20 or so kids, three guides, and me. Dropped by the bus to walk onto a small ferry which would…well, ferry us across to the trailhead. 2km in and we would set up our first camp. Excited hormones flooded our breathing space. The day’s sun lingered behind the southwest peaks. Our timing was perfect. Except that the ferry workers had gone on a surprise strike that day. Well, it was a surprise to me. Meaning we now had a change in plans. Which is to say we now needed to do a 7K hike to an old train bridge, a sketchy jaunt across said bridge as trains chugged along beside us, and 7K more along a dirt road before the trailhead would be in reach.
At one point we paused to eat and put on headlamps and I pondered. It’s difficult to measure distance along a path you’ve never walked before. Were we 2K or 5K from the trailhead which was to start our hike? Hard to say. The teenage grumbling was palpable. Morale was lower than a snake’s belly in a tire track. Something needed to be done, friends…but what? Just then a dirty white pick-up stopped to see what we were all about. Charlie emerged from behind the wheel with a friendly nod of the head and an offer to help. He was jovial. He was helpful. He was really fucking drunk. The guides and I chatted briefly before loading the kids’ packs into the bed while two of them hopped into the cab with Charlie. I know…MADD would not be pleased. But desperate times and all that. Those that remained tackled what turned out to be the final 3K or so with considerably brighter moods.