The food cravings went away after a few days. One of the instructors found a tiny lizard and cooked it. No one wanted to try it but I had a bite-- not out of bravery, I just wanted to learn how to survive on my own. It tasted burnt and crunchy.
He also ate the apple cores that people threw away, stems and all.
The coldest night was when we slept on the side of a mountain. I was told to dig a little trench in the shape of my body so the wind would pass over me.
The kids were slowing us down, as well as the broken ankle guy and the obese family. But I was enjoying the weirdness of it all.
The instructors had never seen or done this trek before. Allegedly this was on purpose so that we would all be in the same boat. Other than a telephone line when we were dropped off initially, I don't recall seeing any sign of humans for the entire week. That's why I was there.
We reached a pretty steep ravine and the instructors were a little worried cuz we needed to go right through it. The author of the book and the hippy offered to go ahead and see if it was passable. At the last minute they asked if anyone wanted to go with them-- they said they would have to move very fast to beat nightfall and couldn't have anyone slowing them down. And it could be dangerous. I volunteered. Again, not from any sort of gallantry. I was just bored with our current pace.
In retrospect it really was a bit dangerous. The only way across the ravine was to walk on a very narrow path that hugged the cliff's edge, holding branches and roots for support. Nothing but sharp desert rocks below.
Once past the ravine they did move pretty quickly. I stayed right behind them. We stopped briefly at a small stream. We had been boiling water but the hippy instructor crouched down to drink directly from the stream. I, being a geek that didn't know shit, asked if we should use these little tablets that purify the water. He said I was correct but that it was up to me if I wanted to take the risk. He also pointed out that he never used tablets or boiled water and never had a problem. I drank the water.
It was on this part of the journey that the hippy interrogated my interest in the course. He said that everyone else was on this course because of their involvement with their church. He asked again how I learned of the course and I told him about writing a letter to the author of the survival book. He said I was different, I was here for a deeper reason than the others.
Well, duh, I thought.
When we found a place to settle for the night we ran back to get the others. We also found a slightly less treacherous route to get everyone over the ravine.
I don't remember much else about that day except that it was quite a struggle getting the guy on crutches and the big, whining family across the ravine. The poor fat kid was really crying and I felt sorry for him. I tried to help him but his parents intervened. I don't think that entire family said more than two words to me on that whole trip. I probably said less to them.
I watched the sunset with the girl I liked and she convinced me to read the Book of Mormon. I was curious about all religions, mostly Eastern and New Age stuff, so I was open to checking it out. It clearly convinced this group of people and I liked them, they seemed intelligent.
On Sunday we arrived at "civilization". Our destination camp site. Everyone kept asking me if I was going to the Testimonial. I didn't know what that was but of course I'd go.
We all sat in a circle, under the morning sun. Everyone looked different after a shower. Not better, just strange.
The hippy asked if anyone had never been to a testimonial before. I was the only one who raised his hand. He briefly described what it is-- where everyone shares some kind of personal revelation from God. He said it was voluntary and no one had to speak if they didn't want too.
He went first. He became so impassioned about his story he started to weep. Then the next person went. Same thing. One by one they each did a monologue about the tragedy that brought them to God, and everyone broke down in tears.
When it was my turn I waved them on-- I was the only one that passed. I still don't like to speak to groups and I was painfully shy then. By painful I mean that my shyness was so extreme it hurt people to witness it. I liked the passion these people had.
I got a cheap hotel and the girl gave me a copy of The Book of Mormon to read on my journey home. I promised her I would and we traded addresses.
Even though my food urges were long gone I got a Wendy's burger because I had wanted one so desperately a week ago. The first bite made me retch-- it tasted like I had bit into a loaf of pure salt.
I read quite a bit from The Book of Mormon on the bus home. I didn't buy it. I didn't believe that some lost texts of the Bible were bestowed on some Yankee. I believed he was a con artist who found a way to make money and obtain power (and polygamous fucking). I agreed with some of the lifestyle things and views of Nature but I quickly lost interest.
I wrote the girl and politely told her how I felt about The Book of Mormon. She gave me the same rhetoric about blindly having faith. I didn't write back. I never saw her again but I sure did feel something strong for her at one point in my youth.