It's tougher than watching it on TV

I've admitted it before and I'll say it again, I am a huge fan of reality shows -- just a couple of them. Oh I know, as much as I rant about enjoying "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race," there are those of you who find them offensive. In fact, some...

I've admitted it before and I'll say it again, I am a huge fan of reality shows -- just a couple of them. Oh I know, as much as I rant about enjoying "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race," there are those of you who find them offensive. In fact, some wonder how anyone with any substance or intellect could lower their standards by viewing programs contributing so little to society, promoting questionable ethics, exploiting scantily clad participants and essentially contaminating not just America, but the global population of humankind.

Yeah, whatever, I just think they're fun. Last weekend brought an inkling of what it must be like to be a part of one. Each summer, our children gather from whence they scattered (except for one -- who in the scattering rolled all the way to Alaska) and get together for camping. This year we chose Kathio State Park near Mille Lacs Lake.

The three who planned the weekend set up a Surviving-Race-Scavenger Hunt-Game-Thingy with clues and riddles and quests that led us weaving in and around the park.

The weather was hot. Sweltering. True to the real reality shows, I was scantily clad. It doesn't paint a pretty picture, but like I said, it was hot and, well, the kids have to put up with me.

The three who created this extravaganza split the rest of us into three teams of three and gave directions about the game. I was paired with my oldest daughter and my second to youngest daughter.


I've never been good at following directions. My daughters didn't fall far from the tree. We were doomed. As our son-in-law read rule after rule, direction after direction, his voice took on that whah-whah-whah sound of Charlie Brown's teacher in the Snoopy cartoons. When he finally took a breath and asked if we understood, we simply replied, "huh?" But then a glimmer of hope appeared as he presented the first challenge. "Finish a crossword puzzle, then go to your vehicle and start the race."

Well, well -- a crossword puzzle -- our expressions of confusion spread into wide smiles. My oldest and I have always loved words and flew through clue after clue. Her sister contributed when she could get a word in and got ready to run armed with a map of the park.

"Done!" we yelled as I grabbed the keys, our guide grabbed the grandbaby, and we all headed to the truck.

"We're in the lead," we giggled as our guide read the next clue. "Something about Touch the Earth, something, something," we repeated to the map holder.

"Take a left," she said, "it's a trail! Touch the Earth is a trail. We need a picture!" A quick snapshot by a rustic trail sign and we were off.

The next clue, a riddle, basically said that one member had to run into the water up to their neck and get their picture taken. Throwing her map as I pulled the truck into the swimming area the youngest of us started shedding shorts and tank top, down to her swimsuit, as she pummeled the sand with her racing feet.

"Deeper, deeper, you have to be up to your neck!"

"Just take the picture," she yelled, splashing back to shore.


"Next clue," we screamed to our guide as we tumbled into the truck.

"Here they come!" Our competitors were closing in.

"Hope your legs don't fail, down the Kathio Landmark Trail, the length of a football field -- you're done -- not quite, on the ground lies a floating 50-won," the guide said.


"Landmark Trail, Landmark Trail," we told the dripping map-holder.

"We're still ahead of them, let's go!"

"Turn left and then right."

"There it is, there it is! What the heck is 50-won?"


The doors flew open and our legs didn't fail but we did run into a T in the trail. "Which way? Where? 50-won?"

That's when it happened. We made our first mistake. We turned right instead of left.

We walked and walked. It wasn't long and we huffed and puffed, at least two of us did. Our little map holder sprinted ahead like a gazelle in a stampede.

That was the beginning of the end.

My flip-flops rubbed forth a righteous blister on the top of my foot.

It was hot. I was fat. The racing gazelle was long gone not realizing that, according to the clue, she was measuring out the longest football field in history.

We lost a team member. That just can't be good for points.

And then we split up -- another strike against us. The oldest continued to track little Miss Gazelle. I turned back and found that "50-won" was scratched into a slab of cement at a campsite at the end of Landmark Trail. I still didn't understand what it meant but had we turned left back at the T, we would have not understood sooner. It would have saved us a lot of pain, not to mention hearing the other teams giggle and laugh as they passed us up.


We figured we probably lost (duh!) -- and that we should maybe find our teammate (we did).

In the end, we also found what we went looking for in the first place -- laughter and fun and time well spent with people you love. In reality, I guess that makes us all winners.

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