Our goal was to survive by our wits. Some of us were only half-wits and had to pair up in order to amass one full wit.

It began when I read an article about a man who was the first amputee to scale Mount Everest. You have to admire the tenacity, the courage, and the sense of adventure it must have taken a one-legged man to attempt such a rigorous challenge.

I was so impressed by his feat (no pun intended) that when some friends of mine asked me to join them on a four-day hiking trip in the Smokies, in spite of the fact that none of us had any wilderness camping experience, I eagerly agreed.

The hardships we endured, the deprivation, the mental anguish and physical hardships made our trip every bit as awe-inspiring as that amputee’s.

We intended to rough it, so we took only essential supplies. Well, okay, I took my moisturizer. That mountain air wreaks havoc with my dry skin.

The first day out, we camped by a mountain stream. Using the safety pin from my underwear and a shoestring, I landed an eight-pound trout. We cooked it over a campfire which we started by rubbing two sticks together until the effort ignited a pile of dry moss. We gradually added small twigs and progressively larger logs we had hacked from fallen trees with a nail file.

Well, okay, to be perfectly honest, we used a couple of matches. Oh, all right, we used an instant light Duraflame brand log and one of those grill lighting sticks.

And maybe it wasn’t exactly an eight-pound trout, either, but we definitely caught it ourselves, sort of. My friend Margaret waited in the bushes until a troop of Cub Scouts passed by. Just like in the wilds of Africa, she picked off the weakest of the herd, chased him down and stole the McDonald’s fish filet sandwich he was carrying. Margaret tossed the fish to me, so technically I “caught” a fish. But we ate it without tartar sauce, and if that is not deprivation, I do not know what is.

The rest of the trip, we foraged for nuts and berries. It was tough. We nearly starved to death, but we were determined to subsist solely on whatever Mother Nature provided. Well, okay, it was Mother Nature’s Country Bake Shoppe in Gatlinburg, but we did eat nuts and berries. The nuts were in the pecan pie and the berries were in shortcake, but we skipped the whipped cream.

Well, Patricia had the whipped cream, but I definitely didn’t. After all, this trip was to be a test of endurance and mental fortitude. I had the pecan pie a la mode, but I had only one scoop of ice cream. Okay, it was two scoops, but I drank the coffee black, and I hate it that way.

Our trip was fraught with perils. As a result, we all returned with grievous injuries.

On the second day of our adventure, Patricia sustained a broken rib and nearly drowned when she slipped on a mossy rock while bathing in a babbling brook. Well, maybe it wasn’t a mossy rock. It was a bar of soap. And it wasn’t exactly a babbling brook; it was the scummy shower at Monty’s Mountain Lodge.

Truthfully, the rib was not really broken; it was just bruised. It was terrifying to be injured out in the wild and unable to get help. Well, we did have a cell phone, but as a matter of principle, we did not use it. Okay, I used it once to call my stockbroker.

Margaret broke her arm when she caught it between two boulders while mountain climbing and Mary nearly was electrocuted when she was struck by lightning.

To be perfectly honest, Margaret wasn’t exactly mountain climbing. She was reaching for the Cheetos she had hidden under the bed at the lodge. Her arm got caught in the bed springs. Snapped it like a twig.

Mary’s near electrocution was not caused by lightning; it was caused by a short in her curling iron, but there was lightning in the general vicinity at the time.

I sustained the worst injury of all when I was attacked and viciously mauled by a huge, black bear. Well, okay, he was not exactly huge; more like medium-sized. And he didn’t exactly maul me. He sort of cuffed me around and then bit my leg, ripping it open from thigh to ankle.

Oh, all right, it wasn’t really a bear; it was a toothless, old, three-legged Chihuahua on a leash. He latched onto my ankle and gummed it until he had to be pulled off with a wet “pop” like the rubber suction cup on the tip of a toy dart.

It left a nasty looking hickey on my ankle. His rhinestone collar scratched my ankle until I looked as if I had been strolling barefoot through a briar patch.

From now on, I am leaving the wilderness adventures to the one-legged mountain climbers of the world. I am telling you, that wilderness is fraught with danger!


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