In todays society we hear a lot about people who take time off from life and spend time alone in the wilderness. They challenge themselves by living amongst nature without the help of others. Besides just the challenge, an experience of this type tells them a little bit about themselves, as often said one goes into the wilderness to "find" himself. Mikes boyscout trip into the Blue Ridge Mountains definitely qualifies as a trip of this sort. Through his story of the trip one can easily see how he could learn about himself through this testing. By looking closely at the text one can see that Mike is a person sometimes faced with fear which can be overcome by taking chances, with a deep respect for the environment and a trusting nature which sometimes leads him into a state of disillusionment.
The first instance that shows this theme of fear is the morning before the hike. It is 7:00 in the morning and Mike is supposed to get up and help prepare breakfast. As would most, he feels a little lazy and contemplates going back to sleep. He gets up however due to the fact that not preparing breakfast would lead to some conflict with the others: "you dont want to have fifty guys mad at you, especially when most of the them are bigger than you, much bigger"(1). This feeling of fear is understandable though, as most feel some fear when dealing with much larger people.
The reader can also see this theme of conquerable fear through Mikes interaction with the others on the hike, specifically his comments on littering and the river crossing. At the beginning of the hike, Mike is enjoying being among the wonders of nature. However, once Mike starts to notice a few of the sixty other scouts on the trip and their less than exemplary behavior, he is soon disgusted by the experience. This showing of disgust shows a deep respect for nature as it is aimed at the littering done by a few of the scouts: "Every time we would stop for a short rest, dozens of candy bar wrappers would suddenly appear on the ground and it really ticked me off"(2). By this we can see his respect for nature and his disgust for actions that might harm the environment. He realizes he should say something to the others, but once again this theme of fear is present as he doesnt want to get into a fight with the others: "Some of those guys were twice my size"(2). We can see that he possesses a feeling of responsibility for his actions, "I should have said something"(2), but he does hesitate in times of uncomfortableness. This fear does not take over however, and it can even be conquered as seen by the river crossing section of the story. Once again Mike admits to feeling fear in an instance of uncertainty as he fears falling into the river in front of the rest of the group: "I was going to be the first one to jump and not make it, I would be humiliated"(2). When the time of testing comes however, he takes a risk and succeeds: "just jumped without hesitation...and landed it with room to spare and never looked back"(3). As one can see, Mike was always able to do it, but just like most in an uncomfortable situation, he hesitates at first to take a risk. The line that is the most revealing about the river challenge however, is the last line of the paragraph describing Mikes recollection of the event: "That, of all things, is one of the strongest memories I have of the trip"(3). This "strongest" memory shows us just how pleased Mike was with himself on how he acted under pressure. He acts hesitantly sometimes, but when he actually takes a risk, he realizes he can do it with no problem and is happy to know that his worrying is unfounded.
Another characteristic we see of Mikes is that of a trusting nature, which leads him into later disillusionment, as evident by his feelings during the trip. When he realizes that his group is lost, Mike remains calm and shows this trusting nature of the leaders and their abilities: "they had to know how to fix their errors"(3). Although he is angry at first, he realizes the leaders are supposed to be the experts at survival in the wilderness, so he is not overly worried. We can see through this that he is trusting of others and not skeptical of their leadership unless they give him reason to believe otherwise. When the leaders fail to re-orientate themselves with their location on the map however, Mike becomes less sure of their abilities. He feels helpless when this trusting nature fails him because of those around him: "I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and thats all I could do"(4). This once again shows that he is not always skeptical of others, but he does not like being affected by others. In fact, he feels so disillusioned by the failing of this trusting nature that after the trip he actually quits the Boyscouts altogether.
By looking at the way people react to certain experiences, one can tell a lot about that person. Mikes story of hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains with other Boyscouts is one of these stories that reveals part of his character. By examining the text, the reader can see that Mike is a trusting individual with a sense of respect for nature, and by the presence of a theme of fear, that he sometimes hesitates in certain situations but can persevere by taking chances.
Hughes, Michael. Camping With Idiots. April 7, 2000.