On Labor Day, as I tore off the sheet on my daily calendar, it read, “In our leisure we reveal what kind of people we are.” (Ovid). Ah, I thought, what a perfect segue this will lend on my blog about the day’s upcoming hike. Like most parents, I am guilty of not carving out enough leisure time in my life, but the day would encapsulate what it looks like to me: A simple walk in the woods with some of the people I love most in the world. Little did I know how complicated and how “unleisurely” this venture would become. If you have followed along on our quest to thru hike the Foothills Trail and have learned anything, it’s that we like to shake it up a bit. Makes for a better story, right?
Really, the stage was set for drama when our plans were altered two weeks ago by a husband crashing on a bicycle and fracturing his clavicle, requiring surgery that took place a few days prior. We had originally planned to backpack for three days on Labor Day weekend, knocking out a section of the trail that doesn’t have a road crossing for twenty one miles. When I finally came out of denial and admitted that Larry would need my continued assistance through the weekend, we postponed that trip and instead decided to repeat a day hike on a section that Kyla had missed because she was too busy rockin’ out during band camp at school (Sloan Bridge to Burrell’s Ford, for those that care about those sorts of details).
My sister, Amanda, and her daughter, Amelia, and their mellow dog, Mogley, decided to join us. Yes, of course they should have been scared. She reads my blog and went into the venture with eyes wide open. She is a highly intelligent woman and knew the risk she ran by joining us. Just sayin’.
Our day started out as mellow as Mogley. We arrived to the trailhead with loud, excited kids and packs full of fun snacks I had made with my new dehydrator. We hiked along to the chirping of children relaying stories from the first days of school. We ate lunch at the same spot we ate last time, commenting that the remainder of the hike was mostly level or downhill. Piece of cake.
|Sweet Ozzie, Amelia, and Mogley|
As we cruised out of our lunch spot, we started hearing the rumblings of thunder. I tried to convince Amelia, my niece, it was just an airplane way in the distance, but as it got closer, there was no fooling her or anyone else. Perhaps it was an omen for things to come.
Soon after, Amanda noticed Mogley pawing at his head as she saw a yellow jacket land on him. He was stung but took it like a champ and kept walking. Whew, I thought, we dodged a bullet with that one if he stepped on a nest. Yellow jackets are ruthless this time of year.
Fast forward a mile or so. I was walking at the rear of the pack to make sure the minions stayed in our fold and Diana was heading up the front. I heard a shriek up ahead, immediately assuming it was Aidan being Aidan and trying to annoy his sister or some other female. Except the shrieks don’t stop. And they get louder. And more shrill. And all of a sudden I’m running as fast as I can, past the group, to find my screaming son and Diana removing his clothes in an effort to get large numbers of yellow jackets off his body.
I could tell he had been stung multiple times, but thankfully they were dissipating. He told me through tears that he walked beside a hole on the trail and they came swarming up out of it, attaching themselves anywhere and everywhere on his body. He ran screaming and then eventually tripped and fell, when Diana came to his rescue. If I didn’t love Diana like family already, this would have cinched the deal when I realized she would take the stings she might suffer from if it meant helping my child before I got to him.
Eventually, the rest of our crew made a wide detour around said hole and emerged back onto the trail unscathed. By this point, Aidan had settled down and was ready to hike out the miles we had remaining to the car.
If you have ever been stung by a yellow jacket, you know how much it hurts. Try multiplying it by God knows how many times (we’re really not sure how many times he was stung–but based on the welts we counted after we returned home, in the ballpark of a dozen). My son reached a new level of bad ass in my eyes as he hardly cried a tear past his initial reaction to the stings.
Okay, I thought, there’s our drama for the day. I hate that it happened to Aidan, but at least it’s over. As I was thinking these thoughts, the sounds of thunder grew closer and louder.
Before I could even worry about lightning striking us, Amanda was running towards me screaming, “Another nest!! Mogley’s getting stung!!” That was followed by the shouts of Diana who was being stung, as well as Ozzie, their sweet dog, who was right on Mogley’s heels, also covered in yellow jackets. They tried in vain to rid themselves of the bastards by rolling on the ground.
Every child with us was in tears eventually, not from being stung, but from watching these sweet dogs being stung repeatedly and with no defense except to roll on the ground. Then the sky opened up and it started raining. For once, I was happy for the rain that nearly took my sanity on our first trip, as my hope was that it would drive the bees away. It seemed to help a little, although Ozzie couldn’t get rid of all of his because of his thick coat.
Eventually, I ran up ahead to yell to Diana and make sure she wasn’t suffering from a freak anaphylactic reaction (because you know that’s just what would happen to us, right?) but thankfully she was okay. She told me she could see the wasps swarming on the trail between us, around a hiking pole someone in our group dropped in their panicked state, and that we should make a wide detour. I mustered up the courage to lead our group through this detour off trail, fearful the entire time that we’d step over yet another nest and cause round three of crazy to start.
Because something finally had to go well, we made it through to Diana safely (and yes, in case you’re wondering, that hiking pole is still on the trail). The rest of the hike is kind of a blur because we hiked at light speed to finish the last couple of miles. Fear is a powerful motivator.
We made it to the car and discovered yet one more yellow jacket on poor Ozzie, fighting to get through his thick coat and wreak more havoc. Diana bravely grabbed it through a pack towel and crushed him.
|Making scary faces to show how we felt on the trail (with the exception of Aidan whose expression was pretty accurate for the way he was still feeling)|
When we arrived home that night, I felt fairly confident I had probably lost the interest of my sister and niece ever returning to join us on a hike. What I was even more fearful of was losing the Laursen family to complete our quest to thru hike the Foothills Trail. How would I survive these almost assured mishaps in the future without her unceasing sense of humor?
I texted her to check up on her crew and mentioned that she probably wished she had never caught wind of my goal of a “kid friendly” thru hike after all our continued debacles. Her response was all I needed to read to put a smile back on my face and know we’d hit the trail again, “All is good. You ain’t getting rid of me….we are totally in this together….it makes for such good stories.”
Good stories, bad stories, and everything in between, I simply love sharing them. So until next time…