My current address is Sharp Creek Campground, site #9. It’s about 11:30 pm. I’m situated in the heart of large pine trees. It’s hard to believe that I’m in the Arizona high desert, but here I am. The campground is empty during the week and may stay that way on the account of campfire restrictions set by the National Forest Service.
I turn off my flashlight and walk through the vacant campground. I crunch and crush pine cones as I make my way to the luxurious pit toilets. The coyotes are howling in full bloom nearby as I glance at a dark dancing cloud passing the half-moon. The only guiding light I can see is the dim flicker of the bathroom a few hundred yards in front. I am temporarily taken back to elementary school.
It was the Fall of 1996, and I had just been selected as part of E.Ruth Sheldon’s Elementary elite team of burgeoning scientists to go on an expedition to Point Reyes. Our project was to observe and document the movement of sea creatures.
It was a perk of getting good marks.
It was my first trip away from home.
On the first evening, San Francisco shed its typical evening haze. Mists from the cold Pacific touched our lips ever so gently, but enough to taste a tinge of oceanic salt water. The stars were scattered haphazardly as the clouds rolled by playing their own game of hide and seek with the sky.
Mrs. Donaldson asked the class if we wanted to go for an evening walk. The majority of the class declined because s’mores were in order.
However my curiosity and a girl that I had a crush on led me to go on the short journey.
About ten brave souls and I followed Mrs. Donaldson. We came up to a long tunnel, and she decided to give us an impromptu pop quiz.
“Class, I am giving you all a task. Each of you will walk through the tunnel alone, one by one. Please don’t feel pressured. If you’re not up to it, you can go back to the bunks.”
Sixth grade can be brutal. We don’t have the slightest clue of what it means to have a reputation, yet unconsciously we are trying to build one. We were all chicken shit, but none of us backed down. Facing the students back at camp and having them learn that you…