Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Camping (07/11/05)
TITLE: Devils Lake
By Brad Paulson
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About half a mile into the trek I realized we were no longer on the trail. I was confident however that if we kept moving forward we would undoubtably run into the trail just a few hundred yards ahead. Tom was oblivious to our predicament as he was completely focused on continually switching the cooler he had in one had with the lawn chairs he had in the other. I felt no reason to alarm him so I limited my conversation to suggesting that the friction caused by swing the cooler around was going to reduce the useful life of our ice cubes.
We began our ascent to the ridge without the advantage of a well-beaten path. In past trips I had always been on the trail at this point. The grade was steep and the brush was thick, but fortunately it was only chest high so we could see where we were going. There were only a few occasions where the brush was so tall that it scratched our faces. The going was slow and I could sense Tom’s frustration. Coolers are much harder to carry over your head than at your sides, but with the brush scratching our arms, it was the lesser of two evils.
“How much further?” Tom asked, while making his best effort to mask his wheezing.
“I think we will be able to see the lake from the top of the ridge” I said trying to sound confident. An hour and a half later we were atop the ridge. We took a break to catch our breath, remove stickers from our socks and treat some of the larger cuts. Gazing into the distance, it occurred to me that we were not on the ridge we were supposed to be on. Somehow we had meandered south. Another ridge lay ahead. I estimated this would add at least another hour of hiking and with Tom’s good nature dissipating at an alarming speed, it was likely to be rough going.
“You said it was only three miles,” Tom stated with a smattering of sarcasm.
“That’s if you stick to the trail and avoid all the scenic splendor.”
Tom was not amused.
We eventually crested the second ridge. A bit later than I estimated because we had to stop a couple of times to massage cramps out of Tom’s shoulders. In several inappropriate outbursts Tom had expressed his doubts about the existence of Devils Lake and suggested we head back to the truck and call it quits. But when we stood atop that second ridge and peered through the trees to the glistening waters below, we knew we had reached the promised land. Tom’s face was blotchy from over exertion and some nettles he had tangled with, but the sight of Devils Lake brought a smile to his face that I hadn’t seen in five hours.
At the shoreline we cracked open a couple of cool ones and I proposed a toast.
“To Devils Lake, the journey had some unforseen setbacks and hardships but we never took our sights off of the prize.” Actually Tom had lost his sight for a bit while following too close. I accidently let go of a branch the slapped his face, but I didn’t think it necessary to mention it in the toast. “Our wandering could have led us astray, but we held our course. Persistence and faith have paid off.” Tom gave me a look that said wrap it up so I can sip my beer. I concluded with, “Lord, thank you for the difficult journey, it makes the destination that much sweeter.”
We clinked our cans and took a sip. From the corner of my eye I noticed rings on the surface of the water. The trout were rising.
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