Skinny-Trippin'

Skinny-Trippin'

A Story by barleygirl
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Based on childhood summer camping trips.

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Every year my parents piled all eight kids into our big La-Bamba Buick, with cases of food and satchels and sleeping bags stacked five feet high on the wooden rack above. Dad hit the road during the wee hours of morning. Most of us nodded off as we trekked along half the length of California. We always went to the same park during the same week of August, hoping we’d bump into families we met on bygone forays.

Camping was what we could afford when all the kids lived at home. Since it was the only vacation we ever knew, we anticipated our week on the Eel River like a voyage to another planet.

When dad pulled into our favorite campsite, we tumbled out even before swirling dust settled beneath towering redwoods. First thing we always did was scramble down to the chain-link fence. We stood around, kicking the wire or hanging on the sign with “Ole Swimmin’ Hole” carved in it and an arrow pointing to the trail. In winter, the river was a raging torrent, rearranging rocks and trees. We couldn’t wait to see the changes each summer. We argued over which new stretch of sand was best for spreading out our beach camp.

“Wow! Look at that log hanging over the rocks! I’m the first to dive off!” My teenage brothers were forever egging each other on.

“Go ahead wussy, I’m the ONLY one to dive off the high cliffs AGAIN!” My oldest brother set the bar for all others who dared, boldly asserting his dominance.

“Nobody goes down the trail until everyone eats lunch!” Mom announced this with authority. She had to holler to throttle back half a dozen teens, chomping at the bit!  “And twins: gotta take a nap first!”

“OK, moTHER!” I hated being the youngest with a bunch of years separating my twin brother and me from the older kids. Jerry conked out when he hit his sleeping bag, but I was lying on mine, fidgeting and waiting an eternity so I could go catch up with the older brat pack.

“Let’s do the loop, Sissy! The morons can help mom unload food!” My older sisters were eager to find teenage boys who might be camped nearby. “I wonder if Marvin’s here this summer?”

“Ick! Marvin’s so gay!” Sissy giggled, “I can’t believe you went skinny-dipping! Mayonnaise skin so white, the moonlight showed EVERYTHING!” There wasn’t a teen boy my sisters didn’t have a hankerin’ for.

“Can I go with?” They were usually OK with me tagging along, but never wanted my twin Jerry to join us. He was such a crybaby, and a little tattletale, too.

“Walk behind us!” Teens wandered the campground loop several times a day, laughing and trolling for the opposite gender. “And don’t you dare speak!” I was their shadow when I could slip away, acting cool like they did. “Pretend you don’t know us!”

* * * * * * * * * *

One day of camping surges too quickly into the next.  We careened through our favorites: blackening marshmallows over leaping flames, hysterical rounds of hide-and-seek, lurching precariously down river rapids on inner tubes, gobbling tuna sandwiches with sweet pickles on sandy towels, stashing fistfuls of red ropes in sleeping bags, and collapsing with cherry-tinted tongues.

Restless mornings were spent in camp as prisoners eager to be sprung. Finally we galloped down eroded switchbacks with bare feet sizzling on sandy stones. Dad the naturalist yelled after us: “No shortcuts on the switchbacks!” Ahhhhh! Squealing and gliding through cool, crystal clear water, trying to avoid stepping on nasty black toe-biters!

A solitary figure, later I stood kicking the chain-link fence as my bronzed brethren hauled ice chests, towels, and air mattresses back to our campsite. I vowed silently, “This summer I’m old enough!”

I longed to follow the brat pack, sneaking out after our parents’ tent went ZIIIIIP! Which night would it be? I tried to catch mouthed phrases amid allies. I thought I saw signs in their flippant replies to parents. No matter how drowsy, I willed my eyes: STAY OPEN! I would not miss the evening of the exodus.

Without warning, it was upon me. Faintly filtered moonlight through mossy limbs revealed a small mob setting out for the trail. Their muffled footsteps softly crunched along road gravel.

Quickly I yanked my nightgown over my head, wiggling into jeans and sweatshirt. My sleeping bag felt like a straightjacket. A long snuffle blasted from my twin’s throat, as Jerry slept soundly beside me. Oh no! I was motionless for a moment, waiting to see if dad’s snoring was disrupted. Then I slid out of my bag, hopped up, and leapt into flip-flops.

As the pack of teens receded, muted voices eased. A shrill whoop and holler echoed across the park every so often. Laughing followed loud pops and limbs crackling. My teeth clenched with every loud noise. I agonized, afraid I’d be left behind each time they went quiet.

I staggered through our campsite in the milky darkness. Not seeing, I bumped the stone camp stove and jammed my toes into logs. Too noisily, I rattled across sheets of newspaper on the ground.

Oh no! I froze again and checked dad’s snoring. My alibi was ready if caught: “Just going to the restroom!”

* * * * * * * * * *

By the time I reached the narrow gravel road, my vision adjusted to the filtered moonlight. I scrambled to catch up with the others. Suddenly, the restroom spotlight went behind a thick tree trunk and the road ahead went murky black.

I set my foot down on a squishy bulge with wiry hair that reached around my flip-flop to nibble my instep. A tiny squeal slipped from my lips! I stuffed my wadded-up sweatshirt sleeve in my mouth and chomped down hard. The concealed creature under my foot quickly shifted, knocking me off balance. I grabbed a low-slung limb. My fingers sank into something smelly and oozing and sticky, so I yanked my hand back to wipe the slime onto my pants leg.

Unexpectedly, a spontaneous shudder shook my shoulders. The thunderous hooting of an owl was so near, my legs trembled. I stifled the urge to belt out a full-on scream and wondered if stalking the older kids was really what I most wanted to do, after all.

Then I stopped, straining to hear. There was far-off thudding like a herd of hooves way down the switchbacks by that time.

Could I catch up? They’ll stop at the river, won’t they? I couldn’t hurry anymore, it was making me jittery. I was getting a stitch in my ribs. If I didn’t relax pretty soon, every thump in the dark would turn my arms and legs to cold steel. “OK, I’m OK. Just relax. Take it slow.” I told myself, “I’ll catch up at the river.”

Every time I reached that trail, I thought about those killer bees three summers back. That’s when I put it together, the name: Beehive Trail! My older siblings would torment my twin and me, whenever we walked through here. Each one would concoct a different story about campers getting swarmed & stung by yellowjackets.

Just then, pellets hit my cheeks. A couple more smacked my forehead and another stung my neck. Then there were more hitting my hands and feet. Ow! Ow! Bee stings!!!!!!

“Must be pine nuts or something,” I gasped, stumbling over exposed roots as I tried to see the trail in pure blackness under thick trees. “Oh never-me-mind, just shut up and keep going.

I realized my arms and legs were shivering as I held them straight out, focusing through inky darkness. Tree trunks started moaning and pine needles were quivering as warm updrafts swooshed noisily through the chaparral-lined river gorge. I ducked when a massive feathered shadow swooped down at my face with a deafening flapping of wings.

Tripping out half the time, I hadn’t noticed the sounds of splashing and smacking in the water, down below. How did those guys get down the trail so fast? How long were they down there swimming?  How long have I been up here, freaking like a dingbat? The brat pack was probably skinny-dipping. Of course, they never came back to camp in wet clothes!

Just then, I heard a colossal ker-splash. They must be jumping off rocks. It felt like my ears were playing tricks on me, sometimes deafening pops and whacks and splashing, other times utter quiet. I started to get scared, being alone out there on the trail in the pitch darkness. What if they went ahead without me? What if they hiked away from the river before I caught up with them?

* * * * * * * * * *

Out of the blue, I heard a horrid loud heavy booming thud. It lasted forever and I held my breath through it, my heart pounding in my temples, my saliva clotting so thick I couldn’t swallow. It felt like I was going to choke. My lungs sucked air with every faltering stride.

Then a long, shrill, blood-curdling scream of agony went on and on and on, so damn long, until finally an eerie hush fell over everything. Even the trees stopped rustling.  I could hear my lips smack as I licked them and I cracked my knuckles nervously.

Skidding to a stop, I was afraid: Someone would hear my flip-flops crunching gravel and slapping my heels, in this mind-numbing hush. I don’t know how long I stood there frozen, not comprehending, trying to decide what to do next.

Finally I was sprinting down the rest of the trail like balls afire. Tree limbs whacked my face and arms. My lungs were burning as I gobbled more air. I tore through the sticky crackle of a huge heavy spider web spanning the width of the trail. I kept wiping my face with my sleeves as I threw my legs ahead in an awkward race down the rocky, uneven trail. I swiped at long sticky spider strings hanging off my neck, as I staggered over loose stones.

I cut corners on the switchbacks, scooting down mini-landslides on my butt, until a cluster of boulders ripped my flip-flops off. Oh no! Where’d they go? Ow! Ouch! My bare feet gouged, I felt my warm blood mixing with dirt and forming clumps that stuck to my soles. No time and too black to look around. I had to keep on.

I was coming out of the trees by then. I caught a glimpse of crystal clear moonlight glinting off the river. Suddenly a loud racket, like beating drums, hammering the air above me. What? No, not moonlight. It was a searchlight spanning the water. A helicopter hovering. I heard female voices screaming and sobbing as all different cellphones were ringing. A male voice wailed a gut-wrenching, pain-wracked groan, as many arms and legs pounded and swished water.

Oh no! What should I do? Oh no! I shouldn’t be there. I needed to get out of there! I needed to get back to camp.

I wheeled around in the sand and started running back up the trail, not even feeling my bare bloody feet thumping against stones and gravel. More limbs slapped my arms and legs. The race to the top was a blur. I tried to stifle my gasping for air as I reached our campsite. I crawled into my sleeping bag without removing filthy sweaty clothes. I lay there in the stillness trying to still my pounding heart, trying to quiet my lungs from heaving.

* * * * * * * * * *

I don’t know when I drifted off. I don’t know how much later I awoke to the muffled sounds of the older kids sneaking back to camp. They came down the gravel road in the opposite direction, not from the river trail. Happy and relaxed tones were muffled as they whispered goodbyes to their pals. I must’ve drifted off again.

Next morning, dad went to the ranger station to get more firewood. He heard some local kid smashed his back as he skidded down the rocks, night before, down at the river. He was flown to a hospital in critical condition.

© 2016 barleygirl


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Author's Note

barleygirl
Story is fiction, but descriptions reflect many sensations & memories from our family camping trip on the Eel River in Northern California. My parents piled 9 kids, 11 sleeping bags, several ice chests & copious boxes of food into the big ole Buick, on our way to the same campsite every August.

My Review

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Featured Review

"Skinny-Trippin"
barleygirl,
The title is well chosen as I loved the theme and feel of adventure as you tripped and slogged your way down a dark path being attacked by roots, unseen goop on the ground with fur, an owl and who knows what all else. I am glad it was not you who fell down the embankment and crunched your back. It was really encouraging to see your take childhood memories and be able to put together such a enjoyable story. It was so fun!! I actually could identify with the desire for adventure and wanting to join in the fun. I also know that fun can jump up and bite. Bless you so much. I hope you continue to strengthen your wonderful writing gift and voice. Your an inspiration kiddo!!
Blessings,
Kathy

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

1 Year Ago

Thanks so much for digging up another story of mine that I've forgotten about! I really need to nail.. read more
Kathy Van Kurin

1 Year Ago

Margiegirl, get your hammer and nail and do some construction there! You are a gifted story person a.. read more



Reviews

"Skinny-Trippin"
barleygirl,
The title is well chosen as I loved the theme and feel of adventure as you tripped and slogged your way down a dark path being attacked by roots, unseen goop on the ground with fur, an owl and who knows what all else. I am glad it was not you who fell down the embankment and crunched your back. It was really encouraging to see your take childhood memories and be able to put together such a enjoyable story. It was so fun!! I actually could identify with the desire for adventure and wanting to join in the fun. I also know that fun can jump up and bite. Bless you so much. I hope you continue to strengthen your wonderful writing gift and voice. Your an inspiration kiddo!!
Blessings,
Kathy

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

1 Year Ago

Thanks so much for digging up another story of mine that I've forgotten about! I really need to nail.. read more
Kathy Van Kurin

1 Year Ago

Margiegirl, get your hammer and nail and do some construction there! You are a gifted story person a.. read more
A highly imaginative story that not only describes the clandestine actions of a curious kid, but also the psychological effect of a child in the dark encountering unknown "hazards". The culmination of the helicopter rescue plus the imagination of the child made a great denouement to the main story of childlike defiance.
Loved it.

Norman

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

3 Years Ago

This is the only "scary" thing I've ever tried to write. I'm glad it comes across as realistic, as i.. read more
The imagery in this! Truly remarkable how you really make the reader feel as if they are experiencing all of this first hand with such ease. As others have said, without the author's note I could have easily believed this to be non-fiction.

"One day of camping surges too quickly into the next. We careened through our favorites: blackening marshmallows over leaping flames, hysterical rounds of hide-and-seek, lurching precariously down river rapids on inner tubes, gobbling tuna sandwiches with sweet pickles on sandy towels, stashing fistfuls of red ropes in sleeping bags, and collapsing with cherry-tinted tongues."

I never went camping as a child, but damn, sounds like I was missing out! Reading this makes me feel as if it's a memory of my own that I'm reliving. Excellent job with this one!

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

4 Years Ago

I hadn't read this story in awhile, so when I read the paragraph you copied here, I also started to .. read more
I can't think of what to say to this than just WOW!!! It felt so real, you did a good job with the ending. Hard to tell it's fiction without reading the author's note. Your creative ability is superb.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

4 Years Ago

It means a lot that my story had this effect on you. I was experimenting with a new style of writing.. read more
It didn't seem to me like a fiction but i realised it after reading your author's note....How magically you have created the whole plot of the story with amazing balance and i love when you use your own childhood and young days memories into your stories, it was like a live movie playing on a theatre....The characters seemed very catchy to me as they are real.....Full ratings!!!!

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

4 Years Ago

You are my biggest fan & that means everything to me. Thank you for seeing only my strengths & not m.. read more
Inject Positivity

4 Years Ago

You are truly welcome BG...There are so many people to point at your flaws but i don't like pointing.. read more
barleygirl

4 Years Ago

Good point. We all have flaws & most people need uplifting.
Another terrific story from your keen imagination. Fiction, though you say it is, I forgot that part while reading, and right up until the mention of cellphones, believed it to be an actual memory. How perfectly you capture the wonderment of summer as experienced by the young.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

4 Years Ago

This was a stretch, for me. I'd never written anything suspenseful or even slightly imaginary. Even .. read more
Samuel Dickens

4 Years Ago

You sell yourself short, M'lady.

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Added on February 16, 2016
Last Updated on February 16, 2016

Author

barleygirl
barleygirl

Central Coast, CA



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