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Just two hikes : no more!

During my two years at Woodstock, I have managed to go on only two overnight hikes. Our first camp was at Witches Hill, in my first semester of 11 th grade. We were a group of four boys. None of us had any hiking experience and that added to our excitement of going to our first hike. We didn't know the way up the hill and so we got Soenam Dorjee and Emmu to lead us there.

We were scheduled to leave on a Saturday afternoon and be back the next day by 5 pin. We went to the buzz in the morning. We bought cans of Baked Beans, Ham, TP etc as though we were going as far as Rajasthan. We didn't take any ground pads thinking it would be nice and flat for us to sleep out there.

I hate walking and so the fifty minutes to the hill felt as though I had been walking for hours, but the excitement encouraged me. It was hard for us to keep up with Emmu and Soenam who were to drop us there and come back. We finally made it at around 3:15 pm and checked out the place.

It was amazingly beautiful on that cloudy day. The view from the top of the hill in the evening was breathtaking. There were beautiful and colorful flowers all around us. We found a great spot and rolled out our sleeping bags. It wasn't as easy a job as you would expect it to be.

Sailesh and Varun had an argument upon who would sleep in the middle as they were scared of witches coming at night and also feared that they could roll down the hill while sleeping. then came the solution. Brave Rahil and Ankur agreed to sleep on the sides.

Then came the most frustrating part of the hike : us trying to get a fire started. We gathered dry wood and leaves from around the place and luckily we didn't forget a matchbox, but it was the kerosene this time. We dumped all the firewood in the middle thinking it would catch fire as con as we would throw a match in it. A strong wind was blowing and it was hard to even keep the match lighted, forget the wood. then smart Varun came up with one of his bright ideas. "Guys, why don't we use the TP to light the wood." Yah., yah, everyone agreed with him. We ended up burning the three rolls of TP just trying to get a fire started. The burning TP provided heat for some time but not for very long and that was the end of the heat for the night. We ate a little and then played some cards under the light of the torches. we had brought along. We then lay down and talked about the beauty of the place, and then the girls of our class. Next we took some photos to preserve some memories and at around midnight we all got cozy in our bags and continued to chat. Looking up into the sky, I saw about five shooting stars, but forgot to wish that nothing went wrong that night.

We all slept at around one. At three in the morning, Sailesh got up. The noise he made when he got up made me open my eyes too. The next thing I heard was Sailesh screaming, "Guys get up, We've lost our shoes." I quickly got out of my sleeping bag and made sure. Yes they were missing. I woke up everyone else and we began to search for them around the place. They had vanished. But where could they be? No one was seen, there was no noise, no wicked laughter of the three witches, nothing at all. I was very upset I had bought that pair of Nikes at the beginning of the semester for $140. I had hardly got to wear them and now they were lost. Everyone else was too tired to continue a search and they suggested that we look for them in the morning when there would be more light.

As we got into our sleeping bags, Rahil claimed that he saw a black dog with a white tail come next to him at night, but he was too scared to shoo it away, and instead put his head in the bag. We all believed his story that a dog had come in the night and had gathered our shoes and hid them someplace. (Now I feel so stupid that I actually believed him.)

"We'll track the dog in the morning," said Varun and they all went back to sleep. I tried, but I couldn't get the thought out of my head.

When we got up in the morning, we spread out into the different sides of the hill to find out what had happened. We looked [++page 8] out for a big barking black dog with a white tail, but had no hope. We eventually packed our bags and headed back bare footed. The road was rocky and full of pointed stones. We stopped very often and at one point we put leaves into our socks to reduce the pain, but they didn't help coz the socks finally ripped. We stopped at Dhobighat on the way still looking for the big black dog with a white tail, which only "the great one", Rahil, had seen. We asked him stupid questions like "How big was it? Were you able to see the size of its teeth?" There were about three dogs at the ghat, but none of them fitted Rahil's description of the dog.

We had given up by the time we got back to dorms at about 9:30 AM. When we told anyone what had happened they just laughed in our faces. Rahil and I walked straight into the dining hall to get some breakfast while Sailesh and Varun said they were going to clean up. As 1 grabbed a plate, Varun came running into the dining hall and said,"Guys, the suff is all on my bed." 1 ran into Varun's room to actually find all our stuff including the shoes and a can of ham lying on his bed. Next to the stuff there was a message and it read,"You have been struck by the midnight devil."

We suffered a lot of humiliation from the incident and everyone who heard the story just couldn't stop laughing. This was probably one of the most embarassing moments of my life. That day 1 took an oath that 1 would never get my shoes off when I went to sleep on an over-night hike. But some people never learn, do they?

Yes, it happened again to me on my second hike, but I won't go into details. I have put myself down enough.

Ankur Kakkar, '98.

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