Essay on Forty Years in the Wilderness

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Forty Years in the Wilderness

Clouds of dust billowed behind our jeep like a filthy veil. Scrawny boys in underwear left their jacks to chase us. Seconds later, they trailed off calling "gringos." A bachata blared in the distance as we pulled up to the palm hut that doubled as a ranger station. Two shirtless rangers leaned against grimy cases displaying ceramic idols and shards of bowls. Sitting around over cups of steaming coffee, one ranger amused us with cuentos while Mom bartered with the other for a guide.

Crabs scurried across the trail. My family and I tromped behind the ranger, eager to see caves decorated by Taino Indians. We were confident that this hike into a National Park would be an exciting challenge like our
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Moist air trapped inside weighed us down like a heavy wool blanket. The stench of decaying guano assaulted our nostrils in waves. Sarah slid on the slippery cave floor and the piercing echo of her cry taunted her clumsiness. Gaping holes in the walls of the chamber triggered chilling thoughts of sinister things hiding in the shadows. The guide climbed into one of the rocky tunnels and we slid after him like seals. When my turn came, I was shaking uncontrollably with fear, but I managed to climb in. With no space to sit up or breathe and nowhere to go but forward, my throat constricted. Granite closed in on me from every side. A few slithers later, the tunnel opened into a massive cave. Dizzily, we glanced around the chamber covered with simple Taino carvings. Stick figures and geometric designs decorated the ceiling with tales of rituals and battles. Bats enveloped us as we gazed up, like a curtain dropping at the end of an act.

A flashlight burnt out. Although no one actually admitted it, we were scared that the second light could burn out as well. Stumbling through caverns in complete darkness slapped us as a blood chilling possibility. The picture of death in slow agony from a stalactite concussion was terrifying. After a heated discussion, the ranger decided that the best escape route was to climb up to an opening in the ceiling. We anonymously agreed to his plan, overjoyed at finding a way out without risking a return trip through the caves. The

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