When two city boys join their rugged, outdoorsy father on a wilderness backpacking trip, misery and boredom are bound to come humping along behind. Rick Bates is something of a masochist. Born in other times he might have led Kamikaze attacks or fought beside Custer. When it comes to adventure, Rick's motto is "Everything to Excess, Moderation is for Monks."
Tom Bates has spent the past several summers with his father. His younger brother, Chris is coming along for the first time. Chris is not your ordinary kid. He wears a black leather jacket, ripped jeans and an orange, bicycle-spoke Mohawk. He has an attitude to match his looks. The boys fly north on a twin-engine prop plane, piloted by Valerie Carter. Joining Valerie is her attractive daughter, Vicki, who makes the otherwise unpleasant journey slightly more tolerable.
Upon their arrival, Rick informs the boys that they will hike into a local wilderness area. Rick, a dyed-in-the-wool environmentalist, tells his sons there will be no campfires and no tents allowed. And that's not the worst of it. Chris and Tom will be forced to eat freeze-dried food, use stones for toilet paper, and weather a rainstorm that would make a frog cry uncle. It's not long before they're nostalgic for city traffic, crowds, and the smell of exhaust fumes.
The pickup wound its way up the road in a series of slow S-curves. Dad geared down into second, then into first to keep the truck chuffing up the steep grade. Finally we reached the top of the mountain and coasted to a stop. He killed the engine and the silence was disorienting. The only sound to be heard was the relentless music coming from Chris’ iPod.
Dad hopped out and stepped to the edge of the road. He swept his hand over a vast range of mountains with serrated peaks and ridges, as if he were orchestrating nature.
“Look at that, boys,” he said. “Some view, huh? No shopping centers or amusement parks or McDonalds every hundred yards. No cars or smokestacks or pepper spray polluting the air, and no raw sewage contaminating the drinking water. The wind still talks in the trees here.”
I climbed out of the truck and glanced around. He wasn't putting us on. The Trinity Alps was one desolate place. No video arcades, no cable television, nothing; just a vast sea of green in all directions with mountains tumbling like ocean waves to the horizon. The place was as wild as the dawn of creation. I took a heady whiff of mountain air and it nearly made me swoon. The world smelled freshly-scrubbed and pine scented.