MISTAKEN FOR A BEAR
How could this happen? Bob thought with chagrin. I'm lost. Bob Larsen sat upon a large rock poring over his map of the Skeena wilderness, his young forehead lined with concern. He was unaware of the late summer sun as it heated him with its warmth. He fingered his compass worriedly. ***** Three days ago he had begun his wilderness hike with great anticipation. He'd filled his backpack with all hiking essentials: his tent, sleeping bag, foam mat, warm clothing, flashlight and flares, food, water, salt tablets, compass, Bible, and his map. He scorned the use of GPS gadgets, but he carried a gun on the chance that he might meet a bear or cougar. Muscular, fit and slender, he had hiked many trails in his life; he understood the changeability of nature. These woods, a half-day drive from any city, north or south, consisted of rough, stony, steep terrain with poorly-defined paths. To his left, a cliff dropped nineteen metres, and to his right the forest was thick with huge pine and fir trees. As he paced uphill, he filled his city lungs with fresh clean air, inhaling the pungent scent of evergreens. Bob noticed rabbits and squirrels scampering and occasionally, deer glimpsed him and trotted away. He felt cheered by the territorial songs of birds. Often, he studied the forest vegetation, noticing the edible berries and mushrooms. Periodically, he stopped to rest, eat a sandwich, and drink water. Beneath the cloudless sky, he leisurely read the Psalms of David. He dangled his legs over the cliff, removed his shirt, and suntanned, keeping his gun nearby. He checked his map regularly. On the second day of his hike, he continued upward, noticing - worshipping - every pebble, boulder, blossom, plant, and tree. His soul sang in its fullness. In the evening, he pitched his tent, and slipped into his down jacket. It became quite cool at night. He ate a simple repast of tinned beans and water. After his strenuous hike, he slept well. On the morning of the third day, after breakfasting and packing, Bob checked his map again to plan his route. With surprise, he realized that he could not locate his whereabouts on it. He must have made a mistake yesterday when he turned off a path in search of more berries. He realized that he had been wandering in circles trying to return to the path - the worst thing he could do. So he needed to stop to remain in one place. He located his flares to set off at nightfall, and kept his flashlight and gun handy. It could be days before anyone reached him. Leaning against the trunk of a spruce tree, he waited - and read the Book of Job. ***** Although he had set off his flares nightly, four days passed and no one responded. He had rationed his beans and trail mix, and had eaten his sandwiches long ago. Two bottles of water remained. Bob sat on a large rock and waited. Suddenly he heard rustling in the bush, louder than the usual sounds of small forest creatures. He heard chuffing sounds of something breathing. It could be a bear. He reached for his gun, and in his fright slipped off the rock. The gun fired. He heard a human groan. Bob clawed his way through the brush to see what had happened. On the ground, a burly Search and Rescue volunteer breathed noisily and clutched his shoulder, grimacing with pain. Bob stammered. "I'm sorry. I'm-uh-oh-what can I say? I thought I heard a bear." His would-be rescuer glared at him. Other members of the Search and Rescue team rushed toward the two men. "We heard a gunshot. What happened?" "The damned fool hiker shot me." Shaken, Bob mumbled, "I thought he was a bear. I slipped, and my gun went off." Bob hiked with his rescuers the long way down to the Search and Rescue base. One of the vehicles waiting there carried the injured volunteer to the nearest hospital. Moments later, the police arrived. "I shot my rescuer accidentally," Bob told them with honesty. But he felt like a criminal. After making his statement, he sadly drove himself home - to console himself with The Shepherd's Psalm. __________ Published in Print by Polar Expressions Publishing in "Setting the Scene." 2012.

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Synopsis
A hiker copes with being lost in the woods.
Published Date
11/9/2012 12:00:00 AM
Published In
Maple Ridge, BC Canada
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