Auggie tried to sit in on Austin's boy scout meetings whenever he could. Austin was twelve years old, and over the past month they had been preparing for their first overnight backpacking trip. There was a lot to learn, and the boys were eager to get out of the city.
The boys were busy practicing how to properly load their packs when the troop leader, John, approached Auggie.
"I'm glad you've been around lately." He said. "You know far more about this stuff than I ever will."
"You know enough, John, or I wouldn't be planning to send Austin out with you next month." Auggie replied.
"That's the thing," John started. "I'm starting to worry about this trip."
"No reason to worry, man. You've got this."
"Auggie, I know plenty about primitive camping, but it's all book knowledge. I've never actually done it, myself."
"Really?" This surprised Auggie, because John had seemed to really know his stuff.
"Yeah. I've read everything I can, and there is plenty of Boy Scout Council guidance out there, but I'd really be more comfortable if somebody else came along that has some experience with this sort of thing."
"I'm sure there are some fathers in the troop that have done this." Auggie mentally went through the fathers that he knew in the troop and didn't come up with any obvious answers.
"I've talked to most of them and they are either inexperienced, or unavailable. I was wondering if you would come with us."
Auggie's eyes widened. "Me?"
"You're an Eagle Scout, and you have military experience, so I assume you have some experience in the wild."
"I do, but it's been a while."
"I'm sure you would remember the important stuff." He said. "I understand if you aren't interested. I was just hoping you might want to come."
Auggie thought for a moment.
"You know I'm completely blind, right? Not even some limited vision or anything."
"I know there are blind men that have hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. I'm just talking about a couple of nights in Shenandoah."
Auggie's mind raced with the technicalities and the possibilities while he listened to the boys prepare. "Could my wife come?" He asked.
"I don't see why not."
"She's got some wilderness experience herself. Let me talk to her, and I'll let you know something next week."
"So what do you think?" Auggie said, after explaining the plan to Annie.
"I love backpacking, so if you want to do it, I'll go."
"Then let's go on an adventure. You should probably take the Canadian flag off of your backpack."
Annie smiled at her husband. "I'll still pack the satellite phone."
"Put it in my bag. I'm happy to carry the extra weight."
Auggie borrowed a pack from "A friend" and the Anderson family met with Boy Scout Troop 443 early on a Friday morning. They split up the communal supplies, with Auggie volunteering to carry more weight, and with one final good-bye to civilization, headed into the wilderness.
Annie looked over the maps and decided that she and Auggie would follow in the back of the troop. Auggie followed mostly by listening and using his cane. He wasn't going to hold Annie's elbow all day.
Austin, for the most part, pretended he didn't know them.
It wasn't far up the first hill that Annie and Auggie started picking up stragglers.
"Owen, right?" Annie said.
"Yeah." The little boy replied as Annie put her hand on Auggie's arm for him to stop.
"You okay?" She asked.
"I didn't realize we were walking uphill the whole way."
Auggie smiled. "It will be down tomorrow."
"Oh," the boy hadn't realized this.
"Are your feet hurting?" Annie asked.
"Not really. I just couldn't breath."
After the Andersons checked that the boy wasn't asthmatic or anything, little Owen stood up to keep hiking.
"Do you mind if I walk with you, Mister Auggie?"
The boy walked next to Auggie in silence for a little while before speaking up. "Mister Auggie, can I ask you a question?"
"Are you scared?"
"Scared of what?"
"Not being able to see. I think that would be scary."
"I haven't been able to see for a long time. You get used to it."
"Used to being scared?"
Auggie laughed. "No. It's not scary."
"But you don't know where you're walking."
"I know enough," Auggie explained. "When I swing my cane, I know what's around. I know more by listening to everybody in front of us."
Owen thought about this as they continued to walk.
"What about food?"
"I like food." Auggie responded with a smile.
"But you don't know what you're eating."
"I usually do, especially after I touch and smell it."
"You touch your food?"
"My mom gets mad when I touch my food."
"Well you can see, so you don't need to touch your food."
Auggie and the boy walked together for the next half hour, with Auggie answering questions along the way. Finally, the group came to a stop. "This looks like a good place to set up camp," Annie explained.
"Any Belarussians in the woods?" Auggie whispered.
"I'll check while I go find a private place to relieve myself."
Auggie carefully unpacked the tent from his pack so that when Annie got back, they could quickly put it up. Within minutes they had their sleeping arrangements ready.
"John is going crazy making sure everything is right. He'd going to pass out from exhaustion before the boys eat dinner." Annie said.
"The joy of having a troop of young boys around is that they do all the work. Obviously this is the sort of guidance he needs from us."
"Obviously." Annie agreed as she brushed the back of Auggie's hand.
Later that night, the boys were all tucked into their tents, with Annie and Auggie cozy together in a tent of their own.
"Do you think they'll ever sleep?" Annie whispered.
"Yeah, that climb will get to them."
Annie snuggled closer to Auggie, their sleeping bags getting in the way. "You cold?" He asked.
"A little. We should have gotten a 2-person bag." She replied.
"Well, we were limited to what they had in stock." He said, unzipping his bag. "But maybe we can make something work."
A few minutes later, Annie was awkwardly sharing a sleeping bag with Auggie, enjoying his body heat. He re-adjusted his arm to keep it from going numb, and ran his fingers through her hair.
"This is nice." Annie mumbled.
"Yeah. We should take Austin camping more often." Auggie replied.
"Only if we get a better sleeping bag." She said.
"Done." He replied, kissing the top of her head.
A/N This chapter is here because Finlaure explained why I wasn't able to get the site to accept my new chapter. Some glitch with the copy/paste uploading option. Thanks Finlaure!