Their absentmindedness had gotten them into “quite a pickle,” as Blythe’s grandmother was wont to say. Realizing their folly, the girls began to shout for the rest of the group when they noticed no one else about. A search for the elusive blue butterfly the pair spied took them on a side jaunt with no wooden cross in sight to mark a foot path. Usually quite conscientious on a journey such as this one, the girls had ventured off trail and into an unfamiliar territory despite their leader’s warnings against doing so.
Troop Troubadour was a newly-organized group of Girl Guides and only meant to take a day trip exploring nature. Ten-year old Blythe and her compatriot, Molly, ended up in an Amber Alert bulletin and the subjects of a county-wide search by that evening.
A dense stand of forest encompassed the girls and gave them a total sense of loss. Twenty minutes prior the two wandered along without a care in the world before the thick cover of trees encircled them with impending doom. Blythe had first spotted the mariposa and goaded her friend to follow as they tried to identify it for badge points, entomology being the latest project.
Her gaze once straight ahead in her quest, she stopped to look backward toward their origin and pondered aloud, “Hey, where’d everybody go? Before they knew it, the plucky pair had trampled into unknown territory.
Gigantic leaves filtered sunlight overhead into sparse illumination that grew dimmer as minutes ticked by and turned into hours. Turning around to double-back proved fruitless and side treks confused them even more than when they began. Not to be discouraged, though, they followed their troop’s motto and “Ventured on to their daring destination.”
Despite imminent darkness, growing hunger and mosquitos nipping at flesh, insect repellent long since divested of its effectiveness, they sipped on water bottles as a sole source of energy. Molly spoke, if not in true desire, at least to hear her own voice instead of the sounds of the oncoming night. “I wish we’d thought to bring t.p.” They tramped onward, hand-in-hand, intent to find a way out of the trees.
Blythe reached across her friend’s chest and stopped her in her tracks, much like her mother did when suddenly braking the car. She asked, “Do you hear that?” A familiar sound of trickling water drew the girls’ attention and gave them hope of finding something familiar.
They wouldn’t be hopelessly lost in the woods if they could find the stream, babbling brook, or whatever the source of the running water they heard. “I think we should find it and get the heck outta here,” Molly said.
Several hundred yards in front of them, the tall Chinquapins began to part. Picking up the pace, the girls started toward the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. It was as if the moon waited where the path had seemingly opened up for them. A small, fast-moving river ran along a gravel bar not far from the woods’ end, and a filling of sweet relief washed over them both.
“Look at the bank over there, Blythe,” Molly exclaimed. They’d reached the water via sound and smell, not by sight, and discovered a cairn along its edge. “I’ve read about these rock pilings in my badge book,” she explained. The Girl Guides’ credo to “leave no trace behind” in the wilderness led the youngsters to know the stack of stones was built by people … intruders, imposters on that water, no matter the negative label naysayers gave them … and not of natural origin.
There the two waited until searchers found them in a few hours huddled together by the rock tower, only a slight chill in the night air bringing any discomfort. A song missing from her lips and usual happy demeanor, Molly burst into tears when discovered wrapped in the arms of her consoling friend.
The author of a previous article in the town’s newspaper redacted an original premise about adverse effects of constructing man-made structures in parks and natural areas. With citing several credible sources, including wildlife experts and park administrators, she found no other notable worth in building rock structures beyond official marking of trails. Blythe and Molly found the purpose that particular stack of river stones served much more than simply beauty.
Troop Troubadour and their leader greeted Blythe and Molly, elated, at the ranger station. The girls materialized from the moonlight to bathe at home that night, pull ticks from around their sock cuffs, and plaster more itch cream on their arms and legs than they’d like, but remained fairly unscathed. A bit of scratching such a small price to pay.
In the case of the missing Girl Guides, the anonymous outdoor enthusiasts who balanced those stones became the families’ unknown heroes. The newspaper writer quoted Blythe’s grandmother as stating, “Whoever defied the rules of park administration, if not Isaac Newton’s theory, saved Blythe and Molly as far as I’m concerned. They’d wandered even further off the beaten path into certain danger had it not been for that little stack of grandeur.” A smiling trio stood next to the artistic piece in a picture accompanying the write-up – and even changed the author’s mind a bit.
Studio 30+ prompt – absentmindedness