Let's face it, it's usually me who gets all "Must. Get. Out. Of. Town...NOW!" and plans field trips for Team WestEnders. But this time, Husband apparently got the travel itch, and proposed a hiking excursion to finish up the boys' Spring Break strong. He found the Uwharrie Forest in a guidebook that we own, and pinpointed two treks that sounded about the right length and difficulty. With the location being just under 2 hours of driving distance from us, he figured we could do one on Saturday, stay overnight in a nearby hotel, and tackle the second before returning home on Sunday.
My portion of the preparation lay in securing the all-important "place to crash". Now, back in my younger wandering days, this was no more complicated than looking up a hostel in which to snooze. (Yes, I'm sure you noticed how I refrained from using the verb "Google", as this was in the Dark Ages...pre-Internet. I know, right: GASP! And not one word from the Peanut Gallery about how old that makes me, 'kay? Thankyouverymuch...) And for some intrepid individuals, the c-word is an easy and fun option. I'm talking about camping, of course--what did you think I meant? However, I've said it before and I'll say it again: while I absolutely L-O-V-E the Great Outdoors, and I'll happily spend a loooong day in it--walking, sweating, getting dirty, whatever--when the sun sets, there had better be a bathroom...inside....with a shower...a meal that I, personally, did NOT have to build a fire for, or cook...and a real bed. (If this makes me a High-Maintenance Nature Girl, so be it.)
The point is, with a couple of full-size-boy-men (aka "sons") in tow, our family now has certain requirements that need to be met in our temporary home. Such as: free breakfast must be included--immediate morning access to coffee and sustenance is non-negotiable. Also important is the fact that, since the kids are no longer small and we're sharing sleeping arrangements, we just don't fit into less-than-Queen beds any more. Finally, for me it's essential that the entire property be smoke-free, so I don't have to even think about dealing with the heinous smell or fumes from cigarettes. So yeah, there's a bit more...research...involved when we travel nowadays. (Jeez, how I ever went anywhere before computers is a complete mystery to me, I tell ya...)
Anyway, after I procured the reservation, we were all set. There was the usual obsessive checking of weather (Husband), providing unsolicited packing advice about each and every item of the wardrobe that one should bring, in order to be ultimately prepared for the vagaries of the aforementioned meteorology (Husband), and...subtle rolling of eyes (the rest of us). Then I awoke this morning to the pitter patter--nope, make that splish splash plop--of raindrops. Hey! It's sooo not supposed to be doing that, today! (So much for forecasts, right?) We took off anyway, grumbling about the continued "showers", which Husband cheerfully assured us were supposed to end "about 10:00".
In all fairness, the drizzle did cease, and the clouds began to clear before we arrived at our destination....ahem...which almost didn't happen due to Husband's faulty GPS function. (No, not his phone, the man himself...perhaps that was the problem...) It was one of those: "Oh, that's our road! Back there...oops, my bad!" Several barely-legal U-turns later, we found ourselves on a muddy, sloshy track heading off the highway...which also appeared to be somewhat..."unauthorized", shall we say? But lo and behold, it dead-ended at the trailhead, as promised, and we got out of the car to survey our surroundings. We were admiring the greenery, stretching our legs, and chatting when suddenly Riley bent over to pick something up off the ground and interrupted the proceedings to yell, "Ooh, a rubber band!" Sigh....so it's gonna be one of THOSE hikes, is it?
Actually, though, it was lovely...albeit a bit...goopy in spots. It was the kind of adventure where you had to keep your eyes on the ground so you could avoid the worst of the puddles, and plan your route as to whether you went around, leaped over, or just tiptoed through the muck. There were lots of things we liked: stream crossings, small wildlife (lizards, frogs, one turtle that was sitting in the center of the path and that I darn near stepped on before noticing it) abundant flora to admire. And, because we're...well...US...there was no shortage of goofy conversation. Here's but a small representative sampling of the nearly continuous nonsense:
Riley (from behind a rock, where he'd gone to, you know, "utilize the facilities", such as they were): "Hey, I was 'boutta pee, when I looked down and saw a lizard right there!" The rest of us weren't sure how to respond to this--Uh, good job noticing the amphibian?--when he followed up with a firm, "Never pee on a lizard, I always say." (By the way, my beloved child, you've NEVER said that...and please don't start now! Love, Your Mother)
Husband (standing up after having relaxed for a few minutes on a fallen tree while eating a snack): "Is there lichen on my butt?" (At least he had the reasonableness to admit right afterwards, "I'm pretty sure those words have never come out of my mouth before." Uh-huh...and like I said previously, let's keep it that way. Love, Your Wife)
Oh, and Derek...he had a few doozies all to himself: Also during the food break, in which he'd elected to perch himself on a boulder, "Hey, this rock is perfectly butt-shaped!" (Meaning that it was a nice fit for his tushie...never mind...) About a second later, after he was presumably settled onto his throne, he let out a startled shout. When I turned to inquire as to what the HECK was disturbing the peaceful beauty of our outing now, for crying out loud, he sheepishly grinned and admitted, "A bug flew in my ear." Ay yi yi. Finally, as we stowed our supplies and got underway once more, I heard him say from behind me in an entirely unfazed tone, "I may or may not have just fallen into that tree..." (Heeeyyy, thanks for keeping us in the loop...gooberhead...)
Somehow, we managed to keep on trucking for about a 6-mile loop (Note to self: make appropriate sacrifices to the Tree Gods before trying this again....) It was clear that we'd reached just about the end of our stamina--and perhaps critically-low-blood sugar--when we paused for our final respite (and for the boys to consume calories, AGAIN) and Husband noted that we hadn't seen the promised "bluff views". Riley's witty rejoinder, delivered with a sly smirk? "Oh, yeah? What about the BUFF views?" Without even a conscious thought, I snapped, "Hey! No naked people in the woods!"
Whaaaat? Clearly I'd suffered more than the rest of the crew on our journey, and here's why: I hadn't realized, and maybe our Event Planner ("Husband") didn't know either, that this wasn't the kind of park that provided you a swanky Visitor's Center with such amenities as water fountains and....potties. Heck, there wasn't even a Porta-John at the entrance to the trail--or anywhere else, for that matter. Remember when I was detailing my love of creature comforts? Yeaaahhh, no matter how much time I spend tromping around in the wilderness--or what have you--I've never totally gotten adept or comfortable with the whole concept of "relieving oneself behind a bush". Therefore I declined to nosh during our 3+ hour jaunt, and can be excused for any lightheadedness and/or ridiculousness I was exhibiting by that point.
So, having successfully marched around the forest, we dedicated the remainder of our day to several pursuits: cleaning up a bit, obtaining dinner (because, you know, the boys' metabolisms had burned off their trail provisions by now), and watching Final Four basketball. Oh, and resting the legs for tomorrow's scenic stroll, of course! All in the luxury of our Hampton Inn--while simultaneously enjoying and appreciating the indoor plumbing and soft mattresses...aaaahhhhhh.....