HERE for Part I and HERE for Part II.)
We eventually reached a point where we could no longer continue sideways along the ravine.
“The original trail must be up there,” Chris said. I followed the line of his finger pointing back up the 75° slope we were standing on, and promptly sat down, folding my arms.
“What are you doing?” he said.
“I’m not going.” I said flatly. “I’m staying here.
He smiled tolerantly at me. “Holly, you can’t say here.”
“Just go get the minivan then come back to get me.”
“We’re not leaving you.”
I exploded. “What part of ‘I don’t want to do what we did yesterday’ did you NOT understand! I am NOT hiking up another stupid ravine! I’m not!!”
Then Chris just gave me “the look.”
And I knew I had no choice. I knew the big, clunky mom-mobile minivan wouldn’t make it five feet into this stupid forest. I stomped to my feet, muttering under my breath the entire time and began scaling the cliff with the boys. And oh mama, it was so much worse than the hike of the previous day! We slipped on mud and wet clumps of leaves. Vines we grasped to haul ourselves up came out of the ground in our hands, and the saplings we clutched in desperation, bent dangerously with our weight. Several times I thought we’d reached the top, only to discover we had further to go. Once again I was trapped in sweat-soaked gear.
Finally, Josh called down from above, “I see a house!”
Daron gallantly offered me his assistance as I struggled up the final bit, “Here, Mrs. Bowne, just take my hand.”
“BACK OFF!” I growled, most ungraciously, clawing at dirt and tree roots to heave myself up the remainder of the sharp incline.
“Oookkkaaay,” he cautiously withdrew his helping hand.
Sure enough, at the top we found ourselves in some random person’s backyard.
Chris lifted his Indiana Jones hat, and scratched his head. “Hmmm. I had no idea we’d come this far.”
“Uh, exactly how far are we from the car?” I asked.
“About a mile and a half.”
Ready to collapse, I muttered even louder as we cut through the yard and began trekking the mile and a half (which for some absurd reason started out uphill) along the road. Now, one thing I’d noticed when we’d been driving around earlier was that everybody in this particular area of West Virginia had at least two dogs. Unleashed dogs. Ferociously barking dogs. Dogs who did not like strangers walking past their yards. One dog charged towards us, barking and following us up the road. Chris was shouting (bramble-hacking knife still out), while I repeated a “Go home!” mantra in as soothing a tone as I could muster.
Are we having fun yet?
Eventually, we made it back to the car. Alive. And cleaned up as much as we could before driving four rainy hours back home. It was during the drive, that I finally calmed down and had a moment of enlightenment.
I thought I loved hiking. And I do. It’s just that I love “regular” hiking. “Inside the box” hiking as opposed to “boy” hiking. I like to know I’m on a legitimate trail. One that somebody has walked before me. One that has a definite starting and ending point. Life itself is enough of a “boy” hike for me: Beating my way through an unknown wilderness with no knowledge of what lies ahead, or how steep the next ravine will be. That’s life. I don’t need to deal with this stuff on my vacations, too.
So I’ve informed the men of my family that next time they won’t have to deal with my whining-grumbling-grouchy-panicked self. Next time, I’ll take a good book and if it’s not raining or hailing, I’ll just spread a blanket beside the rushing river, lie down and read. Maybe even take a little nap, while the boys hack their way through the wilderness to their hearts’ content. Yessiree. No more boy hikes for me!
Epilogue: A few days later…
“Hey Josh, you don’t think I scared Daron, do you?”
“Probably. You were pretty scary, mom.”
“Do you think he could tell I was annoyed during the hikes?”
“Uh, yeah, mom. We could ALL tell.”
“Really? And I thought I hid my emotions so well.”
*Dramatic sigh accompanied by HUGE eye roll*
Photographs © Holly & Chris Bowne