Seventeen year old Alex McAllister stood at the edge of Hell and didn’t flinch. The deep, heavily wooded ravine lived up to its forbidding namesake in many respects: it was a deep, desolate, secluded, empty patch of bush up in the mountains, lined by massive chunks of jagged rock that seemed to have been hurled from the very depths of the earth. Few people ever went exploring along the edge of the ravine, and no one he had ever heard of had found a path to the bottom of the dark forest that filled the deep valley. The young man was undaunted, however. A wide grin lit up Alex’s handsome, smooth face as he ran his fingers through his dark hair. “Incredible!” He exclaimed to his friends as he turned from the edge to face the group of teenagers unloading supplies from the truck parked on the path behind him. “Hey guys, we have to find a way down there!”
Alex moved from the edge back to the truck to help unload the gear for the camping trip. It was one of his first trips without his parents, and though he had been camping numerous times throughout his life, this time it seemed fresh and exhilarating, imparted with a sense of freedom that was both intoxicating and frightening. Alex moved to help his best friend, Jason, stack gear as it was pulled from the bed of the pickup truck. Jason was struggling to place everything in neat, organized piles as bags were tossed helter-skelter at him from the bed of the vehicle. The slender male fought to keep his glasses in place on his long nose as his skinny arms were filled with gear faster than he could possibly stack it. Lance stood in the bed of the truck, easily picking up the heavy bags and tossing them at Jason as fast as he could, obviously enjoying himself as he tried to bury the younger boy in camping gear.
Alex stepped between the two young men, snagging flying bags out of the air and setting them to the side of the truck as carefully and quickly as he could. Lance seemed to object to his game of ‘hit-Jason-with-as-many-bags-as-possible’ and gave Alex a slight scowl before chest-passing a heavy duffel bag to him as hard as he could, all but knocking the young man from his feet. Alex simply shook his head softly before lugging the bag to the pile Jason was organizing. “Remind me again why we brought him along?” Jason whispered to his friend. Lance swung two fully-loaded sacks onto his back effortlessly, clearing out the box of the truck before he jumped down, landing heavily onto the path. “That’s why.” Alex said with a tilt of his head. “All of the better behaving mules were rented out this weekend.” He joked, eliciting a soft chuckle from his tall, slender friend. “What are you two pip-squeaks talking about?” Lance huffed as he unceremoniously dumped the bags he was carrying into the middle of the carefully organized pile. “Mutated equestrian offspring.” Jason said with a grin, his eyes sparkling as he glanced down at a confused Lance. “Huh?”
A peaceful early-summer sun beat down upon the group, making even unloading the truck a sweat-inducing experience. The sky was cloudless and bright blue, threatening the rest of the day with extreme heat. If they could find a way down into the shady hollow of the valley of Hell and find a place to camp, it wouldn’t be a bad day. If they trekked up and down the ridge without finding a path through the jagged rocks and steep sides of the ravine, they would cook like burgers on a grill. Alex quickly shouldered his pack, wandering back to the edge of the ravine as he adjusted it, looking down into the depths of the wooded valley. He turned impatiently back to the group; Lance was sitting on the bed of the truck, drinking from a water bottle; Jason was struggling to get his over-loaded pack onto his skinny shoulders, chasing the straps around in a circle like a cat with its tail; the three girls were picking over their packs, gossiping away as they decided what to carry on the first trip. Most of the gear would be left by the truck; once they had found their camping spot, preferably near water, they would hike back and carry the rest. Alex took a deep breath of fresh mountain air, trying to calm his tingling nerves; whatever happened on this trip, whether they found a way into the valley of Hell or not, he was ready for an adventure.
Maybe I've been wrong all these years, and it's taken your inspiring speech to make me see it. You've really changed me. It's beautiful. I think we've gotta hug