On the San Joaquin

We knew what he thought, the skeptical Ranger at the trailhead.

We could read it in his eyes as he thought, This has disaster written all over it.

We knew what he thought all right, as he looked at

The Boys of Six-Six-Three.

We were thinking of that Ranger; Maybe he had something there

We’ve passed the last good camp before Fish Creek; no choice now but to push on.

Any complaints, grumbling or whining here? Well, not too much from

The Boys of Six-Six-Three.

Later that day, we arrive at the Camp

Foot-sore, sweaty, and beat: just pitch tents, cook supper, and eat.

Any late-night horsing around this time? Far too tired are

The Boys of Six-Six-Three.

A few easy miles up Fish Creek lies Ida Bell Spring.

In tub-sized pools of deep-heated waters trail-weary hikers can rest.

Before reaching the Hot Springs however, another challenge awaits

The Boys of Six-Six-Three

From the granite walls above Fish Creek, a side stream cascades across the trail

Thigh-deep, fast, and ice-cold. Scoutmasters plunge in, carrying packs.

After, squealing like girls at the cold, come

The Boys of Six-Six-Three.

After fording the flood, the group can relax: bathe in warm spring-pools,

Explore, or fish. Sure, one slips on a rock and bruises his eye,

(a few anxious moments for us). But it would take more than that to stop

The Boys of Six-Six-Three.

Dark. Scouts tucked in their tents. A Scoutmaster tells stories of Elves and Trolls.

On tomorrow’s hike we’ll hear questions: Is that pile of rocks where they

Buried the Orcs? Could be, could be… we say to

The Boys of Six-Six-Three.

Next morning brings wash day: heat water for scrubbing and water for rinsing.

Damp clothes laid out on rocks in the sun (then on to fishing or swimming or sitting).

Washing in the wilderness: is anything less likely for

The Boys of Six-Six-Three?

Afternoon, a little too late, we head back to Fish Creek. Across the

Ford once again, and to our chagrin, both water pumps quit.

This worries the leaders, just a little, but not

The Boys of Six-Six-Three.

Back at camp, later that night, the tents are all pitched

And the supper’s all eaten. With our late start, and our water pump

Crisis, we pushed the guys hard: it’s long past dark now and they’re still busy,

The Boys of Six-Six-Three.

Tomorrow will start with a tough climb: six hundred feet up the canyon wall.

We’ll need plenty of water. Without the two pumps, our recourse is boiling.

Stoking the campfire to heat gallons of water are

The Boys of Six-Six-Three.

Like something from Dante, the boys boil water in the campfire light,

While amid the smoke, Alchemist-like, Scoutmasters fill bottles and buckets

And anything else they can find to hold water for

The Boys of Six-Six-Three.

Up early. Day four. Scoutmasters pour water down slow-moving Scouts.

An awful lot of ash was flying around last night; the taste of the water’s a little bit smokey

Add some lemonade mix, or a little Tang, and it’s not too bad, say

The Boys of Six-Six-Three.

I’m pretty sure only one Scout actually got sick. We finally get the

Well-hydrated group moving, on up the long climb. Farewell to Fish Canyon.

I imagine that these granite walls, trees, and streams will long remembered be, by

The Boys of Six-Six-Three

By mid-day we’ve reached camp, nestled between a couple of

Streams. Almost home now, with plenty of time, we can all relax and enjoy

A little fishing (eleven this time!) or horsing around. This was a good day, for

The Boys of Six-Six-Three.

Our stone-age ancestors would laugh, but the Scoutmaster’s quite proud

Of the two-burner fireplace he’s constructed of nothing but granite and ingenuity.

Scouts are asleep, or at least in their tents, and we’re all feeling tolerable good about

The Boys of Six-Six-Three.

The fire’s burned down now to nothing but embers. We swap some more stories:

One time in Spain…, I once sailed through a storm…, A great earthquake

Chile, when I was a boy…. No sounds now, from

The Boys of Six-Six-Three.

Will one of these kids tell this tale around a campfire someday? About the time they went

Hiking and the water pumps broke? About the grand granite cliffs and the giant fir trees?

About the thunder and rain high above the San Joaquin? Well, it’s theirs for the telling,

The Boys of Six-Six-Three.