by James Bates
Randy took the map out of the Duluth Pack and looked at it, trying to decipher where they were. If it wasn't bad enough they were lost, it was doubly irritating that they'd gotten lost while he was trying to impress Libby with his outdoor skills, limited as they were. After all, she was a biologist, comfortable being outside in nature, and he was...well, he was a software design engineer who could barely find his way around the Minneapolis Bird Sanctuary, an urban park where Libby liked to take him bird watching. But they say opposites attract, and, if that was the case, Randy and Libby were meant for each other. Still, there was the nagging fact that they were lost, and being lost in Boundary Waters Wilderness Area was no joking matter.
"Here, Randy, let me see that map." Libby leaned over, brushing her tanned arm against his rather pale one. They'd pulled their canoe up to a tiny island in the middle of what he thought was Gunflint Lake and were sitting on a log near the shore. Unfolded, the map was good sized, three feet by four feet, but Randy still had to put his readers on to see clearly. Libby leaned in closely and pointed, "Well, here's the problem. We missed a turn on that last portage. I'll bet we're on Loon Lake. Look." She scooted even closer so their hips were touching. "We went south. Gunflint is north of us." She looked at the tree line on the far side of what was now, apparently, Loon Lake. "See that ridge there," she pointed. "Look here on the map. This symbol marks a high spot. See."
Randy looked closely and then followed where she was pointing. He wanted to be a good camper, he really did. He'd always taken direction well, it was one reason why he made a good engineer. But right now he didn't care if they were lost or not. It was just nice to be so close to Libby. Her scent, an earthiness mixed with lingering sweet sweat, was beguiling beyond words.
"Yeah. I see it now." He shook his head, trying to get focused. "I feel like an idiot." But getting re-focused was hard, especially with Libby sitting almost on top of him.
They'd met six months earlier in the dead of winter at the Como Park Conservatory. He'd taken his sister's two boys for an indoor outing to get a break from the bitter Minnesota cold. Libby had done the same with her two nieces. They'd met over a stuffed dinosaurer display in the gift shop. A week later they'd gone to see a retro showing of The Big Lebowski (a movie they both loved) and had been dating ever since.
"Don't worry about it, happens to everyone." Libby leaned into to him, smiling, rubbing his shoulder. He picked up more of her alluring scent.
Wait a minute. Were they talking about getting lost or having sex? Randy risked at look. Libby smiled back at him. He leaned into her and put his arm around her shoulder. "Sorry about getting us lost," he said. He was forty-three years old, the same age as Libby, and she was the first person he'd ever had these kinds of feelings for. He caressed the hair at her temples, then kissed her.
After a few minutes Libby put her hand on his chest, leaned back and grinned, "That's nice, but maybe we should dial it back a little, hot stuff. What about being lost?"
"I thought you said you knew where we were. Loon Lake." He grinned back at her, calming down. He picked up the map. "It looks like if we paddle that way," he pointed to the right, to the east, "we can get back to the portage. Then we can hike in to where we, well, I," he smiled, sheepishly, "made the wrong turn. We can take a left, hike for a quarter mile or so and get over to Gunflint." He looked to the west, the sun was a little above the trees. "We still have daylight left."
He was about to glance at his watch when Libby put her hand out to stop him. "Or..." she said, stretching the word out seductively. "Or, we could just make camp over there," she pointed to a smooth patch of ground twenty feet behind them under some tall red pines, "and stay here tonight."
Randy didn't even have to think. In the past, a change of plans would have been traumatic given his orderly disposition. But that hadn't been the case recently, a welcome change he attributed all to being with Libby. "I'd like that," he said.
Out on the lake a loon called, a haunting reminder of the kind of wildness found in the Boundary Waters. They both turned to listen. Libby pointed to large black and white bird bobbing sedately far out on the lake. "Look, there it is." A few moments later another one called.
"I read that they mate for life," Randy said, taking Libby's hand.
"Yeah, they do," she said, squeezing his in return, softly caressing it. "It's late in the summer. Their young ones are probably around here somewhere."
"Maybe we can stay tomorrow, too," Randy said, "Watch for them."
"What about being lost?" Libby poked at him, joking.
"I read once that Henry David Thoreau said that just one time he'd love to be lost. I guess it was because he felt so comfortable in the woods. They were like home to him."
"What do you think about that?" Libby asked.
He put his arm around her shoulder as they gazed out over the lake. "I think I get what he means."
"Good," Libby said smiling. She gave him a quick kiss before standing up and helping him to his feet. "Then let's get the tent set up. Lost or not, we might be here a while."
About the author
Jim lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. When he was a teenager he canoed in the Boundary Waters with a YMCA group. He and some friends ended up getting lost but only for about four hours. He'll never forget the experience. You can check out his blog to see more of his stories: www.theviewfromlonglake.wordpress.com.