Curled up in a beach chair, I hunt the myriad of specks for a streak. Flanked by two best friends, all fighting for a piece of the blanket, I search for luck in the Shenandoah sky — a shooting star. To a flat-lander (dubbed so by mountain-folk), shooting for the stars involves a high probability of missing. The industrial glow of Virginia Beach diffuses that of any celestial bodies; only the brightest planets and stars shine through the diaphanous haze. But here, 3,535 feet above sea level, starlight can compete with the moon.
Honorable Mention 2009 FTF Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
I was put in charge of the final “trip” before my best friend Bekka went to college, and knew exactly where I would take us. Big Meadows Campground in Shenandoah National Park provides both the close proximity with nature I love and the comforts of a mirror my two comrades could not live without. The four hour drive alone was an adventure, from strange substances hitting the windshield to a minute-by-minute video documentary Emily found absolutely necessary. After rolling and winding for an hour, windows down and music blasting, we came upon the long awaited sign- Welcome to Big Meadows Campground. Cell phones already dead, our emancipation was complete.
Being the experienced camper, I was designated to bring the tent. And the tent bag did arrive at site A-84 as planned, just not with all of the necessary pieces. So the tent was slightly lopsided? We decided it added character. Provisions were the next obstacle. I may have underestimated the amount of food three girls consume per day, and by the next evening we were on a first-name basis with the camp-store employees. In one area I was completely prepared, however. Before the trip I had researched things to do, and discovered every night the Big Meadows Lodge, located next to the campground, hosted musical entertainment. Such amusement was held in the “Tap Room”, which we later determined also made delicious pizzas.
Every night, after strenuous hiking, the three of us would skip to the lodge and down the dimly lit steps, descending into a rustic wood-paneled room. The musicians hailed from nearby towns and were cultured in folk songs and stories of the mountains. When asked to sing along, our table was by far the most enthusiastic- even just a “whoop” after a verse was sufficient to have us doubled over in laughter. Trudging back to our site, our tilted tent beckoned with the prospect of our not-quite-thick-enough pile of sleeping bags, the occasional root or rock digging into our bones.
But the last night was different. It was the end, our final moments together for a long time. And so as we lay below the night sky I glimpsed the first shooting star of the evening, and privately wished the night to last forever…
Emily turns to me and the starlight glints off her mischievous eyes.
“Look at the stars.” she sighs in her most convincing regal voice, “The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars…”
I catch on to her allusion and Bekka begins to giggle. We all know what must follow.
“Naaaaaaaaa syboingdahhhhhhhhhhh baba geeshhgeeshkamoee, whenwhenya hae…”
From there the entire dialogue, songs included, of the Lion King is recited. Brief pauses are allowed for wiping tears from eyes, accumulated from excessive laughter. Eyes streaked, abs sore, the recitation ends with our faces still plastered toward the sky.
“I can’t believe we’re practically adults now,” Bekka sighs.
When our faces finally stray from the stars they search each others’, and we smile.
“Practically,” I say.
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