Saturday we loaded up my Jeep with David’s mountain bike, my camera back pack and told the kids to put on their hiking shoes— we were going hiking while David rode the trails at a local state park that we hadn’t ever been to. The kids were less than thrilled, seeing that it was already 1,000 degrees outside and their idea of a nice relaxing afternoon involved an air conditioned house with their computer games and Tumblr account. But they put on their shoes, grabbed water bottles and Camelbacks and did as they were told because they had no choice in the matter as far as Mom and Dad were concerned. They were going to go whether they liked it or not.
Little did we know that this would be the last time we saw David for a good 5 hours.
The kids and I picked a trail, the Clifty Creek Loop, that was supposed to lead us to water and who can resist a good creek to play in on a hot summer day? So we set off, somewhat subdued and quiet, but in good spirits overall. The trail was gorgeous, nice and shady, with tall pine trees blocking the sun and scenting the air with their good piney scent. The path was nice and smooth, not rocky or studded with tree roots at all. A nice welcome after the trails here around Fayetteville. Those trails you tend to see your life flash before your eyes as you’re hiking or running them. But this trail was nice and tame.
We made it to the creek, sweaty and tired, and really looking forward to splashing, cooling off and resting a bit before trekking back to the car. I broke out the snacks, passed them around and we all took swigs from our water bottles and began looking for water.
Meghan and Joey and I all seemed to have completely forgotten that we are in the midst of an extreme drought and all the water we could find was just a little bitty trickle coming down through the rocks. I’m sure at one point it had been a jolly babbling little brook, providing water for deer, coyotes and other wildlife, but well, just not this summer.After the disappointing discovery of not having a creek to play in (and my whole spinning of “Come on! This hike will be fun! There’ll be water to play in and we can throw rocks and wade!”), we set off to finish up the loop.
Now in Meghans’s defense, she did take the lead and find where we were on my iPhone map later on . . . and she did find the road that led us to civilization and to David and to Five Guys for dinner that night . . . but she did mis-read the actual distance of the Little Clifty Loop Trail, mixing it up with another trail.
Little Clifty Loop was actually nine miles long instead of the three miles that we all thought we were going to hike.
Except we didn’t find that out until after we met up with David at nearly 6:00 that evening.I thought poor little Joey was going to collapse as the hours dragged on and his snack pack of Cheez-its wore off. At one point as we were straggling along the by now not-so-pretty-and-fun trails, I stopped and tried to rally the troops by suggesting that we do as Bear Grylls would do on Man vs. Wild. Except there were no glacial lakes to jump into buck naked like he always seems to be doing. Humor by now was not appreciated; instead tears were pretty close at hand as Joey tried mighty hard to fight them back. He was lagging behind Meghan and me, and flashbacks of my own forced family hikes I had to endure growing up kept surfacing. I told Meghan to forge ahead, that I was going to fall back and keep Joey company and try to raise his spirits.
I do have a tiny little confession to make.
I was actually really enjoying being outdoors in the wild, so to speak. Even though I hated family hikes as a kid, one thing that they did teach me was how beautiful nature is. I could feel the muscles in my legs as we climbed uphill and feel the bright sun beating down me. The quietness of the woods, the breezes blowing through the trees, the crunch of the leaves underfoot, the smell of the pine needles all around. I found myself imagining that I was an Indian, out hunting for my dinner, that I couldn’t make a noise lest it scared the prey away. Later when I told Meghan and Joey over dinner how I spent the time on the trail, they just looked at me and rolled their eyes in disgust.
And whodathunk that out in the woods like that that my cell phone would work? We found that out when David called, asking where we were. It was actually him that told us that we had taken the wrong trail and that instead of hiking an easy 3-mile loop, we were instead hiking a 9-mile loop.
We gave up on the trail when we finally found the road again that would take us back up to the parking lot that we had left days ago (or so it seemed in our minds at the time) and started hiking once again. Although, “hiking” is supposed to be associated with fun. This activity was anything but, trudging was more like it, with Joey barely lifting his feet. We had just taken a short little rest when what to our wondering eyes did appear but David on his orange and black mountain bike, heading our way. Turns out that Joey had the car keys in his pocket the entire time and David had been waiting for us, having finished his ride hours ago. He did have a good chat with his dad on the phone, though, so it wasn’t a total waste of time for him. Anyway, our rescuer tossed his freshly filled water bottles (there was a water fountain at the trail head and David had filled up before coming out to find us), grabbed the car keys and five minutes later returned with the Jeep, air conditioning blasting away inside.
Dave and I plan on going back out to this same state park this weekend. He’ll ride while I run the 3-mile trail. But this time I plan on double, triple and quadruple checking the distance before I set out.
And something tells me that the kids will come up with some emergency social plans that they simply can’t miss.