I’d like to say we woke up, but that would imply a certain amount of sleeping that I’m not sure actually happened. At least for the adults. Eventually, I think, in the wee ugly cow-milking hours of morning the invading army of racconic ketchup connoisseurs licked their last rock and trundled arrogantly into the undergrowth. Amazing how even a bad night’s sleep in a hammock out in the woods is still more refreshing than a rough night in bed.
The little 4×4 griddle in my cook kit is still relatively new and while I’ve seen how well it performs cooking 8-oz filets on the trail, I hadn’t put it to the real test of making pancakes. So while Kat was crisping up a rasher of bacon in the cast iron skillet over coals, I broke out the MSR Pocket Rocket and went at pancakes. Which, if you’ve read any of my entries on food, you’ll know that I’m the designated camp cook. With that comes a fair amount of ribbing to go along with happy sounds of satisfied trail gluttons. Early in my relationship with #1 trail buddy was a failed attempt to cook pancakes in the bottom of the lyingest, cheapest, stickiest no-stick pan. I happily announced we would be having pancakes and my trailmates cheered and marveled at how I managed to bring both butter and syrup out onto the trail. Of course, I hadn’t, so my reply was, “I said we’re having pancakes. I didn’t say nothing about butter & syrup.” Kat hasn’t let me live that one down – any more, I guess, than I’ll let him live down the ketchup incident. This time, though, the load-bearing capacity of a canoe has encouraged me to bring both syrup and butter for the pancakes. And, because I have a reputation to uphold, I didn’t make just any kind of pancakes. I made pumpkin pie spice pancakes.
And the boys refused to eat them. At least initially. How dare I try to titillate the palates of 6-yr-old boys!?
But we wrapped those pancakes around a few pieces of bacon, then dipped them in a mixture of butter and syrup. Man, oh, man.
Loaded up the canoes, sprayed the boys down with sunscreen, and off we went. The last day of a float is too much like the last day of a hike. Your mind is on the destination. Tomorrow’s work day is looming close enough to taint the feeling of vacating. The wind was against us the whole way, no matter how the river bent. We swam as often as we could, but the boys were getting a little irritable and impatient with each other. Maybe they were feeling the weight of the end? It didn’t take us long to get into canoe traffic, a few families out playing with their kids. Teenagers too cool to sit in the front of Dad’s canoe were flitting around the school of canoes in their solo kayaks while Dad pushed along a canoe filled with supplies. Made me realize that I’ve just got a few more years with Bear Bait before I’m lucky if he invites me to go with him on trips like this. He even asked me if he could get a kayak next time and I gave the noncommittal parental reply, “We’ll see” that really means, “No, but I don’t want to tell you no and disappoint you so soon because my reasons are selfish because I always want you sitting at the front of my canoe, so proud of how straight your back is and how fearlessly you navigate without a single glance back. No, because you’re still little enough for me to sweep up into my arms but already big enough that I know I won’t be able to so easily in a month or two.”
We loaded up the canoes at Gilbert and put the boys in dry clothes. Harley sat in the back seat with them and played movies on her I-phone while they mumbled the half-coherent phrases of exhausted children. Stopped in Harrison to gorge at a Wendy’s. We stank so bad that the manager, as discretely as he could, came out and sprayed air freshener around us. He was tactful enough to wander around into the unoccupied corners of the restaurant and spray there as well. Since invading a cheeseburger establishment is tradition after a long hike, we are accustomed to offending the delicate olfactory sensibilities of other patrons. You should see us trying to mix with the fresh-outta-church crowd when our hikes end on a Sunday around noon.
Bear Bait played more with his kid’s meal toy than he ate, but he paused and said, “Hey Dad?”
“You’re the best.”
“Love you, too, son.”