. With canteens, mess kits, and river shoes clanging and flopping behind oversized backpacks the girls climbed, crossed rivers, and struggled to breathe as they crossed a contour interval depicted on the map as 9800 feet.
Oh the joy! We pulled into a beautiful setting along a fork of the Tuolumne River; we had made it to camp. We had found Half-moon Meadow. And so the discovery began: water snakes, tadpoles, fish, a feather, caterpillars, bugs, and wild flowers. Sometimes in the finding you find yourself!
After a scrumptious meal of mac and cheese, and river water, the troop gathered around the campfire. An open campfire has its own magic. The crack of exploding resin, the whoop of flame sucking oxygen, the thump of a log settling into the coals appeals to the senses creating contentment.
The campfire prompts connectivity, conversation, reflection, and laughter. It would bring the girls closer to the heart of life. Lit by a sliver of the moon and a trillion stars half-moon meadow was breathtaking. My thoughts turned to the prose of Rachel Carson, “If this were a sight that could be seen only once in a century, this meadow would be thronged with spectators. But it can be seen many scores of nights in any year, so people give little thought to the beauty overhead; and because they could see it almost any night, perhaps they never will.”
The girls did it surpassing my highest expectation. I am left with the realization that girls can do anything. I thought of Walt Whitman’s verse, “Why who makes much of a miracle? As for me, I know nothing but miracles!”
I wonder if they really knew that today was a fairy tale?