Stacy brushed her hand over her bare calf to swat away whatever tickled her skin. They swished through knee-high grasses encroaching on the skinny dirt trail leading to the “perfect camping spot.” Those were her boyfriend’s words- not hers.
At that moment, Kenny turned and smiled. “Keeping up okay?”
She glared, even though he couldn’t get the full effect through her dark sunglasses. “Are we almost there?”
“Another half mile, I think.” He turned and continued on the path.
Stacy shifted the pack and winced when she moved the strap that had been digging into her hip for the last two hours. Her friends thought she was nuts for agreeing to go on this trip, but she had a feeling he planned to propose. After dating for three years, she didn’t want to miss it. Still, she couldn’t figure out what gave him the impression she would enjoy this.
Nearly an hour later they stopped and peered down an embankment.
“I’ll help you down,” he said, offering his left hand.
She shook her head. “It’s too steep. Can’t we just set up the tent here?”
“On the trail?” He laughed. “You can do this.”
“I don’t think my shoes are grippy en-“
He tugged her down the slope before she could finish her protest.
A few feet from flat ground, she lost her footing. Kenny’s body broke her fall. “Sorry,” she muttered before rolling to the side. The momentum flipped her onto her back.
He gasped a few breaths. “There. We made it.” He pointed to the left, toward a thicket of scrub oak trees. “We can camp there.”
Stacy felt like a turtle overturned on its shell since her abdominal muscles couldn’t right her while strapped to a thirty-pound pack. Grateful, she accepted his extended hand and ignored the barely-stifled snicker.
After they pitched the tent, he cooked pork and beans over a campfire. As he cleaned the dishes, she paused to listen to the creek. She watched the water rush over rocks, creating mini whitecaps. She had to admit; it was pretty here. She turned toward a scraping noise behind her and saw Kenny hoisting their packs into a tree with a rope he’d thrown over a sturdy branch. “What are you doing?”
He paused. “Stowing our packs.”
“Why not put them in the tent?”
“Bears.” He grunted as he threw his weight into a pull.
“Bears?” Panic edged into her voice.