Forty Years in the Wilderness Essay

Forty Years in the Wilderness Essay

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Forty Years in the Wilderness


Clouds of dust billowed behind our jeep like a filthy veil. Scrawny boys in underwear left their jacks to chase us. Seconds later, they trailed off calling "gringos." A bachata blared in the distance as we pulled up to the palm hut that doubled as a ranger station. Two shirtless rangers leaned against grimy cases displaying ceramic idols and shards of bowls. Sitting around over cups of steaming coffee, one ranger amused us with cuentos while Mom bartered with the other for a guide.

Crabs scurried across the trail. My family and I tromped behind the ranger, eager to see caves decorated by Taino Indians. We were confident that this hike into a National Park would be an exciting challenge like our vacations in previous years to other forests in the Dominican Republic. Partially buried coconuts and fragments of brain coral created an obstacle course to scramble over on our way to the caves. James and Sarah raced ahead of the guide, while David and I meandered behind looking for lizards. Grandma won at "I spy," spotting tropical birds and brightly colored orchids dangling in the canopy quicker than any of us. Prickly underbrush and cacti engulfed the path in a sinister tangle. When we stopped for a drink, Grandpa grabbed a cactus to steady himself. His face contorted into a grimace as blood channeled between wrinkles and spines on his hand. Using my sleeve, I gently wiped Grandpa's hand and wrapped it in a handkerchief to stop the bleeding. We hiked on in silence, shattered only by chattering parrots and humming wasps.

The trail fed into the gaping mouth of a cave, surrounded by razor sharp stalactite and stalagmite teeth. We sprawled on damp boulders, munching on peanuts and hesitantly shinin...


... middle of paper ...


... gone for six hours but it felt like years. Grandma carefully measured out even amounts of water from the thermos for each of us to wet our parched throats. When we piled into the jeep, it reeked of sunscreen, insect repellant, and body odor. Ignoring her usual rules, Mom let us hang out the windows as she sped to the nearest colmado. We sat in the shade of an almendra tree and guzzled a crate of pop and a five-gallon drum of water. I could smell hot grease from the corner fried foods stand, but the thought of food turned my stomach. All I wanted was to drink until I felt I might burst. Back at our cabin, I raced to the only bathroom and slammed the door. I stepped in the shower with my clothes still on and let the cool water pour over my body in an overwhelming sense of relief. The only coherent thought I could form as I stood there was: "Thank you God for water."

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