Escape Through the Wilderness
Title: Escape Through the Wilderness
Author: Gary Rodrgiuez
Genre: Tween/Young Adult Christian Adventure
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Tate Publishing (June 2014)
Chapter 1 Reveal:
Saturday, 8:14 p.m.
This is a KGX Channel 7 Breaking News Report. I’m
Four teenagers have gone missing tonight from an adventure
camp in Northern Idaho. Early reports say the teens and their
river guide were involved in a rafting accident sometime this
afternoon. Their names are being withheld pending notification
of their parents. Rescue teams are being assembled, according
to local authorities. The camp earns the title, “The safest camp
in Idaho” every year. Tragically, after today all that has changed
forever. Stay tuned to KGX Channel 7 for more details as they
Thursday, two days earlier
It was a warm August afternoon and Camp Arrowhead buzzed with
activity. New teen campers had been streaming in since mid-morning.
Savannah Evans, who had arrived earlier in the day, was heading toward
the message board to check out the day’s schedule when she noticed
another car pull into the drop zone.
Curious, she waited to catch a glimpse of the new camper. But
before she saw the passenger, a huge commotion exploded in the arriving
An agitated woman who appeared to be the girl’s mother started yelling
from inside of the car. “Come on, Jade! Hurry up and get out of the car;
we’ve got a plane to catch!”
Savannah watched in shock as the distraught girl scurried out of the
backseat as fast as she could. In tow were a backpack, two suitcases, and a
purse slowly winding itself around the poor girl’s arm. In an instant the auto
sped off, leaving a trail of dust and the young teen in a heap. There were
no hugs or even attempts at a goodbye, only a heartless door slam and
the vehicle peeling off at a high rate of speed.
Staggering under the weight of her load, the devastated girl fell to the
ground and began sobbing.
Savi was stunned by the dramatic scene happening in front of her.
What was THAT all about? Was that her mom? Savannah thought to herself.
Pretty rough no matter who it was!
She felt sorry for the distraught new arrival crying on the ground.
“How embarrassed I’d feel if that was me, especially with everybody
watching.” She thought.
“I should go and help her.”
She hurried over to the drop off area, bent down on one knee, and did her
best to comfort the frazzled stranger.
“Can I help you with some of this stuff? It looks like a lot for one person
Startled, the girl at first tried to shake off the unwelcome intruder. “Leave
me alone—I don’t need any help,” she said in a harsh tone. “Who are you,
“My name’s Savannah, but my friends call me Savi. I...I just thought you
could use some help.”
Savi waited patiently for the girl to collect herself. Slowly she lifted her
tear-stained face to see who had spoken to her so kindly. The sight
of her face made Savannah inhale sharply.
“What? I look stupid, right? I already know that.” The girl said even more
“No, not at all. I wasn’t thinking anything like that.
It’s just...you’re really pretty.”
In her sixteen years of living in Oxford, Mississippi she never saw a girl as
beautiful as this one. Despite the tear tracks on her face and a pair of puffy
eyes, she looked like a real life sized china doll. Her milky white complexion
contrasted by her long shiny black hair was stunning. When you added
in her soft delicate features, she was flawless. As close to perfect as a girl
her age could look.
The girl finally realized that Savi was only trying to be friendly and helpful.
“Thanks for saying that, Savi, but I don’t feel very pretty right now...My name’s
Jade Chang—Sorry I snapped at you—Do you mind if I call you Savi?”
“Not at all, I’d like that,” Savi replied with a smile.
“I feel like such a fool. I can’t believe my mother did that to me,” she said
shaking her head.
“Well...you’re not going to have to deal with her for a while. Come on. Let’s go
see what cabin you’re in... Maybe we’re in the same one.”
Jade stood up and with Savi’s help gathered up her belongings and headed for
the camp office. As they walked, Savi looked down at Jade’s Coach purse, Tumi
suitcases, and North Face backpack. All this great stuff... but she still seems so
During their walk to the office, Savi looked over at Jade and could see she
was deep in thought and that her heart was heavy. So while carrying her suitcase
with her right hand, she lifted her left and patted her gently on the back. Jade was
touched by the kind gesture so she glanced over at Savi and gave her a friendly
smile. Savi grinned friend at camp.
“Savi, I noticed you’re limping. Did you hurt your ankle?”
“Actually, I hurt it a few years ago,” she replied. “Oh I didn’t mean to...”
“That’s okay, it’s no big deal.”
“No, really,” Jade said apologetically, “I’m sorry for being so nosey.”
“No worries,” Savi replied. “It’s not as if you asked me how much I weigh or
something,” as she rolled her eyes and gave Jade a friendly nudge with her elbow.
Both girls laughed and continued walking toward the camp office. On the way,
Savi said to Jade, “How ‘bout I tell you the story about my ankle later?” Then the
two of them agreed to put off the subject for another time.
When they arrived at the office, they looked for the cabin assignments posted
outside the door. Savi could tell Jade was already feeling a bit more comfortable
and starting to relax.
“Jade over here...Those are the boys’ cabins...Here’s the girls’. I’m sure they’d
be thrilled to see you, though,” Savi joked.
Embarrassed, Jade threw her head back and then made her way over to where
Savi was standing in front of the girls’ cabin assignment board.
“You said, ‘Chang,’ right?” Savi asked, running her finger down the list of
“That’s right,” Jade replied.
“Here you are...Oh that stinks! We’re in different cabins,” Savi noted.“Want to
go inside and see if they’ll move us to the same one?”
Jade looked over at her and paused a moment... “Umm, okay. That sounds
The girls did their best to convince the camp director that they should be in the
same cabin. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t budge. But he told them he’d keep in mind
their desire to be together when planning future events. When they left the office,
the girls decided to drop off Jade’s stuff at her cabin and grab a cool drink. After
leaving the snack shack, they found a shady spot on a carved log bench.
“I promised I’d tell you about my ankle. I guess this is as good a time as any.”
“You know you don’t have to,” Jade replied.
“I know, but I want you to know how I got my limp.”
“I have to admit...I am a bit curious.”
“Well, when I was eight years old, the U.S. National Gymnastics Team came to
Oxford, Mississippi to put on an exhibition at Ole Miss.”
“Ole Miss?” questioned Jade.
“Oh sorry, that’s short for University of Mississippi. Anyway, my dad took me to
see the competition and that event changed my life.”
Jade shrugged. “How?”
“Watching the different routines was so cool. I instantly fell in love with
gymnastics, particularly the balance beam. The girls were so graceful but strong
at the same time. I dreamed of becoming one of them. For the next three years I
trained on the beam and competed in a bunch of events. My goal was to make the
U.S. National Team.”
Suddenly, Savi stopped. “I’m not boring you, am I?”
“No, not at all! I’m really interested. Keep going.”
“In just three years, I was ranked fourth in the nation in my age category.
Everybody was so proud of me. But only the top three girls went to nationals.
The final cuts were a few years ago in Nashville. I was tied for second place
with this girl named Julie, with only one routine to go—I was freaking out! I knew
my only hope of beating her and advancing was to do a flawless routine and
stick my landing. Everything was going great until my final element, an aerial
summersault. It was always my most challenging move. I was hoping I could pull
it off. The summersault was perfect but as I landed on the beam...” Savi paused
and looked down at her ankle. “My left foot hit the beam wrong and my ankle
snapped like a dry branch.”
“Oh my gosh, that’s awful! I’m so sorry.”
“Yeah, me too. Because that ended my career in gymnastics and my dream of
going to the Olympics.”
“They couldn’t fix it?” Jade asked.
“They tried, but it never healed quite right, so I’ve learned to live with it. I get
around just fine, though.”
“I can see that—Wow! That’s quite a story. Thanks for telling it to me.”
“Well, now you know a little about me, but I know absolutely nothing about you.
Next time we meet, it’s your turn.”
“That’s a deal.”
They both finished their drinks and stood up.
“I can’t believe how tall you are! You must be at least 5'7".”
“Actually, I’m 5'8",” Jade said proudly.
“I knew you were up there. I’ve always been on the short side. Only 5'2". But you
know what they say, ‘good things come in small packages.’” Jade smiled and
nodded in agreement. Then they said good-bye, and headed toward their separate
Savi called over her shoulder, “I’ll look for you later!”
“Okay, later!” Jade yelled back.
Savi was on the way back to her cabin when she came upon three boys leaning
against a big tree, joking around with each other. She caught one of the boy’s eyes
and he watched her as she walked by toward the cabins. He immediately noticed
her limp and nudged his friends. “Look at that one. I didn’t know this camp was
open to special needs kids!” he said in a raised voice, most likely for her to hear.
Again, the same boy blurted out, “I hope they don’t match me up on some activity
with ‘lame girl.’”
Savi overheard the insult but pretended she didn’t. She also heard one of the
boys standing with him say, “Nice one, Conner!”
By the time Savi reached her cabin, she was red-faced and fuming. Alone,
sitting on her bed, she stared out the window at Conner. She watched as he and
his friends amused themselves at the expense of others walking by.
Here we go again, she thought to herself. I thought I left those bullies back
at school! Then, she rose to her feet and stepped outside of the cabin. With an
animated face and a loud voice she yelled in the bully’s direction, “Hey, Conner!
Your mom’s on the phone and says you forgot to pack your blankie and Batman
Instantly, a roar of laughter erupted from those within earshot of her clever
retort. This time it was Conner’s turn to feel the sting of humiliation. He slinked
away to his cabin not to be seen again until the dinner bell.
Savi stood in front of her cabin triumphant, though she did feel somewhat
ashamed for finding the taste of revenge so sweet. Suddenly, a familiar voice
shouted from across the campground, “Savi, come look! We’re paired up together
for tomorrow’s rafting trip! We’re in the same raft!”
She leaped for joy and joined Jade at the message board for an energetic high
“And guess what? There are boys in our raft. Two of them!” Jade proclaimed
excitedly. “One’s named Rico Cruz and the other is some guy named Conner
“What?” Savi yelled. “Conner...I just met that jerk! I’m not getting in a raft with him.
No way!” Savi vowed.
“Oh, yes you are, little lady!” Savi heard Camp Director Anderson say forcefully
behind her. “All raft assignments are final. What’s done is done. There will be NO
changes!” the director reiterated as he walked away.
Savi stood staring blankly at the message board.
What could be worse than being in a raft with Conner Swift! It wouldn’t be
long before she’d find out.
About the author:
His first book Purpose-Centered Public Speaking was an instant hit and recently republished by Tate Publishing.
His extensive resume includes eighteen years as an executive in the radio business where he spent several years as one of the original managers of Infinity Broadcasting. He was twice nominated as medium market manager of the year by the Bobby Poe report, a national media publication.
For over thirty-five years, Gary has spoken in public both nationally and internationally.
Gary’s resume includes a season in the U.S. Army where he was highly decorated as
the youngest Drill Instructor in the Army's history at age 18 years. He was also awarded
the Silver Star (the nation's third highest award for valor) while serving in Viet Nam.
Visit the book’s website at http://ettw.tateauthor.com/ You can also find Gary at
http://leadermetrix.com/ and http://www.leadermetrix.com/authorspeaker.