Woke up in the best way imaginable. Cocooned in a pocket of dark warmth, cold enough to almost-but-not-quite see my breath outside. Forest noises. The sound of Kat bringing the fire back to life. The boys were stirring. Bear Bait rubbing his eyes, told me he had a few bad dreams but stayed warm.
Since I left my pocket rocket stove back at the truck, I had to cook breakfast over coals. Harps, catering to the current economic conditions I guess, had a whole basket of $1 items – including a pack-perfect size of Aunt Jemima pancake syrup. I picked up an “add water and shake” container of pancake mix at the same time, and because the boys turned their noses up at my pumpkin-pie-spice pancakes last time – I just went plain mix this morning.
While we were finishing off breakfast, I pointed out that it appears we’ve found a relatively unused area off the trail. There was an ATV trail through here at one time, but it was severely washed out. We could only find one set of tracks that appeared to be recent – and they turned around and headed back out. Little trash and no sign of use around the site. We broke down an old fire ring (set in the middle of the ATV trail) and moved it to a better location. Cleared everything away from it and claimed the site as our own. I asked the boys to come up with a name for the spot and Bear Bait immediately shouted out “Shark Bite Camp!” Kit offered up a compromise of “Shark Bite Dinosaur Hike Love Camp” which was a little wordy for the rest of us, but definitely reflective of his personality. Kat suggested that the boys pick a feature or an experience related to the area for the name and Kit offered “Dear Track Island” because of the tracks he and Bear Bait identified on their first trip here. It was unanimously accepted as the best name and our new site was christened. Sorry, I can’t tell you where it is. I like the illusion of believing we’re the only one who knows the perfect camping spot. (Though, if you do find it, keep it clean please.)
We took our time breaking camp, but the boys soon became squirrely and we sent them on up the trail. It was a beautiful hike back out. Stopped at Quaill Valley, their favorite spot, and let them crawl through the little caves in the area. I could hear the voices of folks up above the valley so we decided to move along.
We passed a guy and a girl taking a break above the valley, and headed on out making pretty good time. About a mile and a half from Hwy 74, we came across a guy that warned us of a hornet’s nest right on the trail. Claimed to have been stung three times. A little concerned about that, we told the boys to stay back with Kat and I moved up ahead to walk point. Sure enough, I came across an angry swarm of yellowjackets coming out of the ground at the base of a rock right beside the trail. Shouted out for Joshua and the boys to detour and we all made it safely around the swarm without anyone getting stung.
Not five minutes later, we hear a girl scream behind us and turn to see her yanking her shirt off and fighting off the swarm. We didn’t know they were so close behind us or we would’ve warned them. She seemed okay (though if it was her first time hiking, I doubt she’ll let her boyfriend talk her into it any time soon) and so we finished off the trail. Saw her again at the visitor’s center as we signed off the trail and she didn’t look too bad-off.
Another successful hike with the boys. Bear Bait didn’t fall asleep in the truck, but he was nodding hard. It will be an early bedtime tonight.