Fifteen years ago Tim and I went camping along the Batsto River on the Batona Trail in the Pine Barrens. We ran out of water on our second day and blindly started hiking down one of the dirt roads looking for a place with water. While carrying our packs on this hot day we soon realized that hiding them in the brush under a bridge and driving back with the car to get them later was a smarter plan. We hiked through cranberry bogs, hunting clubs and a deserted village. We followed a deep line in the sand for miles fantasizing that whoever was dragging a stick would give us some of their water. What a letdown when the line-maker turned out to be a tortoise.

Walking all day, delirious from dehydration we came upon a gas station, which happened to be closed. There was a soda machine that wasn’t working and we soon deduced that it wasn’t plugged in. You would have thought gold had been struck by the sounds we made when the lights came on and the ca-chunk sound was heard as the first can dropped inside the machine. We happened to have enough change between us to get a few warm Fruitopias which where long past their expiry date. Not caring, and past the point of sanitary concerns the cans were finished in seconds.

By the time we made it back to Batsto we had covered 29 miles. It was getting dark and we soon discovered someone had slashed the vinyl windows of my soft top Jeep to get at my radio. At this point I was too exhausted and uncomfortable to be angry and we still had to drive 20 miles back to where we had stashed our packs.

There’s nothing like driving down a tree-lined dusty road at dusk and coming upon a stopped vehicle with no way around it and then having another truck speed up behind you boxing you in to get your heart racing. Walking up to my slashed window a Piney spat on the ground and asked if I had any jumper cables. It was a scene out of Deliverance. Something didn’t feel right. The only weapon we had was a Leatherman tool which I handed to Tim. We never got out of the car and I said I didn’t have any cables. At this point an even scarier guy gets out from the truck behind us and starts toward us while the jumper cable guy begins making small talk about hunting for night crawlers. I notice that the right side of the road next to the leading vehicle is soft sand and small brush and I decide to go around him. The Jeep responded perfectly, which translates to it didn’t get stuck and we sped down the dirt road towards the marked place containing our packs. About a 1/4 mile down the road the dead vehicle mysteriously started up and we saw lights behind us. I floored the jeep and when we got to the little bridge which held our stash Tim jumped out collecting them and threw them in back. I didn’t stop again until we made it to some diner on Route 206 and were able to wash the taste of fear and stale Fruitopia out of our mouths.

Advertisements