"You're sure I can have the night off?"
"Yep. I'll cover you. Don't worry about it."
"Really, what's the deal. What'd I do?"
"Nothing. Just relax and take the night off. I'll cover the hike tonight."
Pat seemed a bit confused, but was gracious for a reprieve from the weekly hike. Every Tuesday, he and Greg would lead a group of new scouts on a five-mile hike through some old growth forest around camp.
Five miles isn't that long of a hike. After dinner, with tired 11-year olds, though, it becomes a major burden, which is why Pat was assigned the task. Greg was the head commissioner at camp, so teaching first-year camper skills was his job.
Pat was one of the newest members of the camp staff, so doing things no one else wanted to do was his job.
I was one of the most senior directors at camp, so technically kicking back in the evening over coffee and stories from the day was my job. Just not tonight.
We left the dining hall after dinner around 6pm. Greg had 3 first-year scouts in tow, and I was excited for the hike to get started. We checked their hiking gear, making sure everyone had their outdoor 10 essentials:
- Pocket Knife
- First Aid Kit
- Extra Clothing
- Rain Gear
- Trail Food
- Matches and Fire Starters
- Sun Protection
- Map and Compass
We'd only be gone two hours - and almost shouting distance from camp - but making sure everyone was prepared was mission one. I normally hike with just a knife and fire starters, so I made sure to play the role of inspector/instructor rather than let any of the kids point out my relative lack of preparedness.
Everyone was ready, so we started off - at a good clip, too!
The boys were fresh off dinner and full of energy. They wanted to hike fast, but Greg and I held them back a bit. We both knew the hiking route took a turn up a steep hill within the first mile, so their boundless energy would soon be bounded.
Sure enough, two miles into the hike the first Scout complained about being too tired to continue and asked to turn around.
"We're already half-way through the hike. Whether you turn back now or keep walking, you'll still hike five miles."
"But I'm tiiiired!"
"Well, now you're more than half-way through the hike. Turning around will take longer, so let's keep going."
Mile four and I was finally at my destination. Not the completed hike, but a bend in the trail next to some white flagging tape.
The white flagging tape was placed by the Bureau of Land Management. They'd be clear-cutting the area to the right of the trail the following Monday. This meant we'd need to find a new hiking route for the boys next week.
It also meant the three wildflowers just off the trail under the large green fern would likely be trampled. I love wildflowers, and I'd given Pat the night off and hiked four miles with a set of whiney pre-teens just to take a photo of those flowers.
I bent down and snapped a quick picture.
"Got it," Greg asked.
"Got it. Let's go."
The boys were confused, but I didn't care. We finished the hike with a minimum of complaints and made it to our evening staff meeting only a few minutes late.
Everyone was surprised to see me walk in with Greg - they hadn't believed Pat when he told them I'd given him a night off.
"No really, I just wanted to take this photo. Come Monday, this entire area will be leveled and these flowers will be gone."
My friends unanimously declared me insane, but we kept going with the meeting. I, on the other hand, decided anyone who wouldn't sacrifice an evening of relative laziness to glimpse the waning beauty of a wildflower on the side of a trail was even crazier.