Day 1 – cowboys, climbing, canoers, and camp sandwichis
Got a new term that has worked its way into our hiking lexicon: Backwoods Dentistry. Walgreens landed me a few Q-tips, some superglue, and an overpriced thimble of paste guaranteed to hold a crown on firm enough “to eat on!” Heading down 412, the boys coloring on notebooks in the back, I cemented that crown together as best I could and tried that paste every which way I could imagine. Not a bit of it worked.
Boys were raring to go, so we loaded up and headed out. I won’t say much more about that tooth except to say I will never, ever, ever use my teeth for anything but eating again. Ever. Seriously. Every time I talked, that tooth would fly out and bounce around on the rocks. I dug it out of leaf piles, stream beds, and trail ruts. That tooth covered more miles of the trail than I did. By the time I got off the trail, that damn thing didn’t even look like a tooth anymore. The superglue didn’t ever stick very well, so I ended up painting the outside of it with glue just to hold it together. Bear Bait was thoroughly freaked out by the stubby little tooth-piece that normally holds the crown in place. He called it my witch-tooth and said it made me look scary. I agree. Every time I grinned, we’d hear banjos wafting through the jagged, leafless trees.
Enough with the tooth, though.
Compton trailhead was packed. We were parked three-deep with a field half-full of horse trailers out behind. Downhill is all the fun. Those boys positively sailed down. This was my first time going to Hemmed-In Hollow (HIH from now on) by way of the Compton trail, so I was unprepared for the rather motley crew of folks coming up from sight-seeing. I bet about half the folks we saw straining their way up were somewhat surprised at the effort required to get back to the car. I felt bad for them mostly because it looked like they weren’t having much fun. A little extra water and maybe some clothes made for this kind of excursion might have made their trip a bit more fun. There’s day hikers and then there’s tourists, I guess. I love ’em all, just so long as they pick up their trash.
HIH was packed full. Mostly folks canoeing the Buffalo, it seemed, but there was a row of duded up horse riders who moseyed on in. I haven’t encountered horse riders too many times on the trail, but it saddens me that every single time I’ve run into riders on the trail has been a negative experience. One of ‘em, upon seeing our boys told his buddy, “If I wanted be ‘round kids, I woulda stayed at home.” I don’t mind the horses, even with the carpet of crap they leave on the trail. I think horses are noble, beautiful animals. But why do the riders have to be such jerks?
The cowboys jingle-jangled their way out after a while; the echoes of two ecstatic rock-climbing boys chasing them down the trail. Bear Bait and Kit laughed and chunked rocks and climbed and slipped and played “spider” in the tree. We ate camp sandwichis and drank grape Kool-Aid.
Day hikers and canoers and backpackers all mingled happily. Handing cameras around and taking pictures. (Kat leaned in and said, “You know, the trail is about the only place a total stranger will hand you a $400 camera and then walk away.”) There were a lot of kids on Spring Break coming up from the river. A grand time was had by all.
Kat wanted to head up and around the rim to see Diamond Falls, maybe even camp there. Bear Bait was getting tired and hungry and I was a little worried about how well he’d listen to me. There’s some narrow, slippery ledges we’d have to cross and I didn’t need him pitching an independence tantrum while I was clinging to the side of a bluff. We changed plans and decided to head down to the river, maybe set up camp near there.
River was packed, folks camped all along it and canoes everywhere. It was getting late and the boys were hungry, so we went off-trail along the other side of the creek a ways until we found a really old fire ring. Old enough that the only cans we found around it were pull-tabs.
Hammocks were hung, fire pit cleaned out. Hot dogs, grape Kool-Aid, and toasted camp sandwichis. We real bad wanted to see the supermoon, but the boys were worn plumb out and the Dads were red-eyed from lack of sleep the night before. So we tucked the boys in real snug and read Dr. Seuss books until they fell asleep. Kat retired to his hammock and I fell asleep listening to the snores of two worn-out little boys.
I did wake up around midnight, I think. I guess the clouds had cleared enough that it looked like pure daylight outside. I unzipped the side of my hammock and peeked out. Couldn’t see the moon and was just warm enough and just tired enough that I figured I’ll catch it the next time it comes around. In about eighteen years.