July 13, 2011
Into the crooked creek
The early morning hike was my mother's idea. A local land trust just opened a new trail near the state park where we used to camp back in the 1960s. So we woke up the teenagers early, piled into a couple of vehicles, and drove a few miles up the road to the trailhead.
The trail wound through some fields and then the forest, with wooden bridges over the marshy parts. We found a little pond created by a beaver dam, surrounded by the stumps of trees that had been chewed through and toppled. As we walked farther, the trail climbed up and down the big rocks that make up the landscape along the river.
We’d been walking for about ten minutes when the bugs discovered us. The mosquitoes were first. We tramped through a marshy area, and they rose to greet us, surrounding our band of hikers with that annoying buzzing sound. I’d taken out my camera to take a picture of Dandelion Niece balancing on a log, but the photo shoot was cut short when I realized that I needed both hands to protect my bare arms from the bloodthirsty insects.
The horseflies were next. A swarm settled near my head, trying to catch a ride on my hair as I walked. I moved closer to Dandelion Niece, offering her lovely blonde hair as a bait. That worked. The flies zoomed over to her sweet-smelling locks, and I darted away quickly.
The pace of our hike picked up as we tried to escape the hungry hordes. Red-haired Sister had brought two of her dogs, and I could hear their jaws snapping as they bit at flies. Family members slapped at their arms and muttered curses. Shaggy Hair Boy took off his jeans and tied them around his head. The early morning breeze had died, and the sun that filtered through the leaves began to feel hot. Soon my face and neck were sweaty, which just attracted more flies.
“Know how at the end of your life, you look back and have regrets?” Taekwondo Nephew said to Shaggy Hair Boy. “My regret will be getting up early today to go on this walk.”
We pushed ahead through the marshy areas, climbed along some rock cliffs, and then suddenly came upon a clear area. A big shelf of rock stretched ahead to a creek, one that we’ve explored with canoes before. It’s a crooked creek that winds through stands of cattails with big rocks that make great picnic spots.
I took off my sneakers to feel the warm rock under my feet as I walked down to the creek edge. The bugs were gone: they’d stayed back in the shade. Suddenly, the sun on my arms felt good and not oppressive. I heard splashes and squeals from below. Shaggy Hair Boy and Taekwondo Nephew had already stripped off clothing and jumped into the water.
I stepped off the rock into the cool, deep water and then dove under to rinse the sweat from my hair. My brother and Tie-Dye Brother-in-law had already swum out to the middle of the creek. Dandelion Niece kept climbing back up onto the rock to do dramatic leaps into the water. Suddenly, the hike seemed worth it.
Posted by jo(e)