I got no problem with snakes. No phobias, no irrational fears, just a healthy respect. There are so many other reasons not to want to backpack in an Arkansas summer. You’ve got the heat and humidity, of course. The trails choke up quickly with vegetation that, while beautiful and sometimes tasty, still stands in the way of beautiful views. Skeeters, ticks, and other blood-sucking types tend to rise in nastiness with the rising of the mercury. And, well, snakes. I actually love seeing a snake or two when I’m out on the trail because, well, I see ‘em. It isn’t the ones I see that concern me. Now that Bear Bait is old enough to really go on some serious hikes with me, I have the additional parental concern of what he doesn’t see. Surely having a bit of anxiety is normal for a parent, especially for a kid that has to be told seven or eight times to pick up his socks. I have to give him credit, though. He listens very well when we’re out in the green. Of course, he also has a blissfully low level of fear when it comes to nature. Had him out fishing the other day and we must’ve been close to a nest because we counted at least six different cottonmouths trying to swim across the pond to us. They’d get about one or two yards away, see us, and disappear underwater. All I’d have to do is tell him to back up whenever one got closer than five feet to the shore. He’d set his pole down and head over to me and we’d watch. We’d talk about how to identify them, why they’re acting the way they were. I was proud that he didn’t suggest killing them at all. Proud that he realized we were the intruders in the snakes’ home. How we’d react much the same way if they came uninvited to our bedroom. He has good eyes, too, because by the end of the day he was spotting them in the water before I could point them out. So he’s learning, but just one more reason not to be all that excited about summer hikes. (But, just wait until the berries get ripe and you’ll get to read how much I love hiking in summer.)
I have a deep belief that the Buffalo River is God’s way of apologizing for how unpleasant summer can be in Arkansas. Or maybe He made summer so nasty as a way to make sure we appreciate how beautiful the Buffalo River is? Whatever the reason, June and July are meant for floating. Bear Bait went on his first float trip last year, a day-trip with our Sunday School class that was just a gradual little creek-float. He’s had one other canoe experience going across Lake Leatherwood a few years back. He was amazing both times. He learned how to swim two years ago in the Buffalo down at Steel Creek, so he’s never been afraid of the water. When given the choice of either backpacking or floating for our next trip, he leapt at the chance to float. So the next big outing will be a 2-night float. Details forthcoming. I’ve got him working out a new gear list, so we’ll review that soon. Going to bring Momma with us this time, too. We haven’t convinced her to go backpacking yet, but she makes a beautiful figurehead with her feet kicked up on the bow of the canoe.
He’s already asked if he can bring his fishing pole and I do believe we can make that happen.