Expectations are a tricky thing. You go too far telling it like it is, and all enthusiasm is lost. (Like from my old life, “no, we don’t have any Tickle-me Elmos and will probably never get them so why bother, go tell your child you’re about to disappoint the shit out of him or her.”)
Go too far the other way, and you risk disappointing everyone. (From my old life, “yes we have tons of Tickle-me Elmos and they are the best toy you’ll ever buy, so buy 10 of them” – and we only had 5.)
On the bus ride up, we were reminded that we would have to carry our bags and packs. However, no one mentioned just how easy (or hard it would be.) Sort of like, “yes we have Tickle-m Elmos but you have to fight in an arena death-match to get the last one.”
These are the things that are kind of important to know ahead of time.
When we arrived at the camp parking lot, we all filed out, grabbed our packs and plastic bags and readied for the walk up to the camp.
Some kids, (well, let’s be honest here, some girls), brought HUGE suitcases. They were heavy things with wheels, the odd hello kitty sticker, and were all made from some space-age, nuclear-war-resistant plastic.
All well and good if you’re trying to get all your baggage through the baggage area without it all being squished like a big Mac in your back pocket, but not exactly a good choice for a camping back pack. Likely they had everything on the list in those suitcases. I could only guess what else they might have in there…. makeup, small fridges and/or 22 changes of clothes?
So, as I looked at the gravel road snaking up into the trees I thought, damn, that’s going to be hard work dragging those things. And I had no idea how right I’d be.
Because, after ensuring we hadn’t left anyone on the bus, we started the Bataan Death March.
Oh, it didn’t look like that when we started, it looked like we just had to go up one hill, but that one hill turned into a bigger hill that turned into a really big hill that became a sweaty test of endurance.
The Oldest, however, charged ahead with his friends like the mountain we had to climb was no big deal. Maybe it wasn’t, he walks 20 min uphill home from school every day. A few boys even decided to run. Only one girl did the same. The rest had a look of shock or horror as they realized they would have to lug about a 1000lbs of extra sweaters, three dozen pairs of shoes and 2 spare jackets up a steep and gravely road.
With a sigh, I began to march as well. The first bit wasn’t too hard, but that sustained uphill slog soon made my legs burn, my lungs gasp for air and my pack suddenly feel like it, too, weighed 1000lbs.
But as younger legs slowed and a few kids, the runners, stopped on the side of the road and gasped for breath, I continued on.
Hey, I may not be in good shape, but I am stubborn.
No way in hell was I going to stop, no matter what color of red my faced turned, no matter how wobbly my legs got, no matter how the world began to spin and blur and visions of unicorns danced ahead of me. Not even with the kids began asking, hey old-guy, you ok?
After a grueling 40 minutes, I reached the top, wanting to throw up. The Oldest, having reached the summit ahead of me, gave me the thumbs up.
I think he expected I’d die on that march.
But I’d made it without dying or resorting to calling a cab, and that was something to be proud of. For all of us, really. Especially the old guys and girls with gigantic suitcases.
There’s nothing like a shared, tortuous experience to bond people together.
It’s how they start out any good cult-like or death camp experience.
Huffing, puffing, red-faced and sweaty, we all waited to see what the camp would really be like….