Our Foothills journey continued one August weekend, and we were fortunate enough to gain Riley on our trip! He had recently backpacked part of the trail for six days with his church’s youth group and was pumped about joining our crew to teach these ol’ moms a thing or two! I especially enjoyed getting to know him better as we hiked and talked.
Such a great group of kids, these Laursens! Ella cracked me up when I would hear her say, “Look! Rattlesnake!….Plantain.” Her mother didn’t find the pause so amusing as there was a good chance we’d see a snake or two, rattlesnakes included. Teagan was always our happy guy. I am quite sure I have not heard him complain about a single thing since this journey began. And we were so happy to have Kyla back in the mix this time after her absence on our recent day hike!
|The gang’s all here!|
We only had about a 3-mile hike to our campsite, so we left in the afternoon for the trailhead. The terrain was easy but the kids wanted to just “get there already” and have some fun. They deserved a night of fun in a campsite after our last trip!
When we arrived at the campsite, Diana and I immediately set our packs down and started working at break neck speed to set up camp, barking orders at the kids. Mind you, there was no good reason to hustle like we were as the forecast called for relatively clear skies and we still had a few hours before night fell. After our first foray, I think perhaps we were both a bit jaded that something freakishly insane was bound to happen, because well, that’s just how we seemed to roll.
|Setting up camp was much easier without constant rain!|
However, as the last tent stake was driven and I surveyed the scene, my anxiety was replaced by a sense of accomplishment and pride. It had gone off without a hitch–hammocks were completely covered, tents were erected without referring to the instructions repeatedly, and water was filtered and ready for dinner. It was when I went to retrieve the stove and fuel bottle from my backpack when the bubble burst.
Earlier in the day at home, when the weather forecast became more favorable for less rain, I decided to switch my gear and take my fancy, new (clean) pack instead of my old, falling apart (already filthy) pack. Note to self: Do not ever change packs at the last minute, lest you forget something crucial that hides in its own special semi-hidden pocket of your old pack, like your fuel bottle which is essential to using your stove!
I was terrified to tell Diana, fearful she might go all “New York” on me. Freeze dried chicken just doesn’t have the same gustatory appeal without boiling water to rehydrate it, and she was counting on my stove to heat that water. Like a good friend, she took it in stride, although surely she must have been going off on me under the surface. I was certainly going off on myself on the surface!
Then it dawned on me, just as abruptly as my realization of the missing fuel bottle. We have Aidan with us! Aidan, who is nothing short of a pyromaniac when given permission to practice his combustion skills with a fuel source and oxygen. Aidan, who took a primitive fire making class at Medicine Bow during a very rainy weekend and learned how to start fires from friction and with a bow drill as well as being able to use wet wood and one match. Never mind that he hadn’t put these skills to use in two years with any success. And did it matter that every time I asked him to build a fire at home, he was apt to hastily pile nothing more than a week’s worth of newspaper in the fire box under a single log the diameter of a car tire? We were screwed.
I explained the situation to him and his chest puffed a little, clearly flattered I would have the faith in him to pull it off in a forest full of soggy wood from recent rains. Instead of me barking the orders, he was now in charge and was going to take full advantage of this role reversal.
His first two attempts failed miserably.
“Aidan,” I said as I held his shoulders, “you have to dig deep and remember every single thing Mark taught you. This is no time to half ass it.”
“But Mom,” he moaned, “I remember how to do it all. It’s just that it will take at least an hour to get it set up, and that’s before we even light it.”
“Son, all we have is time and freeze dried chicken.”
He set to work.
He wasn’t kidding about the hour of work. He sent the other kids on a hunt for sticks to whittle until they reached dry wood while he constructed the delicate apparatus. Finally, he declared that the moment of truth had arrived and it was time to light it. We all held our breath as tiny flames reached the first tier of twigs and wood shavings. Slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, the flames increased in number and size, and hoots of elation filled the forest!
When you have a child who struggles academically in certain areas, you beam when they excel in other arenas, and I couldn’t have been more proud of him in that moment for succeeding (and thrilled that we were in fact going to eat a warm meal).
|The amazing fire starter|
The second half of the evening was much more lighthearted and the kids had a great time getting the sillies out dancing and singing, telling ghost stories, and taking funny pictures of each other.
|A well fed crew = A happy crew|
The next morning, Diana and I announced that coffee was mandatory before packing up, so round two of fire making ensued (with success again!). Soon enough, we were sitting side by side on a log with a warm cup of Joe in hand. Aaaaahhh, ready to start the day.
|A Girl Scout troop built and installed these two benches along the trail|
|Notice the “anklet” she’s wearing? Riley made everyone paracord bracelets for the trip!|
|Breaks are always better with candy|
We had a relatively easy day of hiking ahead of us, so we took our time. Unfortunately, we missed the turnoff to see the largest waterfall east of the Rockies (Whitewater Falls) and vowed to visit it after we finished up our hike that day (it’s accessible by car). We stopped for lunch by the river and let the kids play on the huge boulders. It was so refreshing to take our shoes and socks off and to simply sit and relax instead of feeling like we needed to beat the clock due to weather worries.
|I loved that Ella wanted to read every chance she got along the trail|
After lunch, we only had 2.4 miles to hike, and it was an easy path to traverse. Paige had a bit of a moment when she realized there was a 0.7 mile spur trail back to the car, so Diana stayed with her and Ella at the Whitewater River for a “spa experience” as they plunged their heads into the chilly water. The rest of us high tailed it back to the car as soon as we noticed huge, dark clouds closing in on us.
As Diana and the two spa goers came off the trail, the Heavens opened and there was a deluge of rain just as the last car door was closed. I wanted to shake my fists at the window while laughing maniacally and shouting, “Whaddya think about that?! We won this time!” Since Mother Nature typically gets the last laugh, I decided instead to keep my trap shut and focus on the road leading home.
As always, we ended the journey with laughs while rehashing our adventures and thoughts of when our feet would traverse this magnificent path again. I can hardly wait.
|Lake Jocassee in the distance from the trail|
Side Note: Medicine Bow is a “Primitive School of Earthlore in the North Georgia Mountains” and the instructor/owner, Mark Warren, is a close family friend. If you have any interest in anything from primitive survival skills to archery to botany (and all sorts of other disciplines), I highly encourage you to visit his website and enroll in a class or two. It is well worth your time.