Based on actual events. Circa 1998.
It started off like almost every other hike or camping trip.
On the way out of town, we stopped at a small grocery store for forgotten necessary essentials or any items which might provide entertainment around the campfire. I bought a copy of the National Inquirer, which promised an interesting feature: “MAN FINDS JESUS!” The story wasn’t about a man finding any spiritual enlightenment, but rather about Jesus supposedly working at a laundromat in Des Moines.
We were barely a mile up the trail when the side of my left calf lit up like someone had skewered it with a red-hot poker. A lengthy and diverse trail of expletives poured from my adolescent mouth, and by the time I looked down to investigate what happened, my right hand was hit. As I noticed the stinger still lodged in my hand, I screamed bloody murder and took off running!
I’m not allergic or anything, but my hand had swollen to the point that I could barely close it, and my leg wasn’t doing so hot either. It was also around this time I started to notice extensive blistering on both feet. A rule I never really heeded was to break in new hiking boots before wearing them on an actual hike. I was not off to a great start.
I made it to our campsite, but not without multiple stops to apply bandages and re-lace my boots. At the first opportunity, I abandoned what had become orthopedic torture devices and opted for my comfy flip-flops. In addition to the blister on my big toe, I had blisters on each heel and my pinky toes. My feet were pretty much shot, and I quickly became the butt of all jokes. “Hey, I sure hope a bear doesn’t come up on us! But if one does, all we have to worry about is outrunning you!”
After dinner, just before reading the National Inquirer, we heard a large branch snap. Then another. The cracks and snaps got louder and closer. The bushes parted at the edge of our campsite and the bear appeared… It was massive!
So we panicked.
What were we to do? We weren’t more than fifteen feet away from the magnificent beast, and despite everyone having joked that they were planning on leaving me for bear food, no one moved. The bear stood up on his hind legs as if he was preparing to roar or attack or make some violent movement. Barely even thinking about what I was doing, I threw the National Inquirer onto the campfire. Just as it left my painfully engorged digits, I glimpsed the article about Jesus being alive and living in America. As paper touched fire, I hollered out, “SWEET LORD JESUS, SAVE US FROM THIS BEAR!”
The campfire flashed quickly, and the flames leaped– and as fast as this horrific scenario had descended upon us, it resolved. With a burst of heat and bright light, the bear vanished. We could hear him, but eventually, the sounds trailed off and the bear was long gone.
The whole car ride home, we laughed about the bizarre ordeal. I was a bit disappointed that I never got to read the article about the guy finding Jesus, but I guess in a way– and if you’re into that kind of thing– he found me.