My boys don’t want to go camping. Are you kidding me? They don’t like bugs. They’re afraid of snakes. Leave it to Tornado E to figure out which snakes are native to the area and how poisonous they are. For Christ’s sakes, they’re in Cub Scouts. I had been camping for years by Tornado E’s age. Really? No camping?
Fine. So I came up with a plan. Picnics. Hikes. In the mountains. I will start slow. I will convince them.
Only it took a couple months to put my plan into action. Monday. Hell or high water, I was going to take the kids picnicking and hiking on the nearest mountain.
Life is ironic.
As par for the course, we headed out later than I planned. I wasn’t really thinking the night before, so my prep was off. I didn’t research the hiking trails. Hell, I spent summers running wild on that mountain. I didn’t pack the night before. Pssht, piece of cake; I’ve done this before. I’ll wing it.
Never wing it.
I forgot a few things, so after a stop at the Cub Scout council for books and wonderment, we returned home, which was on the way. Everyone had to pee first, and then off we went.
Hold up. I forgot caffeine. Just a quick stop at a drug store to grab some soda.
Off we went.
Just as we hit the mountain base, I saw a sign, flashing, “NO CAMPFIRES! NO CHAR-COAL! NO CAMPFIRES!”
Oh for the love of God, if I had known, I would’ve picked up fried chicken or sandwiches instead of bring hot dogs and marshmallows. And char-coal and lighter fluid. Maybe it isn’t meant for grills. Maybe the sign is old. I mean, it’s rained a couple of days in a row up there.
Then we passed the fire danger sign. “EXTREMELY HIGH!” Oh sonofabitch! So much for earning cooking-outdoor patches. Also will the boys eat cold hot dogs? They barely swallow hot hot dogs.
A few more turns up the mountain went by before I remembered FEES. Oh crap. Did I have enough for fees? I turned into an observation site and scrounged through the emergency coinage and the ash tray and my wallet. 5 bucks was secured.
It was about this time that Tornado S started complaining about heights and fear. He wanted to turn back. Another few curves and Tornado A was joined him in his whining.
Since the fees were self-pay, I debated paying. What were the odds I would be caught if we were there only for a couple of hours? Then I remembered I was poor and a ticket would ruin my month as in electricity or ticket. So I paid the five backs, jamming the envelop filled with change into the slot.
Tornado S asked what took me so long.
A mile later, it was lightly raining.
A mile later, it was raining.
A mile later, it was pouring with visibility cut dramatically.
Have I mentioned this was my first time driving up the mountain? Usually I go with my parents, and my dad drives because he more or less grew up on that mountain. The other times I was with the Ex who grew up on a mountain and complained that I couldn’t mountain drive for anything. Dude, I grew up in a valley. So, yeah, I had something to prove.
The boys were a little freaked out and excited. I uncovered the sun roof, so they could watch the rain. Tornado E was worried about the day’s activities. I assured him that if it was raining in one part of the mountain, it didn’t mean it was raining in another part.
Only it was. It rained all the way to the top. It rained as we drove through the town. It rained when we got to the picnic and hiking spot. By rain, it poured. I could barely see a car length in front of me.
Tornado E: Mommy, why are we here?
I parked the car. Soaked hikers scrambled into cars. We made it.
Me: I was determined to get us here.
I opened the car door and stepped out into the downpour. I made it. And Christ, that was cold.
I jumped back into the car.
Tornado S: Now what? I’m hungry.
Tornado A: I’m hungry too!
Tornado E: Mommy, what are we going to do?
The sky flashed. Thunder rolled. The boys screamed.
Seriously, people, thunder too? I’m sure I was promised certain things when I had boys. Like I would never have to kill a bug again. Not so much. And I, girl who used to sit on top of her Bronco to watch storm come in and overhead, had boys afraid of thunder.
Me: Give me a second.
I couldn’t afford to take them to the restaurants. But I could take them to the general store. Perhaps I could buy sandwiches or cheese or something.
I started the car and turned back on the tiny mountain road. Then it started hailing. It stopped short of blanketing the ground.
We made it to the general store. The boys asked for an umbrella. I found one, and I climbed out. The sky flashed with thunder on its heals. Ok, no one is holding a lightning rod on my watch. I ushered the boys out of the car and across the parking lot in freezing rain.
The store was filled with touristy souvenirs and touristy-priced necessities. It was crowded with breakable objects. My boys were tired and hungry, spring-loaded with energy. Not a good combination. They whined and begged, and I was patient, listening to their demands and deflecting as quickly as I could. I couldn’t bring myself to buy $2.50 Lunchables, so I committed to the plan of cold hot dogs. I bought the boys rock candy and homemade fudge. I ushered them out to the porch to debate my options.
I had to feed the boys soon. I couldn’t waste this day. I couldn’t let this trip go bust. The storm was letting up. I looked over at my SUV with its way way back. I had an idea.
After the boys had a little fudge, I loaded everyone back into the car. I drove out of town and down the mountain just a mile to a picnic spot that I had planned on stopping at on our way out. It had amazing bunch of rocks to climb and scramble over. I parked the car overlooking the hills and trees.
Me: All right, boys. We’re going to eat lunch in the car. Who wants to go in the back? Who wants to sit in their seats?
They all wanted to sit in their seats, so I unbuckled Tornado A. I got out of the car and opened the back hatch. I moved things around. I moved supplies into the front seat. I started making lunch with the hatch protecting me from the sprinkling.
Me: Who wants what on their hot dogs?
Tornado E: Mustard.
Tornado S: I don’t want any.
Me: That’s all we have, so you’ll have to go hungry.
Tornado S: Fine. Ketchup and mustard.
Tornado E: Me too. But, Mommy, how are we going to cook them?
Me: They’re cooked. Just cold. Nana used to make your uncles and me cold hot dog sandwiches all the time. In fact, the Friendly Giant loves hot dog sandwiches.
Tornado A: Me too. Ketchup on mine!
Me: (as I began fixing hot dogs) You know, it would be easier to share the box of cheese crackers if you were all back here.
They all scrambled over. I opened the box of crackers, and they dove in as I fixed hot dogs. I passed out lemonade. I handed out hot dogs as I made them. We ate happily listening to the rain and the thunder.
Me: When everyone is done, we still have more fudge. We have marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers.
Tornado E: Cold s’mores!
I passed out the fudge and marshmallows.
Tornado E: We should ask Grandma to make rocky road fudge.
Me: We should! Ok, everyone, we need to hit the bathrooms before we leave.
So I marched them in the sprinkling rain to the outhouses. The boys were horrified by the smell and the concept of peeing in a whole.
Then I decided a little walk to the rocks wouldn’t hurt. We were already there. We picked up pretty rocks. We scrambled up the boulders to get a good view. I took pictures. They splashed in puddles. We walked back to the car.
Tornado E: Can we come again? When it’s not raining?
Tornado S: Can we bring fried chicken next time?
Tornado A: I want to cook hot dogs!
Me: We can do that too.
Tornado E: Next time we come during monsoon season, I’m bringing a jacket and pants.
Me: Well, I thought the storm would hit in the afternoon as they usually do. I figured we would beat it home.
Tornado E: (noticing the rain was nearly stopped) Too bad we didn’t come earlier.
I loaded everyone back in the car, and we headed down the mountain.
- The boys can like being in the mountain.
- They like picnics and are willing to try hiking.
- I can drive up and down a mountain without killing anyone.
- With a little determination, I can turn a potentially bad situation around.
Luckily, I’m a pretty determined girl.