Two park rangers (or rather one real ranger and a stupid volunteer), down on a backcountry trail, not following at all the rules they tell people to follow: they have no map, no GPS, no cell reception, no food, nobody knows where they are, and it’s getting dark. The only thing they have is a jacket, a bottle of water and a little flashlight. Mr. Ranger isn’t even carrying a gun or knife, like he usually does.
They liked going in the evening after work down connecting backcountry trails, just to see something different. The stupid volunteer didn’t have a car, so she was mostly stuck hiking on the trails close to her house. It was a nice change to get on real trails, with rocks and fallen trees instead of the usual almost paved and overly populated trails.
This day, they decided a few minutes before the sunset that it was maybe their last chance to go discover yet another connecting trail. So they hopped in the big American truck and drove to the trailhead. The plan was to go down for a bit, see what it looks like, and then backtrack. They didn’t have time to do the whole 4 miles loop, so they didn’t take a lot of things with them.
Problem is, the more they walked, the nicer it got. They were going down into a half burnt forest, with tall colorful hoodoos in the distance and around them. It was really pretty, so they kept on going, on and on. Until they were too far down to go back, why not finish the whole loop? So they started walking a little faster, to try to get back before the night came.
Great plan, until they arrived at a place where the river had completely washed away the trail. They very well knew this, since the stupid volunteer used to tell that to everybody who was inquiring about that trail at the Visitor Center. But tonight, she had forgotten all about it until now, and it was impossible to see where the trail used to be. And the night was coming in, faster than they thought. What should they do? Go back? Or keep going and try to find the trail? That would imply maybe getting lost in the dark, or encountering a hungry bear…
They decided it was too long to backtrack, they had to keep going. So they started hiking up the wash, faster and faster, trying to find cairns or some indication of where the trail was. They were both starting to get a bit anxious, even if Mr. Ranger wouldn’t admit it. He was probably silently cursing himself for not having taken a gun with him like he usually does.
After a while, they finally got out of the wash and back on the trail. But it was getting darker and darker. They kept on walking, faster and faster. Mr. Ranger, who eats too much American food, had trouble following the athletic Volunteer and was half dying, while he was looking around them to try to spot movements in the trees, indicating the presence of a bear or another animal just waiting to jump on them to eat them.
And now it was really dark and difficult to see the trail and what was around it. They spotted strange shadows in the distance, what could that be? Oh, those were cows grazing. And there’s the road, they’re almost there. Suddenly, there’s the sound of an animal running away in the forest, freaking out the stupid volunteer (of course Mr. Ranger was not scared at all, nope). They’re really tense, but they keep going, until finally, they reach the end of the trail. And there’s the truck, waiting to bring them home.
They wanted to have one last backcountry adventure together, they got what they wanted…