The day was meant for walking.

It was a non-working Saturday for the Youth Conservation Corps residential camp stationed at Mount Rainier National Park.  My fellow crew leader Jimmy and I had posted a sign-up list at breakfast for anyone interested in joining us on a “Country Ramble,” a slow go-where-the feelings take you hiking activity, ending with a surprise cornucopia picnic.

Eighteen curious, somewhat skeptical high school kids decided to join us.  “This better be good man!”  Man, the weather was good and the trail — wonder-full and not too strenuous.  Jimmy and co-leader Jeff, master duo of preventing teenage boredom, were at their best, utilizing a bit of sports-talk and off-beat humor to ensure wide-eyed interest.  “What do you mean you don’t believe in Bigfoot?  didn’t we ever tell you about the time…”

Perceptive individuals in our group noticed that Jimmy and I were carrying burdensome packs, though no provisions were required for this jaunt.  We told them to just bring water and if necessary, extra clothing.

“What about lunch?”

“We’ll be back in time,” we dodged.

“Jimmy, how do we convince the group that you and I should go ahead of the others?”

“Jeff, take over.  Thell them we’re running after a bear or decided on the spur of the moment to climb the mountain.  Go over safety procedures again.  Just give us a 15 minute headstart.  Thanks!”

Our mad rush began at the steepest section of the trail, with a ton of food and drink and bowls breaking our backs.  Fifty yard sprints, with brief stops to bring our heart rates down to safer levels, became our exhaustive pattern.  Finally, we reached our destination: flowerland, gateway to Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground, the most sublime wildflower garden I know.  An added feature was a front row view of majestic 14,000 foot Mount Rainier.

Where to eat?  Where to seat 21 people?  We unraveled our loot and donned chef’s hats.  Jimmy would be the maitre d’ greeting each important guest.  I would be the entertainment playing on a wooden flute, setting the festive mood.  As we removed food from our packs, we began to carefully set up a most beautiful looking buffet in the “dining hall of the mountain queen..”  No plastic to be seen.

How much would you pay to dine in an establishment with such essential atmosphere: a spectacular view of Rainier, acres of wildflowers encircling your table, newly-made air, the freshest water, and two cordial waiters at your service?

We rushed about, anxious and excited, hoping the customers would not arrive too soon for the surprise.  The aroma of vine-ripened strawberries overhwlemed all other natural perfumes.  The air was alive with the whirr of life.  Then voices.  Just as the last basket of fruit was in place, Jeff and the hikers came into view.  Even the kids who thought they knew what we were up to were to were amazed, and heads bobbed simultaneously in approval.  Jimmy raised his arms high beaming, “Welcome to Indian Henry’s!”  ~