It was forward motion in a constant drizzle. Like the first night we kept a certain distance between ourselves. Obstacles, there were plenty, became group meetings. As we neared the river we found ravines forcing us to remove our packs and climb, slide, fall, laugh, jump a stream, then climb, slide, fall and laugh again. We became covered in earth. A hard rain came to wash us and blind us.
Slater found another snake on a log Isaac had just climbed. He and I went around it but not before he chastised Isaac for not paying more attention.
The rain let up and then came back again. It reminded us to be careful, to watch our step. There were places where a fall was not just a fall. It was a rescue mission. My earlier warnings of be careful echoed in my head.
The rain heavied our already heavy packs as we saw the river and left it again.
Nature's drama dotted the path and the moist southern heat soon came to meet us. Still we walked. The boys refused to stop.
Shouldn't be too much longer now, Seth said.
We climbed, hiked, jumped, slipped. Found the river again, steadied ourselves on a thin trail above it.
Maybe a mile or two, Seth assured us.
It began to feel like a race although we saw no other competitors. Mist then rain then heat. One foot in front of the other. Noon passed. We hiked through early afternoon. Individually and together we would meet with Seth, look at the map, quiz him and still he pointed us in the same direction.
As the sun began to move westward I suggested camping and found the perfect spot above the river. No, Slater said, We're going home.
It shouldn't be this far, Seth said, I don't understand.
Still we hiked. We'd gone too far now to turn back.
The aches settled in my bones and I moved past them to the next step, climb, fall, laugh.
Slater had taken a far lead with Isaac close on his tail. I paced myself within sight of Seth and was about thirty feet behind when I saw him drop to his knees, throw his arms back and let his pack fall.
I picked up the pace, called out his name, Seth. Are you okay?
To be continued....