Katie is so excited for her extended weekend at Science Camp! Her copper red ringlets bounce every time she talks about the upcoming event. Katie’s face lights up and her green eyes dance when she talks about how she’ll be camping with her fellow 5th graders, their teachers, and her dad! Katie is thrilled for all the science related experiences and experiments she’ll get to be a part of. For instance, she has been reading about volcanoes since last week, when she heard her teacher say they would be molding a volcano out of clay, and then creating “lava”. Yet, she’s even more interested in learning how and why mixing certain ingredients together will make the “lava” flow from the top of the clay volcano. With all of her enthusiasm, it’s really no wonder why science is Katie’s favorite subject to study in school!

When the highly anticipated Friday morning finally arrived, Katie was all smiles. She and her dad, Dennis, picked a bench seat and sat together in the school bus. The bus would be taking the group up to the mountains of Northern Arizona, where Science Camp was going to take place. Seeing her dad beside her on the school bus made Katie so happy. Her dad listened, amused, as she excitedly told him about the hike everyone would be going on the next day. She even mentioned her hiking fashion, including her sparkly, pink hiking boots and the matching pink hat her mom purchased for the trip. Her dad kissed her freckled cheek, and said he was looking forward to all the fun they were sure to have during their weekend Science Camp adventure.

The next morning, when the sun had barely shown all of its beaming face, Katie, her dad, and everyone else in the Science Camp group were awake, dressed, and readying their backpacks for the hike. Katie unzipped the tent door, stretched, and held her arms out wide. She thought the faint warmth of the sun felt nice. It was a beautiful April morning that was refreshingly crisp up there in the mountains. A light pine-scented breeze rustled the trees as everyone gathered together.

Soon the group began walking, slowly making their way along the two mile long hiking trail. Katie was thrilled to see the different plants and trees growing along the path, and hearing a teacher, Mrs. Snow, tell the group various facts about them. Katie was listening to Mrs. Snow so intently, she became startled when she heard the sound of wheels spinning on gravel. She sighed with relief when she saw her own teacher, Mr. Manlee, pull up alongside the group in his pick-up truck. He rolled down the window and began shouting over the engine noise, asking Katie’s dad for some help with unloading the coolers that contained everyone’s lunches. Hiking made Katie very hungry, and her tummy was rumbling. When her dad eventually handed Katie a brown paper bag, she was so grateful. She opened the brown paper bag to find a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, apple, and a juice box. Yum! She was enjoying the adventure of the hike, but her little legs were starting to feel tired. She was glad when, after lunch, Mr. Manlee announced that it was time to hike back down to the camp. Soon she could rest! Mr. Manlee then asked Dennis if he would mind staying behind to help him clean up after the group and reload the coolers back into his pick-up truck. Katie was instructed to follow the rest of the group that had already started walking back down the mountain without her.

She ran to catch up with everyone, but slowed down once she reached those who were in the rear of the group. Among the slower hikers, Katie found her best friend, Sally, and Sally’s mother, Susan. They began chatting about all the new things they were learning at Science Camp, and didn’t realize that over time, they had fallen further behind. Eventually, they rounded a corner and discovered their group was nowhere to be seen! Katie looked at Sally’s mother, Susan, and saw a look of worry on her face. Katie began to panic a little bit inside. Susan faked a smile and reassured the girls that everything was fine. The knot in Katie’s tummy disagreed, but she stayed close to Sally and her mother as they continued walking. Katie’s legs were getting more tired as the afternoon passed and her feet felt heavy, like lead. She ran out of water, and was really thirsty. By this time of day, the coolness of the morning had melted into the typical heat of an Arizona Spring afternoon. Yet on the three of them walked, shouting out the names of students and teachers from their group, hoping someone would hear them.

“Daddy!” Katie screamed in desperation. She had lost the ability to hold her tiny self together any longer. She was hot, exhausted and terrified. Tears began streaming down Katie’s freckled face. More time passed, and the blazing sun was beginning to shine lower in the trees. Katie and Sally knew night time was coming, and the idea of spending the night in a dark forest was too much for their huge imaginations to handle. The girls began to wail, believing that if they stayed alone in the forest much longer, they were sure to become dinner for the wolves or the boogie man. The cries and yells from all three of them continued. Now the sun was setting, and the trees were barely illuminated in spooky purple light. “DADDY!!!” Katie screamed at the very top of her lungs, and then collapsed against a large rock beside the trail.

“Katie? Sally? Susan? Is that you?!” Katie jumped with a sudden surge of energy up on top of the big rock. “Yes! We’re over here!” Mr. Manlee and Katie’s dad, Dennis, came running through the trees, up the trail to the big rock where Katie, Sally, and Susan stood. It had become so dark, if they hadn’t recognized the men’s voices, they would not have known who they were. Katie’s dad scooped her up in his big, strong arms. Mr. Manlee comforted Sally and her mother. Thankfully, Mr. Manlee and Dennis had driven the truck up the trail as far as the land would allow, so the five of them didn’t have to walk far through the darkened forest to get to it. Katie, Sally, and Susan cried tears of gratitude as they hastily gulped the new water bottles under the warm blankets Mr. Manlee offered them when everyone was safely in the cab of the truck. Mr. Manlee then began to tell them what he and Dennis had discovered during their search. Mr. Manlee explained, “The trail our group was hiking comes to a fork, where it separates into two paths. There was a pile of wood that had been formed into the shape of an arrow, for the purpose of blocking off the path that our group wasn’t supposed to take. We believe someone in the group who passed this wooden arrow before you gals, must have kicked it. So by the time you reached the fork, the wood was lying in a pile and not pointing to the correct path.”  No one said anything after that until the five of them returned to the camp, where they were greeted joyfully by their peers.

The following day, Science Camp came to an end. Katie, her dad, and the rest of the group climbed into the school bus to begin the journey home. Katie smiled quietly to herself as she looked out of the window. She was thinking back on all the memories she had made with her dad, Sally, and the rest of the 5th graders. She still loved science, and felt mostly happy about the experiences of Science Camp. Yet she couldn’t stop thinking about how scared she had felt when she was lost in the woods. Katie was much quieter now than she had been on the bus a few days before. She felt so relieved to be safe once again, she wasn’t so sure she would be excited about going on another adventure, ever again. 

“Hey Katie, want to come with me to Space Camp next month?!”, Sally said, peeping over the seat that separated the two girls. Katie’s expression immediately changed. Her green eyes danced and her copper red ringlets bounced, as she spun in her seat and looked wishfully up at her dad.