“Lost on the Trail,” Friend, May 2012, 44–45
The Ozark Mountains! Karl could hardly wait to see them. The whole last week of school, Karl daydreamed about the backpacking adventure he was going to have as soon as school got out.
Finally, fifth grade was over, and Mom was helping Karl pack his backpack.
“Be sure to pack your bug spray,” she reminded. “And make sure to take your flashlight.”
“OK, Mom,” Karl said. But he was busy thinking about all the animals he hoped to see in the mountains.
“You need to take your whistle too,” Mom added, dropping his whistle into his backpack.
When Mom wasn’t looking, Karl pulled the whistle out of his pack. “I won’t need this,” he thought. “Mom doesn’t understand what adventure is about.”
Early the next morning, Karl and his friends rode in vans to the trailhead. When they finally arrived, all the boys cheered.
Karl was assigned to a trail group. Each group would hike and camp together with their leaders.
After hiking for several hours, Karl began to feel impatient. Several other groups had already passed his. “I’m with all the slowpokes,” Karl thought.
After lunch, Karl decided to blaze ahead. He knew he should tell an adult, but he didn’t want to be stuck with his group anymore.
A few hours later, it began to get dark. Karl couldn’t hear his group anymore. He started to retrace his steps, but as it got darker, he worried that he might fall down a steep incline or stumble near an overlook. He remembered Mom’s reminder to pack his flashlight. “I wish I’d listened better,” he thought.
It was nearly nighttime. Karl unrolled his sleeping bag and found a stick of beef jerky in his backpack. He listened to the strange sounds of the woods at night. Karl knew he had broken an important rule by leaving his group, and he wished he had listened to Mom better before he left.
The next thing Karl knew, something bright woke him up. “You found me!” he yelled happily. But it was only a firefly dancing in front of his face. Karl felt his heart start beating fast. What if no one ever found him?
As soon as the sun rose the next morning, Karl rolled up his sleeping bag and looked through his backpack for something else to eat. At the bottom of the pack he saw the whistle his mother had given him.
“Mom must have put it back in my bag,” he thought with relief. Karl knew it was best to stay where he was and wait for the others to find him. He started blowing his whistle as hard as he could, and soon he saw a search party coming down the trail.
When Karl got home, he gave Mom a huge hug. “I’ll never forget how important it is to listen to you and follow the rules so I can be safe,” he said. Then he handed Mom his whistle for safekeeping.