Friday, November 06, 2009

The Great American Hike

I wanted to wait to post this until we had pictures from the camera, but we seem to have lost the camera cord, along with half of the monitor and the entire contents of the medicine cabinet.

In fact, we harbor a deep suspicion that none of our stuff arrived here, and that our moving van was surreptitiously switched with someone else who had the organizational skills of a magpie. Except they had remarkably similar taste in furniture.

Anyway, on Wednesday we decided to take a break from all this and take the kids to a park. It was a glorious autumn day such as does actually occur in the Pacific Northwest, except that we prefer you continue to believe they do not. (It rained today.)

I, having grown up here, have never been to any of the local parks. So we selected one at random and drove there. The place was quite deserted, but we identified a trail which an inconveniently posted map indicated should lead to the beach. We headed off with all four children and a bag of lunch, down moderate grades on a broad, well-maintained trail.

The twins are just at that awkward age that has legs too short to walk and general mass too large to be carried, especially when they both wanted to be carried at once, which, being twins, was always. (I should note for our less-frequent readers that DOB has a foot condition which renders it unsafe for him to traverse unstable ground carrying a small child, which is why I will repeatedly figure as doing the heavy lifting.)

Nonetheless, we arrived at the beach in good time where we could all engage in the ever-popular activities of throwing rocks in the water, dropping bits of lunch for the seagulls, and being unable to function without flush toilets. We had a marvelous time, and then it was time to head back.

Naturally we did not wish to simply retrace our steps, when we clearly recalled the map had showed multiple routes to the water. Unfortunately, there were no maps near the water. There was a small trail--certainly smaller than the one we had come on, but quite clearly marked, and labeled with a "No Bikes" sign. No problem, we didn't have a bike.

We threaded our way through the underbrush for some distance until we encountered a rather muddy patch, which had to be crossed by the means of a few random sticks scattered across it. On the other side was a very steep staircase. The older ducklings made their way across, slowly and with some trepidation, then I took turns carrying the twins across, then DOB made his way across and noted with some displeasure the absence of underbrush to grab onto at his height.

Up the staircase we proceeded, until we encountered a fallen tree. Fortunately there was a large gap under the tree, tall enough for all of us to crawl under. Indeed, the twins could have walked under it, but preferred to simply stand under it as if they were inspecting it for a new home. We finally had to lift them over and pressed on through the thickening underbrush.

A bit further on we encountered an even larger fallen tree, this one smack on the ground. However, beyond it was a clear flat space, and then a flight of steps going up to the fence that marked the edge of the picnic area adjacent to the parking lot. Our goal was nearly in sight. We scaled the log, or went around it, as our leg lengths dictated.

It was a dead end. The flat clear space was a quagmire. A sinkhole cut off the approach to the steps. There was no opening in the fence from above; clearly from this end it was not considered a trail at all.

However, nearby there was a steep mudslide area down the side of the hill. We considered the prospect of retracing our steps and then having to go all the way back on the original trail, and decided to give the mudslide a try. As the most surefooted, I went first, a contented D4 tucked under one arm. I made it about two-thirds of the way up and determined that I could go no further. The mud on one side was nearly vertical; the other side was covered with blackberry brambles.

Then I looked back all the way down the hill, and then across the trees to the water, thought of all that long, long trail we had come down, and decided there had to be a way up. Still with D4 tucked under one arm, I carefully arranged the brambles in such a way that I could angle myself to where a few toeholds crossed the mud horizontally, to a grassy outcropping that came down lower on the other side.

Once I had made it to the top, there was still the challenge of everyone else and the lunch bag. D1, ever calm and resourceful, set off next, getting stuck midway, but by taking off her boots she was able to make it to the top. She then kept D4 on the far side of the fence while I returned down for D3, who was contentedly sitting in DOB's lap after they had slid a third of the way back down, an experience she thought quite amusing. Once I had D3 in hand, DOB and D2 decided to hazard the stairs, and somehow found their way around the sinkhole and up the stairs--many of them missing--tossing the lunch bag on ahead and catching any spare Tupperware that came tumbling back down the cliff.

And so we all made it to the top, safe and sound if rather muddy and very tired.


Anonymous said...

I remember trying to figure out puzzles like this one in grade school. I think there was a rowboat, a cabbage, a goat, and a fox.

I figured the easiest thing to do was to let them work it out themselves while I went to the cafeteria.

But that's public schools for ya.


N said...

I second awedmanor's comment, with the additional thought that, should you arrange to go first or not, make sure you have the car keys.