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April 2005

Oy, Wilderness: First-Time New York Campers

Three days. Two nights. Five New Yorkers who had never slept outdoors. And a leader who has some issues with map and compass. What could go wrong?

Eventually, the Duraflame died. Eventually, Jack and I stopped debating whether a cluster of stars was Orion’s Belt or Cassiopeia. Eventually, I discovered that the sleeping bag I had grabbed from the minivan was Sara’s, still soaking wet.

We hiked out the next morning through piercingly vivid red and yellow foliage, and Jack and I bickered for about 15 minutes about whether it was peak season or not.

Back home, I opened e-mail.

From the comely Missy: “I woke up giggling on Monday morning and felt invigorated by the laughter and the memories of the weekend.”

From wondrous, generous Robbin: “I have told everyone who has asked, ‘it was cold and miserable in the rain and I wasn’t dressed warmly enough and I was challenged physically and it made me so happy…I wish I had stayed.’”

From Sara: “Despite the soaking wet sleeping bag, soggy pb&j sandwiches and the subarctic temperatures, I had an amazing weekend…I’m not sure I’m a convert, but the wilderness definitely had its moments.”

From Steve the broadcasting agent: “Dude, next time bring a friggin’ frying pan. What’s Sara’s phone number?”

There was no e-mail message from Jack. But he telephoned. He suggested we meet for coffee.

There, he told me he’d hated the cold and the wet and “what you called food.”

“Yeah, well,” I retorted – but he was not finished.

“But I realized,” he said, “I didn’t think about my girlfriend, or my work, or my apartment, or any of the other little things that seem so big, for three days and two nights.”

“Yeah, well, that’s bec…”

“Little things don’t bother me so much anymore,” he said. “Of course, I already hate everyone in Starbucks, and resent taxi drivers, and pretty much detest the city, and I can’t believe you didn’t bring a frying pan. But you know what? I want to thank you for asking me, for including me in the trip. You made my life larger.”

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