They’d been hiking for hours. Deep in the wilderness. Far from… everything. James stopped and took a drink of water. His bottle was nearly empty, and they still had several miles to go before they reached the planned camp site.
His more athletic friend, Hank, was already several steps ahead. Hank was the seasoned hiker. He’d gone camping and hiking in this area several times before over the years. Not to mention countless other forests and mountains surrounding the Seattle area where they lived. “Hold up,” James said. Hank stopped. He waited for his friend before they continued.
James was understandably a little tired. He usually spent his days working as a graphic designer, sitting behind the computer all the time. He enjoyed the work, but it didn’t exactly provide much exercise. But James always had a special love of nature. He had fond childhood memories of hiking in the woods with his granddad, who taught him about the plants and animals. Basic survival skills. How to collect the right kind of wood and start a fire. How to forage for berries, nuts, and other edible things the forest provides. How to stay away from bears. That sort of thing. They’d go bird watching together. Occasionally they’d spot a mother deer and her fawns trailing closely behind. Nature was beautiful and amazing. James missed it. City life was not for him, but that’s where he found work, so that’s where he had to live.
And, well, life just sort of got in the way. He was always busy working or whatever. Never seemed to find the time to escape the city and visit the wilderness much anymore. Hadn’t actually been out in the woods in years. Plus, most of his friends – all but Hank, really – had moved away after college, for one reason or another. He and Hank were friends since high school. They used to love backpacking and camping together. But, again, somehow months turned into years, they started to lose touch, and they just didn’t hang out nearly as much anymore.
Until James learned, through Facebook no less, that Hank’s girlfriend of 3 years suddenly dumped him.
Those two were really close. Everyone thought they’d get married. Hank must’ve been devastated. He reached out to his old friend. They chatted on the phone a bit. Reminisced about the old days. And James got an idea. Hank needed to get away. Clear his mind. Get a change of view. Maybe this was the perfect opportunity for the two of them to go backpacking and camping deep in the mountains again, like they did years ago. James had been craving some time away in nature – and this might’ve been exactly what Hank needed to take his mind off things too.
“You about ready?” Hank asked.
James took another sip. “Almost.” He really enjoyed the view. Lush evergreen forest, as far as the eye could see, layered and cascading throughout the mountains all around them. It was quiet. Peacefully quiet an serene. Some birds singing. A gentle rustle of leaves in the wind. Warm sun on their face and skin. Beautiful clear blue skies – something they learned to really appreciate living in the Pacific Northwest. This time of year, the weather was spectacular. Everything was just perfect. Perfect and beautiful.
He actually kinda wished he could live out here. Living in the city—surrounded by asphalt and concrete everywhere—felt draining to him. But there wasn’t exactly much work for a graphic designer out in the boonies.
Hank urged him on. “Come on, you can enjoy the view at the site. I want to make sure we set up camp before it gets dark.”
“Right,” said James, nodding in agreement. His legs were a little tired but he was ready to keep going. “Lead the way!”
They continued hiking, deeper and deeper into the forest. Through the trees and brush. So far from civilization. Each carried a backpack of food and supplies for their overnight trip.
Once they got to the site, Hank would set up their tent. James would gather kindling for their fire. And by the time the stars were out, they’d be roasting s’mores and swapping scary ghost stories. Just like old times. James couldn’t wait.
Deeper and deeper into the forest they went.
There were no trails here. This was wild, untamed territory. Deep in the mountains. Far from any sight or sound of civilization, as far as the eye could see or ears could hear. No cell reception. Just pure boundless nature. Hills and valleys. Endless forests. Good thing Hank was leading the way. James would’ve gotten so lost by now.
“You do know where we’re going, right?” James confirmed.
Hank laughed. “Totally. I mean, it’s been a while since I’ve been to this site, but I kinda remember how to get there. You’re gonna love it man,” he said. “There’s a fresh water stream nearby. Great view overlooking the valley. Zero light pollution—you’ll be able to see the whole Milky Way tonight!”
Hank took a breath. “Oh, and hey James?”
“For bringing me out here. Feels good doing this. After Alison dumped me… this is just good for my soul, you know?”
“I thought it might be.”
“You’re a good friend.”
“Yeah, sorry I kinda abandoned you in college…”
“Dude. Don’t even worry about it,” said Hank. “We were in different schools. It happens.”
“I know,” said James, “but we were inseparable in high school. You were—well, I like to think you still are—my best friend.”
“Dude, shut up. You’re embarrassing me.”
“And I think… yup, see that hill up there?” Hank pointed.
James looked in that direction. Past some trees and further up the mountainside. He could see an open clearing on the hill, overlooking the lush green valley below. A small stream of melted snow from higher up the maintain flowed not far from the spot. “Uh huh.”
“That’s where we’re staying tonight.”
James smiled. Finally! They were almost there.
Of course, at the time, he had no idea that this little “guys bonding” overnight camping trip would forever change both their lives in ways neither would’ve ever imagined.
All because of the power of an unspoken wish – and the coincidental timing of a celestial event.