Many years ago, I used to be on staff at Boy Scout summer camps in Oregon. These were some of the best times of my life, and I'm sure I will write more about my experiences there later on.
During one particular summer at Camp Melakwa (which is high in the Three Sisters Wilderness area), I shared quarters with Jared. He and I were on Outbound staff together, leading groups of younger scouts on hiking trips outside of the camp. These trips ranged from short half-day hikes to other nearby mountain lakes, to the big climb up the Middle Sister, which was a two day event. Although not a difficult climb, nor requiring any technical gear, the Middle Sister offered young scouts a challenge, and the view from the summitt was always a humbling and breath-taking sight to see.
Jared and I had a mutual respect of one another, and we became fast friends. We were also both pranksters, and have each told the story of a particularly well executed prank many times over.
Although we fell out of touch after camp was over, I've thought about Jared many times, wondering in what direction life had taken him. Curiosity and the desire to reconnect finally grew too strong to ignore about two months ago, so I decided to look him up.
I figured whitepages.com was a good starting place, but I couldn't remember the name of the town he was from. So, I went down a list of all the Oregon cities and towns until I found one that sounded right; Lowell, OR.
My search came up empty at first - there was no Jared by the last name I was searching for in Lowell, but it did suggest one in Colorado, near where my Father-in-Law lives.
Now wouldn't that be a glorious coincidence if this Jared is the very Jared I was seeking out? A 20 minute drive from where Hannah and I would soon be visiting would be all that stood between myself and my friend that I had last seen 15 years prior.
So, I called the number. Voicemail.
Unfortunately, not "Hi! This is Jared, originally from Oregon and a former Camp Melakwa staff member. Please leave a message after the beep."
No. It was one of those generic "The party you are calling..." messages recorded by the same woman who we've all listened to a thousand times before. It seems silly that nobody knows her name.
Now, I'm not one for leaving messages on some machine, which seems ironic as I type this, as that is the exact thing I'm doing now, and with every email message I send on a daily basis...
Over the next week or so, I called the same number time and again, sure that at some point, someone would answer, equally convinced that the someone on the other end of the line would be annoyed to the power of ten with each time my number displayed on their caller id, no message accompanying it.
Then, on Sunday night, expecting to be greeted by Lorraine's friendly voice yet again, (not even making that up), I was instead surprised by a deep voiced "Hello?"
"Hi. I'm looking for somebody by the name of Jared, from Lowell, OR?"
"Who is this?" - Confused, annoyed... I couldn't really tell.
"Is this Jared from Lowell?"
"Jared, you're talking to Brian from Camp Melakwa."
"Holy shit! How did you find me?"
After a brief conversation, explaining how I had come to find his number, and the fact that we were very nearby, we discovered that we were both planning a skiing trip for that Wednesday, Christmas Eve. It only made sense that we go together.
So, on Christmas Eve morning, we met up at a gas station, and Jared, Hannah, Mike and myself enjoyed a day of skiing, visiting, laughing, catching up, and telling the old stories that are so fondly embeded in our memories.
It feels good to reconnect with a great friend!