An Outdoor Retreat: Part 5

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The afternoon had been especially meaningful for both the man and the woman, and their special retreat was exceeding their hopes.  She was feeling a bit worn out from all the excitement, mind you, so her sweetheart suggested, “Why don’t you take a nap in the tent and I’ll focus on the bug problem?  Then we’ll do something really special.”

“I like the sounds of that,” she flirted, and he blew a kiss at her.  She agreed with him,  “I definitely need a nap…  How long will you be?”

“Let’s say two hours,” he said casually, although it wasn’t a guess at all.

“That’ll work great for me,” his girlfriend replied.  “Good luck!”

Finding a way to deal with insects wasn’t all the man had in mind for his exploration of Granite Falls: he also collected mineral samples and specimens of ladybugs and bees.

At the campsite, the woman made a fire and cleaned up the remnants of their lunch–what the bear decided to leave behind–and then slipped inside the tent for some beauty rest.

Working quickly but methodically, the man harvested and took samples of every unique plant growing along the route he’d planned out.  He jogged between the sites he was interested in, to further reduce the length of time it would take.

He hoped that the information booth would have some pamphlets or instructions available for making a natural insect repellant.  You would think that is the type of information any first-time visitors would need, but the park rangers didn’t feel like providing helpful information in person, or at the booth.

At least the map was an accurate enough representation of the landscape that the man was able to plan a scenic route for the evening, as well as a shortcut, for emergency purposes.

The text next to the map contains no intelligent or helpful information, but at least the sign discourages dumping toxic chemicals in the water or using accelerants on fires.  There was also an unclear message regarding the discoloration along the leaves of some plants.  “I’ll check that out, actually,” the man decided as he studied the only real information the booth offers.

He went straight to the small garden the rangers tend near the center of the campgrounds.  He’d collected potatoes there the night before, but this time he was early enough to catch the garden attendant.

“Good evening,” he greeted her politely.

“Hello, welcome to Granite Falls,” the ranger said with a friendly smile.

“Thanks.  Hey, I noticed there’s a warning message about the plants in the park, but it wasn’t entirely clear.  Have you got a problem with rust?” he questioned.

The ranger replied, “I have no idea.  All we know is there’s been no change in temperature or weather that could explain it, so we advise campers to stay away from those plants.  Just don’t touch them.”  She quickly added, “the plants I tend here are all safe to eat.  Please, help yourself if you’re hungry.”

“I’d actually like to take samples of your plants,” he explained.

As he gathered the samples, the ranger asked, “Do you work for the Parks Service?”

He chuckled under his breath, “No, but I’ll have these samples looked at by the top geneticists.”

“Oh, thank you so much!” she said, realizing what agency he was with.  “You should know that we also have five species of unique fish in the streams here.”

Just then, some insects harassed the man, reminding him of his main purpose for this little excursion away from his beloved.  “You wouldn’t happen to know how to make some bug spray, would you?” he asked the ranger.

She just repeated her statement about the unique species of fish, and added, “please don’t overfish our streams.”

He nodded, “Yeah, obviously…”  It was abundantly clear to him that the rangers at the campgrounds know next to nothing about the wilderness, but are there to keep an eye on visitors–and possibly to create a certain illusion.  He didn’t care enough to press the matter because it was time to get back to his top priority anyhow.

He jogged down the quickest path connecting the Visitor’s Garden to their campsite.  Despite his brief detour to the garden, he was slightly earlier than he’d predicted.  He decided not to wake his sweetheart, so he tended the fire and pondered his ideas for their evening.

He examined the purple berries he’d harvested.  He squeezed one and smelled its juice, then tasted a small drop.

He concluded that the purple berries were elderberries, but he taste and fragrance were more likely to attract insects than ward them off in any way.  “It must be a combination,” he thought.  He turned his attention to one of the strange flowers he collected.

It smelled peppery to him.  He tore a pedal and tasted a tiny piece.  As he suspected, it caused a numbing feeling instead of being hot, like a spice.

He was unable to identify the flower and thought, “I guess I’ll call it the two-dimensional flower of unknown potential.”  Just then, he heard the tent zipper and turned around, to see his girlfriend climb out of the tent.

“Hey… you look amazing!” he told her.  She wondered about her hat, and he answered, “It suits you perfectly, so I love it!”  He kissed her and said, “I’m going to change my clothes real quick, if you don’t mind, and then I have a surprise for you!”  He went into the tent and she grabbed a log for the fire.

Just as the man emerged from the tent, they were both attacked by a violent swarm of insects!  The woman was so surprised, she dropped the log and tried to defend herself.  The heavy log crashed into the fire, and sparks flew up in the air.

The bugs were scared off by the sparks, which were quickly followed by the woman’s earsplitting cry, “FIRE!”

(continue reading…)

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