Thursday, July 31, 2008

Why I'm not applying to be a forest ranger any time soon

The summer after fourth grade my friend Carrie and I loaded onto an old yellow school bus with a couple dozen other girls and headed up to the mountains for a three-day summer camp. I took along a sleeping bag, some warm clothes and wore my favorite neon orange fanny pack (don't judge--it was the 80's) which was loaded up with snacks and $5 from my mom in case the bus stopped at a gas station and I wanted to buy a treat. I soon found out that the outdoor skills I had learned in Girl Scouts, including how to build a fake--albeit delicious--fire out of pretzel sticks and marshmallows and the appropriate way to fix a French braid (part of our "good grooming" badge, which was embroidered with a mirror and brush), wouldn't get me far.

At the camp, every time we did something well, completed a task first or got the best score on something, we were given a large wooden bead to thread through the string we were supposed to wear on our belt loop. While participating in an archery exercise, Carrie hit the bull's eye while I hit an errant pine tree branch. While fishing, she baited her hook and caught a glistening, wiggly fish. I paid a girl with my $5 treat money to bait mine (no way was I touching a worm) and caught a bunch of mud in the cuff of my jeans. Carrie was one of the first to get her little camp fire going while mine remained a pile of leaves and sticks. And the rest of the camp went on that way. After the second day, Carrie's string looked like it had recently been an integral part of roaring Mardi Gras festivities while mine looked like a shoelace.

I caved into the humiliation of not earning a single bead and, along with another beadless wonder, sneaked into the tent where they kept them in a tub. We grabbed a handful and crept back to our tents. A few minutes later, disgusted with my thievery, I turned myself in and tearfully confessed to my crime. I was such a pitiful case that the camp counselors felt sorry for me and let me keep them, saying that they were "honesty beads."

Needless to say, I'm not exactly what you would call "outdoorsy," despite being from the huntin', fishin', four-wheelin' and campin' hot-spot of Carbon County. I haven't been camping in years, I hardly ever hike and I don't really like being dirty. I do, however, love the idea of being in the great outdoors and I can appreciate the beauty of Utah's mountains that are minutes from my door but hardly ever enjoyed by me.

In an effort to change this part of my lifestyle, I made Zach accompany me on a hike last weekend. I was feeling anxious to breathe some fresh air and enjoy the loveliness of our surroundings. We took our little dog, Sydney, loaded up the Explorer and set out on our adventure. (Parker is not keen on being outside for more than the few minutes it takes to sun himself while sipping a fruity drink with matching cocktail umbrella.)

I researched a nice trail for us and printed off the directions from a hiking enthusiast Web site. A word of advice: Be ye not so stupid. Never print off directions from a hiking enthusiast Web site. These hikers are apparently trying to kill intruders to their sacred trails and will intentionally lead you astray.

According to the map of death, I mean, the directions I got from a hiking enthusiast Web site, if we left our house by noon, we should be home a few hours later. Perfect.

I packed us some snacks, a water bowl for Sydney and other hiking essentials and we set out. We followed the directions to the letter and soon found the reservoir that signaled we were getting close to the trailhead. The directions said that immediately after the reservoir, look for the horse riding area and take the dirt road to the right. This dirt road would switchback up the mountain for 4 miles and we would magically appear at a second reservoir and the entrance to the hiking trail.

Easy enough.

We passed the first reservoir, saw the horse trailers lined up along with a sign saying "equestrian something or other" (I'm paraphrasing here) and noticed the dirt road to the right. We took the road and proceeded up the bumpiest, scariest path (conveniently located on the edge of several cliffs) upon which I have ever traveled.

As we climbed up this sad excuse for a road, the poor Explorer was put in 4-wheel drive, I grabbed on to the door handles and tried not to cry. We passed a few hard-core Jeeps, a couple of dirt bikes and multiple ATV-ers [side note: Apparently to drive a 4-wheeler you must be shirtless, weigh at least 400 pounds and have no consideration for your fellow road travelers.]. Everyone seemed to stare at us with the same "What are you doing here?" expression and we carried on.

After nearly TWO EXCRUCIATING HOURS (even though we figured we were in the wrong place, there was nowhere to turn around), we got to the top of the mountain and asked a nice man in a huge Jeep where we could find the hiking trail/reservoir we were after.

He gave us a bewildered look and stifled a laugh.

Not exactly the response we were looking for.

He told us it was on the other side of the mountain. Yikes. We traveled back down the road and to the paved area where we originally turned off. I was ready to go home but Zach was determined to find out where we made an error. Turns out that if we had driven about 100 feet further before turning off, we would have found the real horse area and the correct dirt road. Details, details.

We found the right road, braved it up the mountain (it was much easier and far less scary this time) and ended up enjoying what little daylight was left at the reservoir. Our "hike" consisted of us walking about 40 feet up the several-mile trail, putting out a blanket and having a picnic with the nature-filled noises of dozens of families loading up their cars in the parking lot. Just like in the movies.

It was still a fun day. Even though I had to unfortunately use the bathroom in an outhouse, twice!, Sydney went swimming for the first time ever and I only had a mild heart attack watching her, Zach and I were able to breathe that fresh air we'd heard so much about and the Explorer got to go off-road--previously the closest she'd been was traveling through the potholes on 33rd South.

A very good day after all.

(Left): Z & Syd at the lake after we
finally found it.
(Right): Syd and me taking a rest after our 45-second hike.

(L): Post-picnic, on the "trail." (R): Built Ford tough.

Sydney is staring at me, wondering why, from this angle, I suddenly look 9 months pregnant.

And it was an even better day when we saw this beautiful site signaling that we were home and had survived our adventure in the mountains:

Ah, the smell of smog, the glare of the pavement and the sounds of sirens in the distance. Home sweet home.


The Miller Family said...

This is hands down the funniest blog post I have ever read! I actually laughed out loud a few times. Thanks for look very cute pregnant!

Teri and Mark said...

Don't you dare let Parker see these photos. He's going to be so jealous that he missed out on the adventure. And seriously, Sydney couldn't look happier.

I loved reading your story. Almost better than hearing it in person....

Daybreaking Dickersons said...

I can't wait to go camping with you. Maybe in a few weeks?

katie said...

So funny!
"Honesty beads." I will not let that die.
Glad you survived, and look gorgeous doing it.

Charity & Thiago said...

Remember the barrettes we made? The ones woven out of ribbon into the shape of a rainbow? Those were sweet...especially the beads on the knotted ends. I don't think they were honesty beads, just regular beads.

Maegan said...

You look like me after I eat lasagna... but you're pregnant.

ali said...

I love to see you showing us all your great outdoor adventure skills.