Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Setting Sun

Had to write this for English, a narrative essay on a significant memory.  It's a long one.

           Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I put on my sunglasses to block the bright sunlight from shining on my face.   I look up to see that our car has arrived at the airport indicating the annoying fact that I have to get up and move.  I hop out of the car feeling the queasiness of nervous excitement rumble through my stomach.  I grab my bag and stand next to my dad while I watch Mr. Buffington, our driver, pull off.  My dad, David Ray, gives me a reassuring smile as he turns to join up with the rest of our crew.  He smiles as he walks up to Mr. Greene giving him a handshake. 
            The first person you notice is almost always my dad.  Standing 6’6”, with grayish white hair, he’s pretty hard to miss.  My eyes greet Mr. Greene’s as I walk up to give him a handshake.  He also has grayish white hair, but I’m about half of a foot taller than him.  That makes him about 5’6”.
            “You ready for this?” He asks smiling as one who would grin and chuckle politely at a corny joke that others would just frown at.
            “I don’t feel like this is really happening,” I reply flashing a smile and then looking up to watch a plane come in for a landing.  “I have never ridden on a plane before.” 
I turn and greet Mr. Greene’s son, Tom.  His bright red hair makes him stand out like a sore thumb.
             Mr. Kean, who was a music producer, walks up to greet us.  He has glasses and a half smile on his face.  His stoic son, Ian, is following him as if in a trance.  AJ sits off to the side with a cap with a hook in it, smiling and watching the proceedings around him.  Blair, Joe, and Justin who rode with us drop their bags next to AJ.  Blair, Mr. Buffington’s son, let out one of his classic wide grins as he makes a joke.  Joe laughs, and pulls his long hair back into a ponytail.  Justin chuckles as he stretches out beside AJ asking when we’re going to eat.  Kenny hobbles over struggling to keep his giant duffle bag in his hands.  He asks Mr. Greene when we’re supposed to take off, and follows with a bunch of other questions.  Austin, the last to show up, hops out of his car and gives his mom a last goodbye hug. He walks over to us letting a smirk spread across his face.  We are crew 12 headed to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico.
            I had never ridden a roller coaster before, but later, after I did, that’s the only thing I could compare taking off in an airplane to.  Traveling at around 500 mph, it felt surreal to be looking down upon America. I was too excited to sleep.
            After landing in Denver, we caught a bus to Philmont.  I dozed for the most part, but when I was awake I stared in awe at the Colorado Rockies feeling like a child staring into a candy store.
As we stepped off the bus, I looked across the street at the desert.  The sky was cloudy and gray, and the desert was vast and depressing.  I turned to look at the base camp.  It was divided into hundreds of plain green tents on one side and a group of buildings on the other.  It didn’t seem too inviting.  We were assigned tents and I passed out immediately.
            Having the sun greet me at 6 a.m. was shocking as I stumbled out of the green tent.  Its rays of light were like warm hands reaching out to hug me.  I nodded at Justin as I passed by on my way to the bathroom.  He yawned and nodded back, his freckled face squinching into a bunch of lines.  Kenny stumbled out of his tent stretching his hands high as if to try and push the sun back below the horizon.
            I looked around the base camp and stared up at the “Tooth of Time”.  The giant white rock was sticking out above the mountain range surrounding base camp.  It felt like it was staring me down. It seemed to be challenging me to try and climb to the top of it.
            I joined the rest of my crew after answering morning’s call, and we headed off to meet our ranger.  He was about my height with blond hair and a smile that reminded me of an old friend chuckling at an inside joke.
            “Crew 12,” he stated more than asked.  Still rubbing the sleep from our eyes, we just nodded.  “I’m James your ranger.” He shook each of our hands as we replied with our own name. 
The rest of the day was full of crappy cafeteria food and lessons on how to survive on the trail.  Rule #1: Be wary of ALL ground squirrels.  Cute and cuddly they may look, but beneath they’re vicious thieves waiting, just waiting, for you to put your pack down for them to raid.
            We were dropped off at an old villa the next day.  We didn’t stay too long, and soon we were off on the trail.  The weather was horrible. It misted the whole way to the campsite while the sun hid behind the clouds laughing at our misery.  The clouds parted as we set up camp, and the sun shined down upon us briefly revealing the magnificent scenery around us.
            “Wow, this is a beautiful valley,” I commented as I looked up at the surrounding mountains.
            “Nah, this place is pretty plain and boring compared to the rest of Philmont,” James replied as he walked up behind me.  “You haven’t seen anything yet.”  I looked at him in shock thinking I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful sight then this amazing valley. It reminded me of the plains of Africa, but with golden mountains surrounding it.
            The dinner wasn’t great, but I stomached it and dreamed of creamy golden mash potatoes all night.  I woke up with a headache and wondered where I was for a few seconds.  As I walked to the latrine, I felt a strange dizziness come over me.  I shrugged it off because I had felt this way before when waking up in the mountains, but I quickly discovered that this wasn’t the same as before.  I had altitude sickness.
Hiking to the next destination was one of the worse experiences of my life.  I felt like throwing up all day and every pound on my back felt like a ton.   I was taken back to base camp the next morning where I stayed for a couple of days. 
The medical staff at Philmont were idiots! Later, I found out that my capillaries were actually exploding in my lungs every time I coughed—which was a lot.  They thought I was fine and wanted to send me back on the trail the very next day, but I told them I still felt terrible.
After several boring days at base camp, I head out with Padre in a truck to meet backup with my crew.  On the way it starts to drizzle and mist making the road muddy. The truck wheels start spinning in the mud screeching for help as the truck slid backwards.  Padre turns to me and frowns.  His white beard trailing over his chest sighs as he turns the truck off.
            “We’re going to have to hike it from here, the mud is too thick and slippery from the rain for the truck,” He says as he opens the door and hops out almost slipping down the side of the hill. 
            “Great,” I reply as I turn to step out of the truck realizing that I have my crocs on and my boots are in the back of the truck. “Oops, I probably shouldn’t have worn my crocs,” I say to myself as I step out of the truck carefully.  Padre opens up the back of the truck and laughs at my crocs already covered in mud 2 inches thick.
            With my backpack and boots on I stare up the long winding road and think, ‘why does it never just rain, always seems to just mist’, I regret thinking this as halfway up it starts pouring.  My mind turns to Wendy’s, DQ, and other fast food restaurants, as this happens my mouth begins to water as I finally reach the peak and notice that Padre is quite far ahead.  I stop daydreaming and quicken my pace to catch up.
            As we turn around a bend and I see a cabin, I quicken my pace and I notice a familiar figure sitting on a swing on the porch extending around two sides of the building.  My dad stands up smiling and gives me a bear hug.  I may have been gone only 3 days, but it had felt like a lifetime.
            “Thanks for bringing Jon back,” He says as he walks up to give Padre a handshake.
            “No problem at all, I would have had him here sooner but the truck had gotten stuck in the mud,” Padre replies as he shakes my dad’s hand.  I turn and greet Ian and Austin, both of them relaxing on a bench.  Austin welcomes me back with the constant smirk that never seems to disappear from his face and Ian asks how I feel flipping his black hair to one side of his face.  I shrug and say I feel alright though I really feel like I could just collapse and fall asleep right on the porch.
            As I turn the corner I let out a gasp.  I step off the porch gaping.  I think to myself I see what James had been talking about.  The front of the cabin has a vista of several ranges of mountains in the distance.  I look harder and notice that the distant mountains are the Colorado Rockies.  Their white peaks shine proudly as the sun appears from behind the clouds as if to laugh and say, “I was here the whole time!”  It starts to slowly set behind the Rockies sending a vast array of different colors across the sky.  The warm sun rays stretch out and reach my face breaking the dark clouds in my mind.  Birds sing in the background happily fluttering about.  I let out a sigh of relief as my dad walks up behind me smiling letting his hand rest on my shoulder.  As I take a sip of coffee that my dad handed to me, I realize that from here everything was going to be fine.


  1. Nice. You remember more than I do. :)

  2. This is so great! I love this! You should write more and more. :D