The cloud cover brought on night sooner in the day than expected. Charli turned off her flashlight and slowed her steps when she thought she heard voices ahead of her. The cave and growing station were still more than an hour of walking away. She and her mother knew all the rangers assigned to this area, who in turn knew the Carsons had permission to be in the forest. Any strangers she encountered either had no business being in the wildlife preserve at all, or they had gone out of the area they were allowed to be in through accident or arrogance. No matter the reason, she didn’t want to run into anyone and have to explain what she was doing out here, so far from a ranger station or an access road, so late in the day. Nobody knew about the cave that had been set up and equipped as a secondary camp or the meadow in front of the cave and rock face that would soon be set up with the growing trays. Charli preferred to keep it that way.
The voices got louder. She estimated at least four men. They sounded a little too happy-loud. With her luck, they were campers who had violated the guidelines and hauled in several cases of beer, right under the noses of the park rangers. It wasn’t that alcohol wasn’t allowed in the wildlife preserve, but rather the bottles or cans it came in. Too many campers tossed their trash and expected it to vanish among the underbrush, instead of packing and hauling it out per the wildlife preserve rules.